On gadgets

One of the most expensive gifts I bought for myself last Christmas was an iPad Air. For someone who shuns jewelry and isn’t into name brands, buying that slim, trendy, and latest gadget was an extreme luxury. In my mind, I justified it as a work-related expenditure. This was difficult to reconcile, however, with my fingers as they pinch Zombies to death, slice fruits like Ninjas, and match candies hoping for that magical voice to say, “Candy crush.”

Thankfully, my technologist-nephew, Carlo Ople, offered me a way to salve my conscience: a black Zagg keyboard that doubles as an iPad case. The keyboard transformed the iPad as an entertainment device into an efficient and convenient writing tool. Using Pages as my software, I am able to write my columns away from my desk and send it as a Microsoft Word document to my editors. Because it is lighter (the Ipad Air weighs less than half a kilo) and smaller, my iPad fits in my shoulder bag, unlike my heavier laptop that requires its own separate bag.

Using Pages as my software, I am able to write my columns away from my desk and send it as a Microsoft Word document to my editors.

Using Pages as my software, I am able to write my columns away from my desk and send it as a Microsoft Word document to my editors.

The Zagg keyboard works via Bluetooth and has an incredible battery life. It snaps into place and enables my iPad to get in and out safely from its case. The entire ensemble, iPad and keyboard, set me back by around R35,500, double the amount of a cheap desktop clone. For a writer like me, this latest Apple product is a good investment. I bring it with me everyday, using Apps such as MaxJournal to write down private musings, and Pages for the more serious stuff. Evernote is an application that enables me to convert files, download and keep attachments, and share documents. I read the latest edition of The New York Times on my Apple tablet, listen to music and TED Talks, and keep track of Tweets and Facebook status feeds while holding it in my hands.

Do I still use pen and paper? Yes, I have an old-fashioned steno notebook in my bag, ready for its lines to be filled. I think and scribble in analog before powering up either my laptop or the iPad Air. A blinking cursor and a blank electronic paper white screen may be too much pressure on someone whose thoughts are as scrambled as eggs in the morning. I find the smoothness of actual paper and the perfect stillness of a pen quite comforting when trying to define my thoughts.

Would I recommend parents to buy an iPad Air for their children? Grown-up professionals or college kids should work hard to buy their own gadgets, rather than persuade clueless parents to dig deep for the moolah. Why should elders who know tablets as something to be swallowed pay for tablets to be swiped when they won’t be doing the swiping?

In the same way, I am against toddlers and teens getting a hold of the latest IPAD without knowing its peso value. In one of the posh hotel lunch buffets, I saw a kid strapped into a high chair playing with an IPAD while the adults talk amongst themselves. Poor kid, I thought. I wonder if he would even have the social skills to play ball with actual playmates rather than peering into a flat, rectangular screen by his lonesome.

Gadgets are here to make our lives easy, but they shouldn’t make it so easy that we forget how to live it. Sometimes, too much technology gets in the way of meaningful conversations, and life-changing moments. I do love my iPad Air and value it as a productivity and entertainment tool; but, at the end of the day, its worth can never be greater than the hours spent without it – hours when I consult my daughter and listen to her talk about her day, minutes of playtime with my dog, Almond, and doing productive work by helping our overseas workers sort out their problems.

(Send comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com)

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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