Remember the original Star Trek series with self-opening doors, flip phone- like communicators, talking computers and workplace tablets? Science fiction is now or is rapidly becoming reality.  “Beam me up, Scottie” transportation, however, currently remains unavailable.

When Steve Jobs designed the iStore to provide programs for use on Apple devices like the iPhone, iPod and iPad, he said it was “not about the device, but what you could do with it.” (Steve Jobs, p. 500) Initially he resisted allowing outside third-party developers to market their programs on Apple products. After the success of the iPhone he relented, with strict standards of performance, and the condition they only be marketed through the iTunes Store, creating a marketing frenzy of new apps in the digital age. 

Sales of songs from the iTunes store drove sales of the iPod up, and apps at the iStore accelerated sales for the iPad and iPhone.  Yet despite the popularity of the iPhone, Google holds 75+% of the market share with the Android operating system and cheaper phones ($70-$109 for Samsung and others vs. $200+ for iPhones).  Galaxy tablets are similar to iPads in 7″ and 10″ size models.  Our gang says ‘Droids can be more individualized, but Apple products offer amazing graphics,” the latest called their retinal display. As of late September 2013, Iphones operating system was upgraded to iOS7.

While all cell phones offer calling features  and some offer texting, smart phones usually offer touch screens with icons (pictures) to choose additional programs (applications, or “apps”).  Before purchasing an app, read the description well to distinguish between electronic  books about the subject, and games  or applications themselves. Similar programs exist for all smart phones and tablets under different names.  One of our employees suggests getting familiar with your product before “crunch time” like a long trip to avoid frustration.

Hand-held radios and then cell phones replaced the old shrill-voice-over-the-back-fence “Yoo-hoo” mode of communication on our farm, but dead spots in metal barns or in the hatchery still leave some black holes of communication.

Whether computer or iPad, the first thing a user seems to find is the games. We con ourselves into believing this is a good excuse to get used to the way a device controls. Our kids were amazed when Sam and I discovered Angry Birds, since we usually wait a long time before joining any fad. Games can be a sanity-saver when traveling or held over on a trip, and I know they pass the time during bored (pun intended) meetings.

Email, Messaging  and Social Networking
The ease and portability of a smart phone lets you access email, Facebook friends and messages more frequently, which is both a blessing and a curse. One acquaintance makes his family stow their “iThingies” in a basket upon entering the house so there is real communication, not constant distraction from those physically present.  Additionally, emotional content and common manners all too often are lost in electronic communication. It is not necessary to continue every argument or expose every detail of one’s life to millions of your closest friends in the common market. 

Contacts, names of people called, texted or emailed, and Calendar appointments can be networked between phones via ) a “wireless automatic remote backup”  like iCloud (Apple)  or GCloud, (Google) which contains your information, syncing (synchronizing) it on multiple devices like your iPad, iPhone or one used for the company or another user.  DropBox is a file-sharing program between users available on Apple products, Android or PCs.

GPS first came as stand-alone units like Tom-Tom or Magellan. Most tablets or phones now include a Maps app, a download of Google Maps, which gives directions, replacing the GPS. Verbal directions can be heard or silenced if the voice gets a little too annoying.  Some versions provide points of interest like eating places or hotels.

Location services
The same GPS that lets you find your phone or places you on a map also lets the world find you.  This is called geo-location. However, photos taken of you or your children posted on the internet give locations and details you may not want shared with the criminal down the street.  Check your options in settings. It will need to be on for maps, compass, weather and some Find My Phone options, but you may want  it off for FaceBook, Safari and Camera interfaces.

Safari is the Apple version internet browser.  Pages may be too small for comfort on the iPhone, but articles come in small sections.  Full or mini tablets usually accommodate much larger segments. 

The Photos/Camera  function
Besides taking pictures of family and events to share, send pictures of items to pick up at the store, verify the right make, model or color before purchasing an item. On the farm it could be used to send a photo of a problem in a brooder room, confirm labels on products, or show something you want to discuss. Photos of documents like hatchery records ensure a handy reminder.

Reminders or Notes can hold Grocery or To-Do lists, or scheduled appointments with audible alarm reminders, anywhere you used to use Post-It notes.  It can be used to help plan out projects in sections with completion dates. Use Voice memos to record things you need to remember. Sari is the voice of the iPad/iPhone. Dragon Dictate or Dragon Naturally Speaking is a similar program for the PC. Some comical and not-so-comical auto-corrections can occur, so be sure to proof read your notes.

Audio files/ Digital books/magazines
Remember the 8-track? the cassette tape? Electronic audio books (available at, Pandora Radio, and the iStore, among others) and songs take the place of multiple CDs and radio stations on long trips delivering birds. Kindle, Nook and other readers offer a clutter free on-device library for typical book reading, or scanned documents. Magazines no longer pile up in the corner, but can be read at your convenience on-the-go.

A tablet can serve as a portable on-demand entertainment center with downloaded Videos . NetFlicks offers viewing movies or older television programs for a fixed price per month.  When stuck on the road with only a motel television, this can be a relaxing option. Podcasts, daily or weekly streaming of personalized programming, can take the place of radio or TV news programming such as on Daily Caller News.

The Clock function can be a watch replacement, or a stop watch reminder.  An app called Punch can be a portable work timeclock. When needing to rework an invoice on a trip, or calculate figures quickly, the handy Calculator app can help. A Spreadsheet can store brooder barn records or other data.

Stock and Financial management apps like MyVerizon or the Chase Bank app can allow you online banking from your phone.  MyFitness Pal offers the option to take a picture of the bar code and get additional information about foods. 

We first were introduced to the iPad with ForeFlight for aviation charts and planning with a weather overlay. Weather can be a separate app from Accuweather or Many are free, so try various versions.

Education and Study apps
I use a program called Pilot Prepware for aviation written test studies on four levels- Private, Commercial, Instrument and Instructor.  These are like study books or flashcards.  Many other educational, even credit-giving courses are available.  

ClayTracker (under $10) is a virtual score sheet of all locations, courses, partners and rounds recorded by the gunner, calculating percentages and standings on the range.  It integrates with Google Maps and one-touch dialing to favorite clubs, as well as in-app links to NSSA, SPSA and ISSA rule books.

As technology explodes, the trick will be to use it well and not let it use us.  I am putting together an electronics resources packet as one of the auction items offered at this year’s Nashville convention this February that may be a help to you.