Today, Apple releases their iPad. Good for them! It's basically a giant iPhone, except without the ability to make calls (or fit in your pocket). The iPhone is a genius piece of tech; while the larger iPad has drawn a few criticisms for essentially housing the pocket-sized device in a larger body, it is undeniably slick. Some interesting possibilities are introduced by that larger screen, some of which are already being explored. One big topic of discussion on Twitter yesterday was the comic book viewing applications for the device, which Marvel is already spearheading with a specially designed iPad app.
Everyone seems to forget that this is old news. Seriously old. The Internet as we now know it was barely a glimmer in your basic computer geek's eye back in 1988, the stuff of sci-fi fantasizing at best. We know this because Tom Hanks played one of those geeks... sort of. And wouldn't you know it, he brainstorms a bold, new toy... which sounds an awful lot like an iPad.
I'm talking of course about the Penny Marshall-directed classic, "Big." Josh Baskin (David Moscow) is a 13-year-old computer geek who just wants to grow up and be an adult already. He gets what he wants when he makes a wish to Zoltar Speaks, a fortune-telling machine on the Jersey shore.
Josh wakes up the next day as an adult, in Hanks' skin. He's run out of his family home by his terrified mother, who believes the now-grown Josh to be a kidnapper, and then makes his way to New York City. Miraculously, Josh lands a job at MacMillan Toys, eventually working his way up to the position of toy tester. In his new role, Josh is asked to propose new toy ideas... enter our '80s iPad. I'll let Hanks-as-Josh describe it for you:
"There's this flat screen inside with pictures on it and you read it. And when you get down to the bottom you have to make a choice of what the character's going to do... Like if he going to go in and fight the dragon then you have to push one of the buttons. ... See, there's a computer chip inside which stores the choices, so when you reach the end of the page, you decide where the story goes. That's the point."
Okay, so it's not precisely an iPad. For one, there are no buttons on the Apple device. There's also no way to insert "discs," which is how Josh suggests new adventures be sold to readers. Forget wireless, this was before the Internet. So some departures are understandable. But the comic book applications have some clear roots in Josh Baskin's original pitch for a "choose your own adventure" digital comic book.
So let's give credit where credit is due. Penny Marshall, Tom Hanks, writers Anne Spielberg and Gary Ross... thank you for giving the world the iPad.