Of Mice and Magic

You may have heard already but, along with some new iMacs (Win), Mac Pros (Big Win), 27inch Cinema Display (Lickable), Apple released a brand new product – The Magic Trackpad.

Now, there are those who are trackpad people, those who can’t stand them, and a few in-betweeners who are comfortable with either. I’m one of the later. I even have a use case for one – My media center is an iMac and, due to its station on a shelf, there is just not enough travel room for a mouse. I currently have a Kensington Orbit Trackball attached to it and, while it does the job, it sure is not as sexy or, well, magic. But these details are not the story from my perspective.

Let’s do some theorizing on that magic for a bit. You may see a revolutionary mouse and trackpad. I see something far larger and more subversive…

Apple is rewiring our brains for touch.

Just like with the iPhone and iPad, Apple is steadfastly reinforcing the idea that touch is the way we interact with our computers. The Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad are just one more step in that direction. In fact, I would not be surprised if, before we ever see a touch based iMac, we see a keyboard without keys. A completely touch aware input experience in order to prepare the masses for the “next big thing”. That big thing is input devices as we have come to know them going away for good. 

So, this begs the question, “Why not just make a giant desk sized iPad type iMac now?” Here is the answer: It is a minor adjustment to behavior and learning to make such moves with a brand new device, because the general public will see it as “new device, new input”. It is much more difficult to take something that has followed only one input method (keyboard and mouse) for twenty years and suddenly thrust something this new upon them. Revolutions generally start with a few new ideas that pick up steam and grow larger as they roll down the hill. The Magic Trackpad is the visual representation of the revolution to come.


During the daytime work hours my daughter, Beatrix, is taken care of at the home of a young lady (whom I will call “CJ” for the reasons of safety and privacy) and her son, who is about a year and a half older than Beatrix. We think the world of her (of both of them actually). She treats Beatrix with the same love, kindness and compassion she displays for her own child. She is extremely active and loves to take them to museums, parks, zoos, play dates – basically anything to keep them the happiest of children. It’s perfect.

CJ is from England and still has a very proper accent. Being an unabashed Anglophile myself, this only helps solidify her position as a permanent addition to our extended family. It has also been a fascinating experiment in the nature of language learning and linguistics with the test subject being Beatrix.

You see, when Beatrix is around CJ or, in conversation discussing anything related to CJ or her son, she uses British terms in place of American ones where a difference exists. For instance…

  • Shopping Cart = Trolley
  • Trash Can = Rubbish Bin (Bin for short)
  • Diaper = Nappy
  • Trunk = Boot

When she is with us or speaking to us, she uses the American phrase. In other words, she has become bilingual in two versions of the English language and, at age two and a half, knows which of these two “languages” to speak based upon the others in conversation with her.

For those of you who are in bilingual homes or have immersion school/daycare experience, this may be just the way it works. That said, to see it happen within the confines of a language that is largely shared is a fascinating peek into the way the brain works and how important it is that we expose our children to such experiences at the earliest age possible.

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