VisiCalc's Dan Bricklin weighs in on the tablet revolution

Co-creator of the original PC killer app sees ample opportunity for innovators on tablets

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Advice Line: Let's broaden our horizon. Looking at the industry, what are your biggest hopes and concerns?

Dan Bricklin: It's exciting that computing is the way it is. It's embedded -- it's everywhere. We've gone from innovation meaning placing your URL in your ads to having hash tags everywhere. The evening news shows something on YouTube that a random person put up there, and we take it for granted. That's how far we've come, and for those of us who were here way back when, that's kind of cool.

Let me take a minute to talk about special needs. Very few people are talking about this. The iPad has opened new worlds for children with special needs. For example, kids who can read but can't manipulate a book can often swipe pages. Then there's zoom. It lets kids with full cognitive ability, but more limited physical coordination, do homework. This is one reason we built PDF markup into Note Taker HD, in fact. I've found that if you think about special needs, it also illuminates the non-special-needs world.

Something else: In "Star Wars," we had the Force as this interconnected environment. With the Internet, everyone is a Jedi knight -- connected in ways they weren't before. We're taking advantage of this in ways that are revolutionary and in ways the designers never considered. Just one example: In Egypt, the revolutionaries were using dating sites to coordinate.

Concerns? I'm concerned that too few people are focusing enough on what we haven't been able to do that's now possible. I want to make sure we can do what we want on these machines. We need the ability to experiment. We used to be able to experiment a lot more. But in the world of day-to-day trade-offs between security and innovation, we're out of balance. We talk a lot about what we need to do to keep things secure, but nowhere near enough about what we need to do to keep things fertile.

So long as we give people general-purpose tools that let them build things, we're OK. It's when we start to take them away that we get into trouble. I hope we always have popular machines people can use that aren't restricted, so that those who have the desire and ideas to do something can, and can share it with others.

This story, "VisiCalc's Dan Bricklin weighs in on the iPad revolution," was originally published at Read more of Bob Lewis' Advice Line blog on For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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