‘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.

Kapi-Mana News - - FEATURE -

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.

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