A digital experiment

April 5, 2011

I’ve had my share of things to say about matters digital/cyber. Some think I’m a Luddite. Interestingly, others think I’m a digitopian—or at least a nerd. In reality I’m none of those things. I have tried to make the best use of technology that I can, whether in the classroom or out, but I’ve also been cautious about some aspects of the digital world (most notably expressed in my “Cyberspace” article published in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, 5 [2000]: 45-70; an older version is posted here).

My journey began in 1985 when I paid $2,500 for a desktop computer, a dot-matrix printer, and MS Word v. 1.1. In those days I took out a bank loan to afford it. High tech in those days. 512K (yes, “K”!) RAM, a single-sided 400K floppy drive, 9″ monochrome monitor (one that could display graphics and multiple fonts—imagine that!), and a new innovation—a “mouse.” Friends at the time had other forms of this new technology: one a KayPro, a Commodore 64, another an Amiga. Mine was a Mac.

I had been making the rounds of computer stores within reasonable driving distance from my Michigan pastorate for several months. By now I had my patter down better than the salesmen: If you can show me a computer that can do word processing and both display on screen and print Greek and Hebrew, I’ll buy it immediately. All promised their computer could surely do that, but none could actually make it work. One day while on hospital visitation in Saginaw (not quite an hour from home) I ran across an Inacomp store I’d not visited. The salesman who meet me hungrily at the door had been a plumber until 2 weeks before, but got tired of driving so many miles to work. His response to my query was a blank look (he probably didn’t even know what I was talking about). He was smart enough to say, “Wait until I ask.” Providentially, there was a company rep visiting that day from Apple. Her response? “Sure, let me show you how.” And she did. Sold.

Things have changed a lot since then. Over the years I’ve become trilingual (Mac, Windows, Ubuntu—and come to think of it, DOS), but my main work is done with a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 4, and recently an iPad 2. The experiment to which the title of this post refers is two-fold.

First, is the iPad a useful tool or just a nice gadget? I deliberately skipped the first generation and I still think that was wise. The 2d generation allows VGA video out which may make it useful in the classroom—once I learn to use it well enough to make that it a natural tool.

Second, I’m going to try using it as an eReader. I’ve resisted that before, but now that I have a large tablet screen I’m wondering if it just might be usable for some types of reading. I’ve tried using it at church and in chapel during sermons and that may be OK. I’ve tried several different Bible programs and the best for reading purposes is OliveTree’s reader. (I find the Logos app useless and the new Accordance app ‘”OK” for reading; for language study, neither of the other two can match Accordance even though it’s still very new and has some rough edges.) The “Bible” app is interesting in providing a large number of translations in many languages—so long as you’re connected to the net, but has no other advantages that I can see.

But now I’m going to try other types of books. I just ordered my first, in-print, “new” book in Kindle format (which has an iPad app). I don’t think the digital format is suitable for many types of reading that I do, but for books that will have a relatively limited life span the cost savings in this case sounded attractive to me ($6 vs $20, or $13/14 at discount, so half the discount—and no shipping). The book I ordered is a new one: The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies (Zondervan, 2011). The subject matter seems to be appropriate! πŸ™‚ There’s a great promo video for the book; it’s posted on YouTube:

(Hmm. That embed link seems to work, but it also displays part of the code. Apparently I’ve done something wrong. As you can tell, I’m not an html coder.)

Along the way I’m learning how to type and edit on a virtual keyboard. (It’s a lot slower at least at the beginning!) I’m typing this post on the iPad WordPress app. Once I get that under control, I’ll try connecting my Bluetooth keyboard that I use on my laptop.

Stay tuned. πŸ™‚