‘Bug off’ to mossies
Personal computing is now as widespread as ever with cheap tablets – Joel Maxwell looks at apps for the devices that make summer more creative.
Cheap tablets – slimline, touchscreen personal computers – are only a couple of hundred dollars: a tech revolution has happened without many of us noticing.
The revolution, however, can cut several ways: just think about the wonderful change the tablet creates for computer users. Back in the 1950s there was no such thing as the personal computer. They were giants like the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell – acronymed the WITCH.
Other computers included the Swedish BESK; and the IBM 305 RAMAC. None of these were portable. A tipping RAMAC would likely kill or maim you.
On the other hand there is perennial mistrust of what computing technology means for the intellectual, physical and moral fibre of the nation. If every person can afford a tablet, what will they waste their time doing on it? But relaxation doesn’t mean inactivity.
Personally I think you can create with the tablet, not just consume: here are a couple of the apps – downloadable programs – that give more power to the people.
If you’re an iPad owner then you could try Book Creator, which for a few dollars from iTunes allows you to create and publish your own books. It is probably not the best for publishing the next 50 Shades of Grey or Twilight: that would be inappropriate given it is more suited to children’s books. The app allows you to mix together a tale including audio, video text and illustrations – then drop it through to iBooks or email it to lucky friends.
The WITCH was never able to do this. It was, however, left running over Christmas holidays once in the 50s and continued processing input data for 10 days on its own. That’s apparently a true story – check out the website http:// royal. pingdom. com/ 2009/ 12/ 11/ retro- delight- galleryof- early- computers- 1940s- 1960s/ to see a history of extinct computers.
As another aside, if you are writing a longer work over summer, like a novel, but you are particular about the physical act of writing it, then the free Upad app could be helpful. Upad lets you handwrite notes into your iPad, using a stylus. The app works well – a journalist in my newsroom used it to take notes while out gathering a story, which is a good test of its reliability.
Meanwhile, there is a long history of everyday people having a go at writing their own books: many millions have a manuscript, most of them admittedly lousy, hidden in their top drawer. Book Creator merely extends this to e-publication, but my next app Garageband – available on Apple and Android – gives people a chance to apply their creativity to an area that used to require skill.
When I was 16 I picked up my first guitar and started learning intensively for the next 10 years. If tablets were around in the late 80s and early 90s then I might have saved myself the hassle and bought this app instead.
Garageband lets personal computer owners ‘‘play’’ instruments and record songs. No experience required. Guitars made from strings and wood can be plugged in and recorded too.
As someone who spent hours trying to create songs on analogue eight-track recorders in the 90s, I feel both respect and hostility about something available for a few bucks that does so much for so many, so easily. Without ever having played a note, you can merge drums, guitars – whole orchestras in fact – into songs. You can get programs for almost everything on tablets for summer, even Mosquito Repellent Plus, which emits a high frequency noise to keep the insects away.
So take your tablet with you when you hike or camp.
App happy: The iPad, which launched a tablet revolution.