I recently tweeted a link about the use of iPads at Pompeii.
As a veteran of many discussions with archaeologists as to what sort of machine would work best down a wet hole, the answer always used to be something cheap and disposable, preferably with decent battery life. Linguists doing field work in NT and PNG have similar problems, as do botanists, anthropologists and the like, but archaeologists always seemed both to be first out the gate and to come up with the most extreme environments for data capture and recording.
Until digital technology became all pervasive other disciplines tended to stick with analog technologies as they tended to be just that little bit more robust.
Prior to the netbook revolution, the answer to what computer works down a muddy hole always seemed to be second user thinkpads or macbooks, or if the budget would stretch to it, Panasonic Toughbooks.
Post the netbook revolution, cheap machines with ssd drives seemed to be the way to go, even if they were still prone to damp and dirt and dust getting sucked in. The iPad seems to be a logical evolution - a touch screen means fewer risks of keyboards getting clogged, and the sealed design of the iPad with few if any holes helps guard against damp and dirt sneaking in.
What would be interesting is the attrition rates of netbooks against iPads.
For example, here in Australia, an iPad costs a little over $600 and a (non SSD) Samsung netbook a little under $400. Which basically means you can wreck three netbooks for every two iPads you lose.
And of course the netbook is a general purpose computer (which means it can be used for things other than data capture and data entry) and connecting usb devices and printers is a damn sight more easy than with an iPad.
And tablets for data entry in hospitals have been around for years, and while expensive these ones really are rugged and proof against fluids etc.
So, gee whizzery aside, does the iPad provide a cost effective alternative to data entry for the field sciences, and by implication to the classic field notebook?