Mobile mania: the telephone becomes a computer

Simon Silvester

The first computers were the size of a room, and ever since they have been becoming ever smaller and more powerful. Simon Silvester looks at how the mobile phone is taking over from the personal computer

The latest generation of mobile phones, which use apps to do everything from street navigation to game playing, are fast becoming the personal computer of choice

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 mobile phone.

This latest stage is the most important. For the past 50 years, using a computer has always meant sitting down in front of it, followed by a startup 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 software today is still the desky word 'file'. And when you delete a file, you move it from a 'desktop' to 'trash'.