A Brief Overview of Mobile Computing

Mobile Computing, by one definition, is a  human-computer interaction by which a computer is expected to be transported during normal usage. However, some other definitions emphasise that mobile computing includes the transmission of data, voice and video as well as just being transportable.

The reason for the slightly conflated definitions is because we don’t really have a set date for the ‘very first mobile computer’. This is because peoples opinions differ on what constitutes an actual mobile computer. For instance, the first handheld calculator is regarded by many people to have been the first ‘mobile computer’. While if you ask some twelve year old kid with his iPhone 6s what he thinks; he would probably say the iPhone 3g!

Many regard the first handheld calculators as the first 'mobile computers'
Many regard the first handheld calculators as the first ‘mobile computers’

People sometimes forget the roots of mobile computing, and when asked about what it actually means, will simply pull out their new smartphone and say “well this is mobile computing isn’t it?”, and yes, they are correct, but so is your lovely new MacBook Pro, or your brand new tablet you got for christmas, or even your snazzy Google Glass wearable smart glasses. My point being is that if you can carry it and take it with you, its a mobile computer!

The advent of the laptop in the 1980s was a mobile computing milestone in that you no longer had to lug your hefty computer from your room or office and plug it in wherever you went. You could now do your computer related work ( which you previously had to be at a certain place at a certain time to do) wherever you saw fit. By the 2000’s, a laptop was as important to most peoples lives as their car or phone. Nowadays, the question has to be asked; Is there such a thing as too many mobile devices? In today’s world of “too much information,” perhaps there is a companion trend: hardware overload. According to Google, 90% of us juggle four screens in a day, and that is ever increasing due to the huge amount of mobile devices being released each year. (Brandel, 2013)

The iPhone revolutionised mobile computing
The iPhone revolutionised mobile computing

And then the smartphone arrived. This is the point we can start thinking about the contemporary vision of ‘mobile computing’. With the introduction of Apple’s iPhone, the concept of ‘the world at your fingertips’ became a reality. You can literally find out about anything, anywhere, right now. Just take out your phone and find out. There is no such thing as an argument based on fact anymore, if somebody contests someone else’s fact, theres no argument, the smartphone gets whipped out, and a quick google search reveals who, in fact, had it right all along. An interesting observation that many people throw around a lot is that a smartphone today has more computing power than the whole of NASA in 1969, when they began the Apollo moon landing missions. However as well that, a current smartphone has more computational power than the curiosity rover that NASA landed on Mars only 3 years ago. It just goes to show the amount we take for granted in our pocket!

Nowadays, mobile computing is a lot more complicated than the first handheld calculator invented by Texas Instruments in 1972. In fact, due to Moore’s Law, mobile computing technology is advancing at such a rate that it is hard to keep up with current advancements in the industry. In fact, current smartphones are encroaching on the market share of ordinary computers , this means that we may no longer have a need for a computer if it isn’t portable! I mean, why should we have to be in a certain place for our computing needs if we don’t have to?


Brendel, M.  (2013) ‘Mobile devices: Too much of a good thing?’, Network World. 5/20/2013, Vol. 30 Issue 9, p18-19. 2p.


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