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  • Writer's pictureLaShana Lewis

From ThinkPad to iPad: How Understanding Revolutionizes Technology Adoption

A young woman reading something on a tablet.

The iPad came out to rave reviews.

Tablets were going to revolutionize technology and we had surely made a step forward.

Nothing like this had existed before.

Except... it had.

Roll back to IBM in the early 1990s introducing their computer slate, the ThinkPad 700T.

Image of a IBM ThinkPad 700T highlight several features from a technical manual.
IBM ThinkPad 700T (via 1000 BiT)

The ThinkPad 700T had "a cutting-edge (at that time) magnesium case; an "integrated heatsink" to obviate the need for a fan; and used a flash drive instead of a hard disk drive."

This one even had way more ports, and came with a stylus pen.

So what happened, and why didn't it take off?

The internet is abound with different answers ranging from it being too highly priced to lacking a robust app ecosystem.

However, I think one more answer to this probably overshadowed most: people didn't understand it.

Now, I'm not referring to the ability use it and such, but moreso how it can be used.

It wasn't until Steve Jobs introduced the shiny iPad almost 2 decades later that people seemed to get it.

The secret is in how this technology was revealed.

Technology Adoption Is in the Why

Apple had already put out the iPod Touch in the early 2000s and started getting folks used to touchscreen technology.

This led to the use of apps, what they were, and how to accumulate them.

The next step was obviously the iPhone, a smartphone with basically the same functions as an iPod/iPhone with the ability to call people using a telephone feature.

The next evolution was a much bigger iPod/iPhone - the iPad.

Familiar technology... just bigger.

Small steps toward integration surrounded by grandiose displays.

Another example that's near and dear to my heart is the advent of the smartwatch.

A picture of three smartwatches produced by the defunct company Pebble. The author still has one of the latest iterations and is not letting it go, easily.
First Pebble Smartwatches (Image via Kickstarter)

Whenever I see a new piece of technology, I tend to be an early investigator and adopter. My neurodivergent mindset tends to send me into deep-dive mode and I weigh the benefits and outcomes of integrating that product or service into my life.

I jumped on the bandwagon pretty early on and invested in one of the first Pebble smartwatches around 2013 via their Kickstarter campaign.

Although it had a black and white screen, and was pretty rudimentary, it did what I needed it to do: show me the notifications that I had on my phone so I didn't have to keep looking at it... and, well, the time.

For me, that was perfect.

For others, it was a clunky piece of technology that provoked questions of "Why can't you just look at your phone?"

Pebble had a robust app store, and many, many of the items I downloaded - a few games, something to help me monitor my sleep (it was the first time I'd use a smart sleep alarm), track my walking steps, and preview using a Caller ID function so I could see if I even wanted to bother looking for my phone - were extremely beneficial to me and streamlined my life.

I boasted about the watch to people, who shunned it away.

Then comes the Apple watch in 2015.

Suddenly, it seemed like everyone needed to have one.

Again, the main culprit in technology adoption seemed to be understanding why this technology was needed.

Pebble eventually dissolved, being bought by Fitbit, which was in turn acquired by Google.

A screenshot of the Calendly web application which features its monthly schedule in the typical SMTWRFS format, showing which days are available for a scheduled time of 30 minutes for a Zoom conference. There is a small box to the left with a list of individuals  and their email addresses, and a box to the right with the word "Confirmed: You're scheduled with Acme In" and an Add To Calendar selection.
Screenshot of Calendly (Image via Calendly)

When the new scheduling calendar program, Calendly, came out, I eagerly setup a free account and started using it to avoid the "meeting time" dance of back-and-forth emails to sync up availability. It instantly connected to my Google Calendar, which I practically live by, and the only thing I had to worry about is making sure I blocked off time, create a buffer to prevent back-to-back meetings, and set the hours of which I'd allow appointment blocks as well as the method used: online video chat (super helpful during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns and inclement weather), onsite locations, or good old fashioned phone call.

However, I know that people still have yet to catch up. I've sent the simple, customized link to a variety of people and it's either met with awe or sheer confusion.

Regardless, the way forward will be to embrace time-saving technology like this, and continue to disrupt the routines in our own lives to move towards more equity to inclusivity.

Join me in embracing the future of innovation, despite the fanfare:

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