Size and direct control may be the iPad’s winning factors

After buying a new MacBook Pro with a higher resolution screen I’ve rediscovered the problems of type that’s too small to read. In most of my applications I’ve had to bump up the font size.

My eyesight is fairly normal — I wear prescription glasses to counter myopia, as do so many people.

Virginia Campbell though lives with glaucoma, an eye problem that is making reading increasingly difficult for her. That’s tricky for an avid reader, as she is.

Now she has an iPad, and is reading again, and using the iPad to write a bit too.

By the way, Virginia is 99 years old, and apparently this is her first computer.

It makes sense that being able to interact directly with the device by tapping and dragging on the screen, combined with its roughly bookish size, are what make the iPad suitable for Virginia, and others like her:

Because of the iPad’s ability to adjust the brightness of the page and to increase the font by simply tapping, Virginia has been able to take up her beloved past-time again. Not only is she reading again, she’s writing again too.

[Via 99 year-old loves her first computer — an iPad.]

Touch screen interaction is available on the iPod and iPhone, but both devices are quite small. To use a standard computer requires a keyboard and pointing device, or learning a million voice commands. Both can be tricky.

I haven’t met Virginia, nor have I had the chance to handle an iPad, but it seems to me that both size and touch screen make the iPad very appropriate for people with vision problems, people with motor control problems, and those who’ve skipped learning to use standard computers.

Some years ago I had a client called Jim. He had Parkinson’s which meant his hands shook a lot, unless he concentrated very hard on keeping them still. He was an avid Mac user, but I remember the difficulty he had with typing and with getting the mouse to accurately click on target.

We set various controls on his Mac to counter his shakes — for example slowing down the key repeat rate — but it was still hard for him. I think he would have found it easier to use an iPad.

I recently discovered that my sister, older than me by 9 years, is baffled by computers. The one thing she uses, apart from her struggles with basic email tasks, is Skype. Her adult kids set her up with Skype and showed her how to use it. She does fine with that.

And that’s not surprising, as Skype could hardly be easier, once it’s set up: start the program, click a name to call someone up, talk.

I suspect my sister could also cope with an iPad, since you can touch the screen directly, and don’t have to struggle with a mouse.

I’m intrigued by Virginia’s story, and not just because she’s 99 years old.

We have no idea when the iPad will land in New Zealand, but I can’t wait to get my hands on one.