Wikipedia and the iPad: Don’t Panic

One of our writers here at iPad.AppStorm is currently writing a travel-based series of articles that go through the process of turning your iPad into the perfect travelling companion. His inspiration is taken straight from the creative imagination of Douglas Adams, the iPad is as close as we’ve yet come to having in our hands the long dreamed about Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

How does the iPad compare with the guide on the functionality front? What are the services and apps that make the iPad indispensable?

Is It Better?

The simple truth is that the iPad is more futuristic, adventurous, and useful than I imagined the guide to be when I was a teenager – although it’s perhaps a touch bigger.

The sleek appearance, the intuitive interface, and the depth of functionality are all things that make the iPad feel like it could have leapt from the pages of Douglas Adams’ seminal novels. The key differentiating feature is that the iPad doesn’t contain, within itself, the ability to compete with the guide’s primary functionality. The guide was essentially a vast compendium of knowledge and (spurious) information created ad-hoc.

The iPad needs some help to compete on this front, it needs a companion, an ally. This got me to thinking, which app or service most accurately replicates the intended experience of using the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?


I’m not ashamed to say it. I love Wikipedia.

In my opinion it’s as close as we’ve yet come to fulfilling the original intended purpose of the Internet. A simply jaw-dropping database of information that’s ever expanding to cover the vast reach of human knowledge, and crucially, that’s free for all to use and contribute to.

In practice its editorial process often seems to work in a similar way to the fictional guide…

Most of the actual work got done by any passing stranger who happened to wander into the empty offices of an afternoon and saw something worth doing.

Similarly, the editors of Wikipedia are volunteers, the scope and breadth of articles is sporadic and, as is said of the guide, it’s sometimes definitively wrong.

I always imagined what actually having a copy of the guide would be like. Would it be possible to put down such a wealth of knowledge, surely you would become enraptured and caught up in an endless series of linked articles (particularly given the guide’s irrevocable sense of humour)?

The reality is much like I imagined. A device as magical as the iPad to play with, paired with intuitive access to Wikipedia, can simply absorb the time of a curious soul.

If you have hours to spend gaining (a mixture of invaluable and unvaluable) knowledge and information, simply pick a random article and read on. Be sure to open all vaguely interesting links in separate windows…


Inevitably there are limitations to this analogy:

  • Wifi. Without wifi or a 3G connection the iPad is made a little helpless.
  • The guide appears to be considerably more durable than the iPad, although with case development evolving at an ever increasing pace, we’ll be sure to have a fool proof solution in the not too distant future…
  • The guide appears to be more directly sentient than the iPad, more helpful. I have heard it postured that this is the future of computing, personal assistants who can not only understand language and answer questions, but follow up in a meaningful way.

I’d now like to posture that, in many ways, I would prefer to have an iPad…

The functionality of the iPad is so diverse and incredible, the multiplicity of creative uses and the effortlessly intuitive design, combined with the sleek form factor would undoubtably make Adams proud. Wikipedia and the iPad are wonderful companions, rarely do you find yourself lacking in knowledge with the iPad at your side, but the iPad is so much more!

Still the romantic notion is such that, unless I’m very careful, I’ll find myself demanding that “Don’t Panic” be engraved on the next iteration I purchase…

Your Thoughts

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts – simply post a comment below! Is Wikipedia the perfect companion for the iPad? What are the apps and services that make the iPad indispensable for you?

I’m a big fan of Articles for browsing Wikipedia – what is your favourite Wikipedia powered app?