So there I am, driving passed PC World on the day of the Ipad launch, and thinking to myself, 'Can I really get away with buying one of these?' The kids need new school shoes, one child wants guitar lessons, the other wants to start tennis at a local club. I drive around the block - twice. I make myself a deal. If they're in stock then it was 'meant to be', if not, no harm done.
Low and behold, arguably the sleekest, most game changing slice of gorgeousness since the first ipod, was displayed in all its aluminium and glossy glass glory for salivating techies and apple junkies. My heart really did skip a beat. The store was almost empty. No queues, barely a person in sight. 'Would you like to try it first?' enquired the teenage assistant. 'No thanks' I replied, 'I'll take the 32gb model please.'
The whole thing took just under three minutes. All that anticipation, watching and re-watching the apple key note on u-tube, all those times checking the apple site for the elusive release date, all the build up, all the hype and my willing participation in it, came to a sudden end. Dreams had become reality. The object was mine.
The experience, not unlike being massaged by angels, continued unabated at home with a slow, almost ritual removal of the packaging. Everything about it was sensual - the smooth softness of the box, the carefully wrapped ipad itself and then the first press of the home button, the swipe of the finger across the stunning screen and there in my hand was pure magic.
Within minutes I had music, photos, videos, favourite websites, half a dozen pre-bought Ipad apps and a couple of books from the bookstore, installed and working seamlessly. The next few weeks were taken up with demos, general showing off and occasional exclamations of, 'Wow, this is amazing!' Email was a delight, surfing was more engaging than I thought possible and our family photos looked sharper, crisper and cleaner than ever before. But something was niggling. Somewhere deep in the back of my mind, somewhere pre ipod and pre iphone, pre itunes and app store, uncomfortable doubts were gathering, coalescing and organising themselves into a sort of mini mental mutiny. I didn't like the feeling one bit. How could something as perfectly executed as the ipad be so very wrong?
I buried these pesky doubts for quite a while and continued to play and marvel at the Ipad's excellence, it's uncompromising simplicity and its sheer beauty. The Ipad even accompanied myself and the family to France this summer. It was there on the Normandy coast, in a little seaside retreat called, 'Val Des Roses' that an English couple had set up shop, paining breathtaking aqua marine seascapes bathed in Turneresque light. We had never bought an original painting before, but both my wife and myself were captivated by one in particular. It was of the beach, early morning, with a silhouetted tractor pulling a fishing boat to shore. The intense bands of blue and green, the sea merging with sky, had captured our imaginations. The painting, as beautiful as it was, had a pretty hefty price tag. We walked through the town and back again, trying to talk ourselves into a purchase we could ill afford. Then, without warning, an unstoppable surge of barely concieved words formed themselves into the following sentence. 'I'll sell the Ipad.'
My wife stopped and looked at me with a mixture of amazement and ill concealed glee. 'Really?'
'Yes', I replied, 'I think we should get the painting.'
It wasn't until a week later, back home when an ebay bidder, thrilled at a Â£40 saving and instant access to the gadget that dreams are made of, dropped by the house to collect his new toy, that I came to understand from where my doubts had sprung. I lifted the painting from it's hook above the fireplace and looked closely at it. It was real, textured and alive with meaning. It was heavy, substantial and moulded out of creative endeavour and artistic insight. The ipad by contrast was, despite its brilliance, one dimensional. A digital display that sacrifices the immediacy of the object for the convenience of instant content. It will never be a paper back, a vinyl LP, or an old photo album and it can never truly replace the satisfaction these kinds of objects bring. There's no denying the technological achievement embodied by the Ipad. I'm still enthralled by it. It's just that, on balance, I prefer the weight of the real.