A Brief Evolution of Computers – from Desktop to Mobile Era


A Brief Evolution of Computers - from Desktop to Mobile EraComputers, since their inception, have solved one important problem us humans have: the slow speed of calculating things. Currently, our brains can only calculate and process data so much, which puts an obvious limitation on what we can accomplish by ourselves. But as we are also a smart species, we have found a way around this block: create a machine that can add, subtract and process things much faster than us. This is the essence of early computers, however since decades have passed the shift of use has also changed from pure calculation to more challenging, even abstract, things. In this article, I will give you my thoughts about the last 20-30 years in the computer world.

1990s – The Desktop Era

Most of the adult readers remember this time. It was the era of desktop computers which essentially meant big grey boxes that you were a bit embarrassed to show, so you put them under the table or even hidden in a closet. But the wires gave out what you were hiding, or at least the big CRT monitor taking half of your table space. The computers in this era were indeed big, clumsy and slow compared to today’s standards – it took a minute or so to connect to Internet, and downloading even one MP3 song took too well over ten minutes (if anyone could afford it with their pay per minute dial-up modem fees!). To put it simply, everything you did with a computer took time, and the desktops from those times would feel obsolete, even ancient, if used in today’s hectic world.

This era was characterized of one-way communication and static things. You mostly read papers on your computer screen, played some primitive games or perhaps did Excel calculations. You didn’t really communicate with other users, at least not to the extent of today. Things were stationary; web pages didn’t have elements such as dynamic content creation, autocomplete tool for search or like buttons. Thinking about it now, all of these things from the 90s seem so basic it’s hard to understand how we got by. But since we didn’t know about anything better, it was all we could have back then.

2000s – The Laptop Era

Since the early 2000s, laptops started to rise in popularity. I remember them being expensive as hell first, I thought nobody can really afford one. It was actually the same situation with printers – a color laser printer costed a fortune and was only feasible for businesses, but in some 10 years its price was available for home users too. Anyway, already 15-20 years ago it was evident that computers were going to be smaller, faster and more mobile – and the answer to this was the laptop. Faster Internet connections were made available as well; depending on the part of the world you lived, it happened in the early 2000s or a few years later.

In essence, in the laptop era, computers started to connect more. The rise of notebooks and broadband Internet meant that people could hook up with each other much easier than before. You could now chat with your distant relatives living in another part of the country, or even the world, without paying huge long distance call or modem fees. Clearly, the world was getting ready for the next era of everything mobile and social media, but the technology required and people’s state of mind was not yet there.

A Brief Evolution of Computers - from Desktop to Mobile Era

2010s – The Mobile Era

Laptops were a huge step from desktops – you didn’t need to sit at home or office, embarrassed by your ugly desktop anymore. Instead, you could take the notebook with you where ever you went. But still, it was clearly a computer – a device you must use with two hands, a device you must lay on a table to use. In another words, you needed dedicated time to use the laptop, and in the world of constant motion this was not a feasible option. Thus, even smaller computers than notebooks were created: the smart phones and tablets. At the same time, fast Internet connections had reached most parts of the world, with wireless networks being cheap and widely available. Now, the computers were always with you and not only that: you could access Internet anywhere you like, thanks to the smart phone sitting in your pocket.

The current era is all about freedom. Because computers have finally made their way to smart phones, and Internet is de facto thing in every mobile phone subscription, you have all the information in the world at your fingertips. Not only you can read that information, but you can also share it and belong: social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter thrive because humans have the need to form groups, relationships and share what they know or find amusing. In another words, computers have finally found their way to fully support the needs, desires and wants of us humans. How neat is that, is all I can say!

In the Future?

Everybody can see that the trend to make computers smaller and faster has existed for long, and it will probably exist in the future as well. Computers have already gotten a huge role in today’s society which has made world more connected, mundane things such as shopping easier and information sharing very convenient. However, we must also see the potential risks of giving too much importance on the computer world, as there has been talks of Artificial Intelligence becoming smarter than humans. However, since I don’t have a crystal ball, it will be impossible to say if bad things will happen because of this “computerization”. Truly, a single person can not do anything to stop these things from happening, so the only sensible course of action is to wait and see.

First it was desktops, then it was laptops, now it’s mobile computing with tablets and laptops. If something, computers have become an everyday thing. In the past, they were something you’d use only at home or office – today, computers are almost a part of you. If you don’t believe me, look at your smart phone, it’s a computer albeit a small one. Where this all is going, it is very hard to tell as future predictions for humans has always been extremely tough to get down. An idealist would see that computers will only be used for things benefiting us humans. Whatever the case will be, only 20-100 years of time will tell us!

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