February 9, 2024

iPads Are Great, but Have You Used a PADD?

Number One, from Star Trek Strange New Worlds, holing a PADD
Number One, from Star Trek Strange New Worlds, holing a PADD
Number One, from Star Trek Strange New Worlds, holing a PADD
Number One, from Star Trek Strange New Worlds, holing a PADD

iPads are great. I have owned several - I still have a 1st generation 3G iPad, which I remember handling like it was made of brittle glass, until I got a DODO case and never worried about scratching it up again. I've also owned several other tablets, usually much cheaper and less user-friendly. The latest iteration of the iPad Air is one of my favorite pieces of industrial design. It's weight, thickness, metal banded edges, and overall dimensions are perfect for my everyday use.

However, there is one device that I would trade all the iPads for. A Star Trek TNG-era PADD, or Personal Access Display Device. A standard issue multi-tool, it served a variety of functions for any Starfleet officer, none of which were displaying magazines layouts in an easy to read form. However, this post isn't about reading a magazine on a tablet. It's about why today's tablets are boring AF.

The PADD usually comes with several different sized screens, tiny, illegible text, huge swaths of blank, metal face where more screen or controls could have been placed, and incomprehensible controls (do you touch the screen, or only use the two or three buttons, or shake it like an Etch-A-Sketch?) in a tiny, TNG-era LCARS environment.


Aesthetically though, oh boy. There are so many versions of the PADD. As the tv show has grown and evolved, production and art direction has became more sophisticated, and a variety of PADDs have been seen onscreen across TNG, DS9, and Voyager. I love their look; the satisfying chunkiness, the durable ruggedness, combined with the tiny display screens. If only Apple would take a page from their book, and consider making their phones and tablets as durable and customizable. Here is a much more comprehensive history of their appearances than I could ever hope to write. They have changed drastically in the three recent seasons of Star Trek: Picard, but Strange New Worlds - pictured at the top - has retained a couple of versions of the traditional, bulky tablet from the original 1960's show.

Data using a PADD in Ten Forward

Of course, no one would want a tablet like this today, but the race to minimalism deprives us of the satisfaction of texture, heft, shape, and even smell (I still smell magazines, it's like crack). A middle-ground would be nice.

Picard just showing off and pretending he is oh so busy with all his PADDs

No one needs this many tablets at once. Picard is just showing off here.

Captian Janeway reading from a PADD.