Smartphones: The Inevitable End of Traditional Computers?


Many people own smartphones nowadays and most of those people use them many times a day. Smartphones are certainly handy, sure maybe they can at times distract us, but they support our productivity in many ways. These tiny computers are certainly impressive, but, what’s going to happen with traditional computers?

The human element

Before we had mechanical computers we had humans. The human-computer can be traced back as far as trade and commerce. Indeed even in the time of Mesopotamia, we had what many would now call computers.

The abacus

We know the abacus has been in use since at least 2700 BC, with recorded evidence available at many museums, as well as in my old math textbooks from grade school. Abaci were used for commerce and “mathematics” even before the invention of the “0”. On first glance, a simple counting aid, but under the surface is a concept so important we have yet to see an end to it’s potential. I speak of course of the computer.

Abacus of old times computer calculation device

The mechanics

Around 1620, William Oughtred created what many people might consider the first non-human computer.  A mechanism unlike anything seen before. While not the first counting aid many consider it the first computer. This mechanism was called the slide rule.

Then and now

Konrad Zuse Bad Hersfeld
Konrad Zuse, German computer pioneer

The human-computer, the abacus, the slide rule. These are the computers of our past. Each permutation therein a wonder in its own right. But what about now? What is today’s computer? When I think of the modern computer I can’t help but think first of the Tandy PC, it is the most familiar analog to the PC sitting on my desk now.

I remember playing Rogue and Castle on it ages ago. It’s no surprise I still spend a decent chunk of my time playing roguelikes, ASCII based games, text adventures, and muds.

That’s my comfort zone. Musty, dusty old classics like ADOM and Zork. The only thing is, I don’t play them on my desktop anymore. No, I play them on my phone.

IBM Simon, first smartphone (1994)

Now and the great beyond

Smartphones, just about everyone has a smartphone and we use them constantly. You can look up the statistics for how often you use your phone, on your phone… We do everything from checking our email to watching cats do funny things right on our phones, heck we even do work on them, I’m writing this entire article on mine right now.

With the massive capability and accessibility of the modern smartphone, it’s no surprise the tech field is focusing more and more on what we can do with the computer in our pocket and less on what we can do with the computer on our desk or in our lap. The market for smartphones and software for smartphones is massive. Everything from proprietary to third -party is right at our fingertips.

The numbers

Smartphones now make up a large market share of consumer electronics related to processing data, gaming, news, and entertainment. Smartphone games bring in more revenue than either console or PC games. Millions of people use email daily, and a large portion of those emails are processed on mobile devices, namely smartphones.


Your smartphone has a CPU with numerous cores, a GPU, a cache, RAM, and ROM, all things we have become accustomed to in “computers”. Smartphones can do so much more than any dedicated or semi-dedicated system that it only makes sense to move in the direction we are now.

Man Sitting At Airport Gate Working on Smartphone and Laptop

With a smartphone in everyone’s pocket, PC’s are becoming more and more dedicated machines, either designed for gaming or a specific type of work, such as graphic design, just to name one example. While I believe we will only move completely away from mobile computers with the singularity or some kind of cyberpunk brain-jack, I do fully believe the traditional computer is coming to the end of its life.

The years to come

In the following years, I expect to see innovation in leaps and bounds where mobile computers are concerned. How the public receives this new era of technology remains to be seen. I for one welcome the innovation and artistry to come with gear antici…pation.

Further reading

You might also find the following articles interesting:

Many thanks for reading and feel invited to share your own thoughts on this subject with us below in the comments.

Photo credit: The feature image “tablet on a newspaper” has been done by Matthew Guay. The photo “abacus” was taken by Tamara Polajnar. The portrait of Konrad Zuse has been taken by Christopher Isak. The product shot of the IBM Simon Personal Communicator was prepared by Bcos47 and is in the public domain. The image “station” has been done by Bruce Mars.

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Daniel Bennett
Daniel Bennett
I'm a writer for, an avid gamer, a geek, and all-around tech junky.
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