She was right--the worst I could do was change her radio presets. I could roll the windows up and down, try to set the clock, and nothing would really distract her from making her personal best lap time. Well, I could burn myself on the cigarette lighter, but that was an important lesson to learn very quickly (and which still makes me reluctant to plug in phone chargers in my own car).
When I bought my wife a refurbished first-generation iPad, I told her the same thing: she really couldn’t hurt anything just by touching it. If things go wrong, hit the home button, the only one on its face. If things go really wrong, turn it off with that other button. But even if she uninstalled things by accident, they’re easy to download again. No viruses, no deep settings that require a registry editor, no CDs you need to need to keep track of--everything is just how it is. And nothing gets hot enough to light a cigarette, despite overblown reports about the latest model.
It’s obvious that I think the iPad does a good job of fulfilling Kendrick’s premise of an interaction and consumption device that doesn’t remind one hardly at all of that thing at work with the keyboard, the “drives,” and the recurring questions about updates and security and processes. I also think the Kindle Fire does this, but it doesn’t perform as well. Making it easy for someone to get up and start jogging is a great start, but if you make them trudge uphill in a murky rain, it quickly becomes less of a thrill. Some tablets running Android 4.0, a.k.a. “Ice Cream Sandwich,” have good enough hardware to cover both the ease and performance, but it’s still a certain kind of experience. Yes, it’s hard to hurt much by messing with stuff, but there’s so much stuff to mess with by default: the minimum of three buttons (usually four when an app is open), the home screens packed with apps and widgets and shortcuts, and the quirky design of the too-many popular apps that aren’t designed specifically for tablets yet, and so show up as phone apps stretched out like digital Silly Putty.
There will always be people who like to mess with things, and I will always be one of those people. But perhaps the best way to encourage people to fiddle, discover, and stretch out isn’t to provide them with a completely customizable, Choose Your Own Adventure system, but with something that they know they can’t break.