Someone once said that there’s no substitute for experience. I can get behind that. For example, I’ve been working with personal computers for about 30 years now, and was blessed with sentience a few years before the personal computer boom cranked up to full-swing.
Today, I wake up every morning and read yet another breathless column in Engadget (okay, so they’re more tongue-in-cheek than breathless fanboys) about some brilliant new gizmo or other on the cusp of being turned loose upon a society whose gadget-lust is becoming harder and harder to satisfy. Even ten years ago, the smartphone was regarded as a miraculous conception which represented the engineering equivalent to summiting Everest and whose hefty price tag once made them the exclusive purview of the priveleged few. I find it at the same time amazing and disquieting that the release of a new smartphone garners from a jaded and saturated public little more than a disinterested yawn.
But with each new deliverance of miraculous brilliance upon the consumer electronics landscape comes those that must try to sell them to the public.
One might think that thirty-odd years of having to pitch new technology to the general consuming public would’ve made these people a bit more creative. Sadly, this is not the case, and it was a recent iPad commercial that really drove the point home.
I was watching a “What is iPad?” commercial (watching commercials is something I rarely do nowadays thanks to another miraculous advent: the DVR), during which, one of the “Here’s what you can do with this thing” examples focused on education. Specifically, it showed little Johnny’s little fingers not where they normally are–up his nose–but rather, scribbling some arithmetic onto the iPad’s mock-chalkboard screen:
4 + 6 = 16. Huh. I personally thought it was 23.
Of course, Apple includes educational software in its phalanx of applications to help us consumers justify parting with the outrageous sum of money this thing commands–because at this point in the iPad’s lifecycle, purchasing one requires a pretty significant outlay of liquid assets.
I know this is not new. In fact, this looks fetchingly familiar. Where have I seen this before? Oh yeah–I know where I’ve seen this before! On TV about 27 years ago, when Commodore was pitching the VIC-20! Only then, DVRs were 20 years away from practicality and even a VCRs price-tag represented a not-trivial percentage of the average household’s monthly income in 1982, so I had to watch it live, in a commercial break during Barney Miller:
a^2 + b^2 = nosebleed.
Cliché alert: Aah, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Personally, I find the inclusion of educational software titles in commercials for gee-whiz gizmos utterly laughable. Why?
Sure, mister, showing the gizmo helping little Johnny learn his ABCs may score some points with your better half, and depending on who wears the pants in the house (y’know, the pants in whose pocket is nestled the spending instruments: credit cards, checkbooks, cash, or PayPal passwords), may even tip the scales far enough over so that running out to the store and buying one won’t land you on the sofa for a week’s worth of fitful, solo snoozing. So tell the wifey anything you like, but I will guaran-$#^@&*-tee you that there is one place that Daddy’s new, pretty, delicate, $699-plus-tax iPad man-toy will never, ever end up. And that place is the jam-smeared virus-laden paws of his seven-year-old, even if he does need to learn his times-tables.
Pitching a new Über-gadget by showing off what educational benefits it can give the household’s domesticated booger factories is like trying to sell Corvettes by pitching to the wife how quickly one can get to the grocery store and back.