SHCC WYSIWYG Article from February 2015

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the February 2015 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Laptops, Tablets, Cell Phones, What's Right For You?

by Don VanSyckel

Technology keeps charging ahead. There are now desktop computers, laptop computers, table computers, and high end cell phones that have computing power. Some of the things that haven't worked in the past are small laptops and hand held computers. The problem with these, as I see it, was the market wasn't there. These devices were marketed as computers and the mass market just didn't need or want small laptops or hand held computers. In fact recently some of the laptops are getting bigger to support larger screen sizes. What good is a portable computer if you can't get enough on the screen to be useful?

The other thing that has been happening is cell phones were getting smaller and smaller a few years ago. Then cell phones started getting more capabilities and data cost fell. Now cell phones are getting bigger, mostly so they can have a larger screen. Cell phones won't become computers, at least in the near term. They have become useful smart terminals for various types of data collection. The extensive cellular network and lower data rates have made this possible. The camera in cell phones has added the ability to read the new QR codes or matrix bar codes. The accessory interface even supports a magnetic strip reader like the one on credit cards. Oh by the way, browsing the web from a cell phone or receiving email on it is just one more way to use it as a terminal.

Everyone I know who uses a laptop at home has a monitor connected to it. Laptops could take over the position that desktops have if there was more commonality in them that allowed some flexibility. The problem with laptops today is there are only two things that can be optioned on them, memory and disk size. This is because both memory and disk drives are only available in standard packages. So based on this I don't see desktop computers disappearing in the next few years although I believe their market share will go down and the laptop computer market share will go up.

Then there's tablets. There's definitely a place for them but how much market share they'll get remains to be seen. I do not have a tablet but the uses I've seen is for data entry or data access on the go. But as with the cell phone, tablets are mostly used if you have a cellular data connection to operate it with. Using a tablet at home usually involves adding monitor, keyboard, disk, power supply, and more.

So which should I get? If you're only using the computer at home and don't need or want to take it traveling, stay with a desktop. If you're going to use the computer at home and on the road, consider a laptop with an extra keyboard and monitor for home. If you're mostly a data consumer, viewing web sites, viewing face book and other social media, and viewing pictures and you want to do this anywhere and share this stuff with friends around you, then consider a tablet. If you have much data entry you might want a low end desktop for home and a tablet for away from home.

Regardless of which category you are in, you need one more thing and that's an external USB drive. That's for backup, backup, backup! Remember, no USB 2.0, get USB 3.0 and compare the transfer rates, there is a huge difference between various USB 3.0 devices.

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