2.2: More Computing Devices
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Other Computing Devices
A personal computer is designed to be a general-purpose device. That is, it can be used to solve many different types of problems. As the technologies of the personal computer have become more commonplace, many of the components have been integrated into other devices that previously were purely mechanical. We have also seen an evolution in what defines a computer. Ever since the invention of the personal computer, users have clamored for a way to carry them around. Here we will examine several types of devices that represent the latest trends in personal computing.
In 1983, Compaq Computer Corporation developed the first commercially successful portable personal computer. By today’s standards, the Compaq PC was not very portable: weighing in at 28 pounds, this computer was portable only in the most literal sense – it could be carried around. But this was no laptop; the computer was designed like a suitcase, to be lugged around and laid on its side to be used. Besides portability, the Compaq was successful because it was fully compatible with the software being run by the IBM PC, which was the standard for business.
In the years that followed, portable computing continued to improve, giving us laptop and notebook computers. The “luggable” computer has given way to a much lighter clamshell computer that weighs from 4 to 6 pounds and runs on batteries. In fact, the most recent advances in technology give us a new class of laptop that is quickly becoming the standard: these laptops are extremely light and portable and use less power than their larger counterparts. The MacBook Air is a good example of this: it weighs less than three pounds and is only 0.68 inches thick!
Finally, as more and more organizations and individuals are moving much of their computing to the Internet, laptops are being developed that use “the cloud” for all of their data and application storage. These laptops are also extremely light because they have no need of a hard disk at all! A good example of this type of laptop (sometimes called a netbook) is Samsung’s Chromebook.
The first modern-day mobile phone was invented in 1973. Resembling a brick and weighing in at two pounds, it was priced out of reach for most consumers at nearly four thousand dollars. Since then, mobile phones have become smaller and less expensive; today mobile phones are a modern convenience available to all levels of society. As mobile phones evolved, they became more like small computers. These smartphones have many of the same characteristics as a personal computer, such as an operating system and memory. The first smartphone was the IBM Simon, introduced in 1994.
In January of 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone. Its ease of use and intuitive interface made it an immediate success and solidified the future of smartphones. Running on an operating system called iOS, the iPhone was really a small computer with a touch-screen interface. In 2008, the first Android phone was released, with similar functionality.
A tablet computer is one that uses a touch screen as its primary input and is small enough and light enough to be carried around easily. They generally have no keyboard and are self-contained inside a rectangular case. The first tablet computers appeared in the early 2000s and used an attached pen as a writing device for input. These tablets ranged in size from small personal digital assistants (PDAs), which were handheld, to full-sized, 14-inch devices. Most early tablets used a version of an existing computer operating system, such as Windows or Linux.
These early tablet devices were, for the most part, commercial failures. In January, 2010, Apple introduced the iPad, which ushered in a new era of tablet computing. Instead of a pen, the iPad used the finger as the primary input device. Instead of using the operating system of their desktop and laptop computers, Apple chose to use iOS, the operating system of the iPhone. Because the iPad had a user interface that was the same as the iPhone, consumers felt comfortable and sales took off. The iPad has set the standard for tablet computing. After the success of the iPad, computer manufacturers began to develop new tablets that utilized operating systems that were designed for mobile devices, such as Android.
The Rise of Mobile Computing
Mobile computing is having a huge impact on the business world today. The use of smartphones and tablet computers is rising at double-digit rates each year. The Gartner Group, in a report issued in April, 2013, estimates that over 1.7 million mobile phones will ship in the US in 2013 as compared to just over 340,000 personal computers. Over half of these mobile phones are smartphones. Almost 200,000 tablet computers are predicted to ship in 2013. According to the report, PC shipments will continue to decline as phone and tablet shipments continue to increase. 
Along with advances in computers themselves, computing technology is being integrated into many everyday products. From automobiles to refrigerators to airplanes, computing technology is enhancing what these devices can do and is adding capabilities that would have been considered science fiction just a few years ago. Here are two of the latest ways that computing technologies are being integrated into everyday products: