When computers were first invented, they were the size of a room. By 1970, they had shrunk to the size of a car. By 1982, they would sit on a desk. By 1995, they were portable. Today we have reached the age where a big, powerful computer fits neatly inside a cell phone.
This latest stage is the most important. For the past fifty years, using a computer has always meant sitting down in front of that computer. Followed by a start up process. And then launching applications. This desk-centric process has been so fundamental to computing, it has defined the way people think of them. The first menu command in 80% of computer softwaretoday is still the desky word 'File'. And when you delete a file, you move it from a 'desktop' to a 'trashcan'.
This is a problem. The deskiness of computers has stopped them getting into every corner of our lives. They aren't there when we socialise. They aren't there when we shop. Or travel. Or go to bed. And they are just not designed for the 80% of humans who don't sit at a desk all day.
Not so with the phone. A cell phone is a very different device. It's always on. It's always connected. And it's always with you. It's a paradigm shift. Putting computing power into such a small device is likely to change computing out of all recognition. And our lives with it. Thirty years after the invention of the personal computer, computing is about to get intimate.