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Man, gotta get me one of these…

By Staff | Nov 20, 2011

“Man, I have gotta get me one of these!”

That’s what Will Smith’s character said when he took the controls of an alien spacecraft in the movie “Independence Day.”

That is also what many of us newspaper editors said when we were allowed to play with (I mean examine and explore) some Apple iPads at the Minnesota Newspaper Convention last January.

The tablets were truly amazing. Of course, they also come with an amazing price – $500 for the cheaper (I mean lesser expensive) one and $650 for the better one.

Needless to say, Will Smith doesn’t yet have his UFO and I don’t yet have my iPad.

But, that doesn’t mean we both don’t still want one.

And, at a newspaper conference in June, I noticed that in the six months since the convention, several editors now owned an iPad.

For those who don’t know what an iPad is, imagine taking an iPhone and a laptop computer and combining them into one product. That is an iPad.

It can be used to show a movie, make a movie, create a business presentation, search the net, do email and let you read a book.

And, a whole lot more. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of applications made for it.

There isn’t a keyboard or mouse attached, but if you need a keyboard one appears on the screen. And your finger is the mouse, because it is a touchscreen, like a smart phone. You move everything on the screen with the light touch of one finger.

Before this sounds too much like an ad for Apple products, let me quickly add that there are now other tablets out there that probably work just as well as the iPad and if you are thinking of getting one, go shopping and find one that fits your needs and budget.

But that disclaimer said, here is the reason for this column.

There are iPads popping up all over Blue Earth and Faribault County.

You may have first seen them in a photo of Blue Earth Area students using iPads (and iMacs and laptops) that accompanied a great story by our reporter, Sam Jefson, dealing with technology at BEA schools.

Folks, if there is a school around that has led the way in technology more than BEA, I would be surprised. They are leaders in keeping up to date with computers and other techy stuff, like Smart Boards, and yes, iPads.

At this month’s BEA board meeting, techno whiz David Sparks updated the School Board on a new five year technology plan. And he did it using a (you guessed it) iPad, plugged into a projector, which put the presentation on the wall.

However, each board member had an iPad in front of them – seeing the same presentation without looking at the wall, like the rest of us at the meeting had to do.

At the Blue Earth City Council meetings, Councilman Allen Aukes has been bringing his iPad to the meetings since taking office in January. He uses it to store all of his agendas, meeting minutes and background material. The other councilmen do the same thing, but with paper and a 3-ring binder.

But maybe not for long.

City Administrator Kathy Bailey has proposed in her 2012 city budget that the city buy an iPad for each councilman. She would upload all of the material for the meeting to the city’s website, and each councilman would download it to their iPad.

Cost to buy all these iPads? A little over $5,000. Savings in paper and copier costs? A little over $5,000. So, it would be a wash the first year, and then save money after that, Bailey says.

You might wonder about that $5,000 cost just to print up a dozen or so agendas. Actually each councilman, mayor, staff member, reporter and members of the public receive a packet for each meeting. They are many, many pages long and include much background material. Our standard joke line is that another tree died furnishing the paper for a City Council meeting.

Going paperless might have some advantages, if the council can get used to using an iPad. One advantage might be getting the agenda earlier and faster.

Another advantage might be that if there are no more paper versions of the agenda, maybe the $5,000 budget includes an iPad for those of us who cover the meetings? Or maybe my newspaper now has to buy one for me in order that I can continue to cover meetings effectively.

I know, don’t hold my breath.

Maybe I should wish for a UFO spacecraft instead. It probably comes with an iPad that runs it.