Defend Truth


Of family & the new iPad

Born in South Africa in 1962, Greg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative photojournalist and is co-author of The Bang Bang Club, a nonfiction book on South Africa’s transition to democracy, and Murder at Small Koppie based on his investigations into the Marikana massacre of miners by police. He is an associate editor for Daily Maverick. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2013/14 and teaches photojournalism and visual journalism at Boston University’s Journalism school, where he also indulges a passion by leading analogue workshops on archaic film cameras.

I was desperately searching for a present for my wife's 40th birthday. It was Saturday afternoon and her birthday was only two days away. I had spent the entire morning with our two children scouring places of interest for a suitable gift (or three), and we had come up empty-handed.

Only 48 hours before the big Four-Oh, and I was still scrambling. Of course, I had let time drift by – I only have a year to prepare for this, and my wife had been helpful in reminding me from time to time that this was An Important Year.

On the last big birthday, when she turned 30, I had found what I thought was an appropriate and thoughtful gift. At a second-hand store in Bethlehem, Free State, I had discovered a collection of antique jukskeie. You know, that boeresport thing where one tosses wooden sticks at a peg. Dear wife, of Afrikaans origin, was immersed in shooting towards her Afrikaner project and I thought the gift just perfect.

Come the morning of her birthday, I was excited. So was she, for a few hopeful seconds, until she saw the battered sticks. Ten years later and neither of us have quite overcome the trauma.

As the hours ticked by mercilessly, I could see another 10 years of recrimination ahead. Despite a breakfast stop at a place that has a jungle gym, the kids were starting to whine about the endless, aimless driving around. I  brought them home, planning to make a quick pitstop and roar off again before it was all too late.

Before I could leave, a friend of ours, M, arrived unexpectedly on a visit from Geneva. Yes, that is kind of odd, but that is the way she rolls. As she put her handbag on our kitchen table, a strange device, both high-tech silvery and regal red leather peeked out from it.

“Ooooooooh,” squealed Leonie, those big eyes getting bigger, “Is that the New iPad?” Poor M, she didn’t stand a chance. She had taken delivery of one of the first New iPad’s in Europe just two days before, thanks to smart pre-ordering and had just begun to get to know it.

The fact that M’s name was engraved on the back of the device did not deter Leonie. It was, after all, her birthday. When asked about her emotions around her loss, M replied, “I must say, that due to the short nature of my relationship with the iPad, I had not yet developed feelings for it.”

She is a mensch. I know it meant a lot to her. She recalls her boss’s face when she casually arrived at a meeting wielding the Pad. Her ferret-eyed boss exclaimed “Is that the New iPad?” He is known as a techie, as he is Finnish and not an alcoholic, “And with the leather cover!” M recalls the moment, “The envy in his eyes was palpable. It made me feel powerful, I had something no-one else had.”

 The 30th birthday gift disaster is now well and truly forgotten. GREG MARINOVICH.

Photo: The 30th birthday gift disaster is now well and truly forgotten. GREG MARINOVICH.

That power swept into the Marinovich house, and saved me from another decade of birthday angst. Yet dark clouds have followed in the wake of that silver lining; the war for iPad time has begun. Yes, that is right, we did not buy the iPad1 or the iPad2, despite being an Apple and iPhone family.

“It’s a gimmick,” I had muttered previously, “Neither fish nor fowl.” Yet here it was, all sleek and sexy, and singing out to me “Hold me, Greg, touch me”.

Of course, that was never going to be an easy task. “It’s mine!” shrilled Leonie when son Luc, 7, tried to get some quality time on it. Undeterred, he managed to get his hands onto it, “V-e-r-y n-i-c-e,” he intoned, immediately at home with its responsive touchscreen and swift swipes. For anyone with an iPhone or an earlier iPad, it is all very comfortable now, this world of swipe and stretch.

Luc gets some face time of his own.  GREG MARINOVICH.

Photo: Luc gets some face time of his own. GREG MARINOVICH.

Leonie retrieved it by saying she was loading games on it. Even then she had to use quite a lot of force to pry it out of his hands. Which brings me to the construction of it: solid. Very solid feel, it is in fact a few notches fatter than its predecessor. Which seemed counter-intuitive – aren’t all electronic devices meant to be getting smaller?

The reason is that they had to make space for a larger, better battery. Oh, and so that means we get days of runtime? Nope, it means you get the same as the previous iPad. The more powerful battery is there to sustain the demands made by the New iPad’s quad-core chip which makes all those apps open faster than anything I have seen. The battery is also there to power the real winning feature of the Pad – the screen. They call it the retina display, and it has four times as many pixels as the previous ones. Which is about a million more than your HDTV at home. Geek alert – that is 2,048 x 1,536 pixels on the iPad 3 over HDTV which has 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. My top-of-the-range Apple laptop has a screen resolution of 1,440 x 900 pixels. All those pixels need more light, and thus more juice. Still, one full charge gives you 10 hours, they say.

Oh my, I want to check out that screen. But I can’t. Luc hovers at his mother’s shoulder, trying to get his Pad-time, his fingers trying to get past his mother’s. I bleat from the periphery, “I want to write a review, please…”

They ignore me.

Younger sister Madeline, 5, has had no time on the iPad at all. She, being wise beyond her years, is using her time outside the shining light to craft a birthday card for her mother by hand. Analogue, with pencils and crayons. On paper. How retro, kiddo.

But that was yesterday, and today, the little blighters had to go to school and mother to a meeting. Ha ha ha. It’s mine, all mine.

The ultimate test is checking out images on it. I choose a couple to see the difference between my MacBookPro and the New iPad. Well, I am pretty amazed – the screen on the iPad is as good as the laptop. Is it better? Well, maybe it is. It has different visual characteristics – seems to have a “deeper” image. More tactile.

Apple says the pixels are so small, the naked eye can’t see them. This is true, I can’t see a pixel on that screen. And what with its processing power, all we need is an external digital wallet that is a card reader and solid state storage, and I will not have to use my laptop at all on the road.

I mean Leonie; Leonie will use the iPad instead of the laptop. Oh no, someone please: Get. ME. a. new. iPad.

P.S. Collecting kids from school, I gloat about my time spent on the iPad while they were out of the house, “Oh, so you got your greedy hands on it…”  commented Luc. DM


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