An excerpt from ‘The future at your fingertips’, which I wrote for My Weekly magazine. It was first published in the 22 March 2014 issue.
The notion of a computer you can carry around is nothing new. Back in the 1960s, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk was rarely seen without some kind of electronic notepad. Today, science-fiction has become science fact. But what exactly can these handy new devices do?
First, let’s look at the difference between tablets and eBook readers. A tablet is simply a computer that’s small enough to hold. It’ll have a touch-sensitive screen instead of a keyboard and will let you browse the web, check your email, read books, download recipes, play games and much more. Apple’s iPad is undoubtedly the best-known tablet, although there are many other companies producing rival devices. They run on rechargeable batteries and connect to the internet by using WiFi: either through your home broadband or at many libraries, coffee shops and other public buildings.
Buying a tablet also gives you access to downloadable ‘apps’. These are the equivalent of software programs on a computer but are much easier to install. You could download the BBC iPlayer to catch up on your favourite TV soaps, shop from the comfort of your armchair, send messages on Facebook or read the latest edition of My Weekly without a trip to the newsagent. Getting started can sometimes seem a bit daunting, so ask at your local library about classes if you’re not sure where to begin.
If tablets can do all this, why bother with an eBook reader? Well, if you just want to read electronic books, an eBook reader is likely to be lighter than a tablet and easier to use. They’ll probably have a monochrome ‘black and white’ screen, which keeps the price down and means the batteries will last for much longer. It’s easy to change the size of the text, too. The model you choose will influence the books you can read, so decide carefully. Amazon’s Kindle readers are great all-round products for buying books and magazines, including many of today’s best sellers. However, if you’re more interested in the classics – which can be free to download – a lower-priced Kobo eReader could suit you very nicely. Either way, you can get rid of that pile of paperbacks next to your bed!