Looking back on the evolution of consumer electronics over the past 30 years is something like looking at yearbook pictures from decades past. But instead of the dated hairstyles and “creative” fashion choices, we see bulky designs and awkward usability. Just look at the infamous briefcase cellphone. Imagine! A cellphone that only makes calls!
With the increase in portability, we’ve witnessed a similar increase in capability; now, all of the advances in gadget tech from the past 30 years come neatly packaged in one slick design that fits right into our pockets. Here are our radios, televisions, and hi-fi stereos. Here are our scientific calculators, video game consoles and palm pilots, our personal computers, answering machines, alarm clocks, and—oh yeah—our pagers (not to mention entire collections of music, movies, and games!) all packed into something we’ve labeled a ‘phone’. Add to this our access to thousands of specialized apps, and the possibilities for customization and innovation appear almost endless, limited only by the capacity of the hardware itself.
In retrospect it seems only natural that all of these technologies and feature sets would be merged into a single personal device. This is a simpler, more convenient, and far more affordable way to organize our tools without compromising our lifestyles. But where does it go from here? What will our devices look like in ten—in even three—years? Will we keep our handsets and just continue to add more personalized features and functions? Some emerging technologies appear to point down that path, while others seem to be trying to forge new ones all together.
Just six years ago Apple released the iPhone and the world of RAZR flip phones and the business elite Blackberry was turned on its head. Now we had a fully functional computer that was pretty to look at, easy to use, and, yes, it still made calls. Then we were sideswiped by the iPad. To be fair, for a few years there has been an ongoing turmoil over whether tablets will be the future of computing. Every hardware company has pitched their take on the tablet, but before the introduction of the iPad, they had remained wedged somewhere between a personal computer and a smartphone – just one more device to carry around, albeit with some interesting use cases. The most impressive additions to the tablet family are the ones that try to bridge that gap.
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