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Technology: Good-bye to the desktop computer

03/06/2014

Technology moves at an amazing pace. Years ago, in order to use a computer, you had to sit in a stationary location. Typically it was at a particular desk, where everything was plugged in to the wall. These machines became known as desktops, because of their single permanent location.

Years later, technology advanced so that computers could become more portable, move away from the desk, and even sit comfortably in your lap. Laptops were an amazing advancement. With laptops, a user could take a computer, the most sophisticated device around, anywhere he or she desired.

However, in the beginning, even laptops had limitations: To be connected to the internet, laptops still had to use a wired connection.

Years passed, computers got faster and smaller, and wires became a thing of the past.

Now here we are today with several options for a computer. We have desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablets, and smartphones.

Every smartphone and tablet that is released has a specification sheet which details its components: Processor speed, storage space, connectivity, and peripheral support among other things. These are all the exact same things that are included on the specification sheets for a computer.

Why?

Because the essential components are the same.

The similar components also allows for similar functionality. Think back to the desktop era. To check your email, you needed a computer. Now you can use your phone.

To surf the internet, you needed a full-sized computer. Now you can use your phone. These are very basic tasks, and yet two of the most common tasks that desktop computers are used for.

After those two necessities are covered, what do you need a desktop for anyway? One of the most obvious answers is word processing, but that is actually no longer the case.

Thanks to Bluetooth and USB keyboards, even a smartphone or tablet can do word processing. I have typed up several papers for my college courses on my Google Nexus 10. Even now, I am writing this column from my tablet. In times of complete desperation, I have attached a USB cable to my cellphone and take notes, type an email, or even write a paper.

With the release of Android 4.4 (KitKat), you can even print directly from your smartphone or tablet.

The fact that you can pull a device out of your pocket, download lecture notes, and print them off without even touching a traditional desktop is astounding. Even Microsoft has acknowledged that tablets and touchscreen devices are viable with the introduction of Windows 8.

Windows 8 focuses almost entirely on enhancing the operating system for touchscreen use, particularly for use with Microsoft’s Surface tablets.

Educational facilities are making adjustments to accommodate touchscreen devices as well. Jacksonville State University is is considering issuing freshmen iPads starting in 2015 as part of the Fast Forward plan.

The acceptance of iPads and other tablets into the educational system will expedite the departure of traditional computing. As more people become accustomed to making use of smartphones and tablets, desktops (and maybe even laptops) will soon become phased out for all but the most essential tasks.

Classrooms may become more multimedia oriented, and allow more time for individual exploration, and a curriculum that supports multiple learning styles.

As it stands now, desktops are still necessarily for data intensive tasks such as editing audio and video, but for day to day use they are already quickly becoming irrelevant. We are seeing an increase in cloud computing services and less memory intensive programs to aid the move towards more portable devices.

When all of your basic needs from a computer can be covered by a device that sits comfortably in your bag, purse, or even pocket, it becomes difficult to justify spending money on a stationary device you may never use.

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