Does Technology Make For a Better Tourist Experience or Not? The Dreaded Histopad!
Why I think I will stick to using my imagination and some history
Travel — it’s a great experience. You get to see all kinds of places and meet people very different from those in your own neighborhood. What I have loved most is engaging with history — finding out more about where I am and what happened 800 or 1000 years ago.
Kings and queens, castles and chateaux, medieval villages, ancient caves. Just a few of the things I like. And France offers all of them.
Popular French tourist sites are now also offering the Histopad. (Other places may well have them, too, but this is my first experience of use.)
What is a Histopad? A tablet, first of all, about 8 inches, with a touch screen. Most places I have been offer them free, one or two places charged for them. For the tourist sites, they are helpful. They offer a range of languages, and they have plenty of stuff on them for kids (like finding treasures along the way). I’m not sure how vision-impaired people would be able to use them. There might be a bigger audio aspect I didn’t know how to access.
This is how they work. You carry it with you throughout the site (castle, old prison, chateau etc) and in various places there will be a Histopad spot where you scan the symbol to get the next screen. What comes up is a facsimile of the location for a certain year. E.g. in the castle at Chinon, some rooms and places were around 1200, some 1453 etc.
The facsimile might be of a kitchen, and there are sound effects (pots boiling, dogs barking, someone whistling). You stand there and hold the unit up and slowly move it 360 degrees to see the whole room. There is also a drop-down box with written information (often fairly brief).
After trying a Histopad three times, I now avoid them. That probably makes me sound like a Luddite! But to me it’s like the difference between a book and a movie. Different experiences, but mostly I prefer the book because it allows me to use my imagination and experience the story on many different levels.
I have found that visiting a chateau and reading the information provided, looking at all the…