The private school where my husband and I work is home to a large and growing mixture of computers. Windows PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, iPads and various and sundry other devices of similar ilk. They’re computers. They may work differently. But they’re computers.
Apple would have us believe that the iPad isn’t really a computer. I understand the sentiment. Traditional computers are complex devices that require training, effort, and experience. An iPad is intuitive and requires little more than a fingertip to navigate and use.
It’s a computer.
‘What? A Computer?’
Would the world be a better place if our gadgets were not called computers? I doubt if it would make a difference to anyone, but a childlike consideration of an iPad vs. a traditional computing device is understood. Apple’s “What’s a computer?” TV commercial is an example.
We may dream of a world where such devices are more friendly than mere computer, but that’s what they are. Dennis Green:
The ad is meant to show the versatility of the iPad (and some in tech media have speculated it’s a subtle dig at Microsoft). In this fantasy Apple world, traditional computers are so outdated that a child doesn’t even know what they are.
I work with children. They know what a computer is. They also differentiate between traditional notebook and desktop PCs– Windows, Mac, Chromebook– and iPad and iPhone. But they know they are all computers of one kind or another.
All those devices perform specific and general tasks in much the same way. Input may vary. Screen size may vary. But applications on each work in a similar manner.
We may not call iPhone a Mac in our pocket but it is. We may not call an iPad a computer and it isn’t a Mac but it is a computer. They’re all computers. Younger children know that. Older children know that. Adults know that. Nobody cares so long as what we call the device is understood by everyone else.
Computers are still how the vast, vast majority of work gets done, and the word “computer” is still part of the public consciousness — even for a child.
To call even a handheld or wearable computer something else is commendable, but it muddies the waters of clear understanding. Everyone knows an iPad is a type of computer. Ditto for Mac, iPhone, maybe even Watch when it one days goes on its own, sans the iPhone tether.
Apple does a better job that other companies at humanizing computers. Dell and HP don’t do that despite some excellent hardware. Samsung and Google have failed to create the same connection between their customers and their handheld computers.
But a computer is a computer regardless of the name we use to identify the device.