iPad Newspad Calculator Pad Trek Pad - And More

I have only one question about the new Apple iPad; is it more like the calcuator pad used by Hari Seldon in Isaac Asimov's Foundation, or is it more like the Newspad used by Dr. Floyd in Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey?


(The iPad and rival Kindle)

Well, let's check the features, based on these short quotes. First, the calculator pad:

Seldon removed his calculator pad from the pouch at his belt. Men said he kept one beneath his pillow for use in moments of wakefulness. Its gray, glossy finish was slightly worn by use.

And now the Newspad:

When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug his foolscap-sized Newspad into the ship's information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world's major electronic papers; he knew the codes of the more important ones by heart, and had no need to consult the list on the back of his pad. Switching to the display unit's short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him.

Each had its own two-digit reference; when he punched that, the postage-stamp-sized rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort. When he had finished, he would flash back to the complete page and select a new subject for detailed examination.

Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man's quest for perfect communications. Here he was, far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased. (That very word "newspaper," of course, was an anachronistic hangover into the age of electronics.) The text was updated automatically on every hour; even if one read only the English versions, one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the ever-changing flow of information from the news satellites.

It was hard to imagine how the system could be improved or made more convenient. But sooner or later, Floyd guessed, it would pass away, to be replaced by something as unimaginable as the Newspad itself would have been to Caxton or Gutenberg.

I should probably mention the computer pads from the original Star Trek series - practically everyone on the Enterprise had one:

And don't forget the Hitchhiker's Guide.

And what about the opton, probably the earliest description of an electronic book reader. Stanislaw Lem writes about it in his 1961 novel Return from the Stars:

The bookstore resembled, instead, an electronic laboratory. The books were crystals with recorded contents. They can be read the aid of an opton, which was similar to a book but had only one page between the covers. At a touch, successive pages of the text appeared on it.

Well, readers? (Thanks to Winchell Chung for pointing this story out.)

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