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ATPM 16.03
March 2010


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by Mark Tennent,

iPad mini

Size isn’t everything, as many men have been reassured. (Or so I have been informed.) They might get a sneaking feeling that perhaps they have been let down in some area, and maybe dimensions and pleasure have something to do with it.

Back in two thousand and something, my kids bought me a early generation iPod. In reality, a 20 GB FireWire hard drive with a small but usable LCD screen and an innovative operating system. All tucked inside a stainless-steel case heavy enough to beat off the most persistent mugger or for hammering in tent pegs. As a portable music system connected to powered speakers, it was brilliant but not the sort of object you want to carry around in a top pocket or while out jogging. It was just too darned big.

Mine still spends its life doing exactly what has occupied it for most of the last decade: sitting inside a desk drawer. Once in awhile the iPod is plugged into a power supply, recharged, and then used as a portable hard disk. Being FireWire it will also hold an operating system and boot up an ailing Mac. On rare occasions, it is coupled to our now legal iTrip transmitter to play through our paint-spattered “decorating” radio or via the car’s stereo.


Instead of the iPod, I used a tiny, cheap MP3 player. Its AAA battery lasts over a month, and with a 16 GB of memory, it holds nearly as much data as the iPod. That original iPod was, for me, a waste of technology. It was close to what I wanted but not quite. Until I bought a Fatboy Nano from Apple’s refurb and clearance section in its online store—perfection.

Then I bought an iPhone. The cellphone contract gives 600 minutes a month, of which barely 5% get used, plus a vast supply of text messages. This iPhone’s function is as a portable computer, easier to carry than a netbook, more useful than a PSP. The calendar app takes the place of a diary. Information needed in meetings can be googled, and even getting to the meeting is easy using sat-nav software. The iPhone has replaced a handful of other devices and work tools and, coupled with LogMeIn, it will even control those lumps of silicon chippery left behind at the office.

Apple has made the iPhone’s operating system a gem. Its virtual keyboard easily lets podgy fingers and thumbs get to the same speed as two-fingered typing on a real keyboard. None of that stupid predictive text, either, which can seem like the spawn of the devil. But it could do with a slightly larger screen to be really useful as a pocket computer.

Size Is Everything

What has Apple done with the iPad? Make the screen too large. This is, presumably, on the grounds that size is everything and bigger is better, in much the same line of thought as the US automotive industry. Apple’s engineers could have made the iPad in various sizes before plumping for A4-ish (210 × 297 mm) size. Perhaps A5-ish (148.5 × 210 mm) would be better for those of us who don’t carry a briefcase or shoulder bag just to hold a small computer. The after-market case suppliers must be wetting themselves in anticipation.

Nevertheless, Apple has come a long way from the original Mac portable, whose weight would have been responsible for many hernias had it sold in large numbers. The Newton was a brilliant idea that spent a decade waiting for technology to catch up. We still see its offspring in the hands of delivery couriers, meter readers, and supermarket shelf-fillers.

Roll on the iPad mini. And please make it run more than one application at a time.

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Reader Comments (1)

Michael Tsai (ATPM Staff) · March 2, 2010 - 18:07 EST #1
Mark is suggesting an A5-sized iPad mini. That would be about 2/3 the size of the iPad (slightly larger than the Kindle), whereas the iPod touch is about 1/7 the size of the iPad. There’s a lot of room in the middle.

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