Whatever happened to …

… laptop computers?

OK, so truth be told, there’s a bit of tongue in cheek here.  I hope you eventually agree.

On getaway day for the CSTA Conference, my wife and I were watching the news/weather on WDIV Detroit, and the reports of the heavy rain were headlining the news.  That, along with the traffic reports of accidents and slowdowns in downtown Detroit.

“You’d better leave early”.

I tried to explain that I was headed away from the reported slowdowns but eventually gave in and did leave early.  I had left a little early departure time because of border crossing, rush hour, and the reports of road construction at the airport.

Except for longing for a Nexus card, border crossing was quick and easy as well as the trip to the airport.  The detour around the construction was equally as easy and I was quickly parked and into the airport.  I had over two and a half hours to kill.

Not a problem.  I still had a bunch of emails to respond to about the conference, needed to check the signup sheet for volunteers and do some scheduling to make sure that every time slot was covered.  And, if all else fails, I had a few ideas about future blog posts and I could get started on that.

I flipped open my laptop, connected to the free WIFI at the airport and I was off.  Taking a break from email, I looked around to exercise my eyes and I noticed that I wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the free WIFI.  Lots of people were doing things in our connected world.  A number of kids were messing around with tablet devices and all the grownups were tap, tap, tapping away on their smartphones.

Everyone but me!

I looked around our gate and I couldn’t see anyone else using a laptop.  It was like I got dropped into a twilight zone.  I had my back to a few people so I turned around and looked.  Not a laptop in sight.  Bizarre.

Everyone tapping away.  I stood up and looked about and instantly recognized mobile Facebook screens, Words with Friends, and texting applications.

I decided to take a little wander to a few of the other gates.  I didn’t see a single laptop.  Lots of devices, but none of them with screens, keyboards, trackpads, …

All of a sudden, I felt really “out of it”, “old school”, “antiquity”, and whatever other word that comes to mind.  To be fair, I did finally find a gentleman wearing a shirt, tie, and jacket who was using a laptop.  I sneaked a peek from a distance and he was diddling around with a spreadsheet.


I went back to my own work.

OK, time for your thoughts…

  • If you’re killing time waiting somewhere, what’s your preferred device?
  • Can you do all of your work on a smartphone?
  • Have your computing habits changed to use a smartphone instead of a laptop?
  • I’ll take the optimistic route.  Do you get better battery life on a smartphone than your laptop, making it the device of choice?

Please share your thoughts via comment below.  Help make me feel better!  Or, give me a wakeup call.

If you have an idea for a future post in this series, please drop it off at this Padlet. I enjoy writing these posts; I hope you enjoy reading them. They can all be accessed here.

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

7 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …”

  1. Doug, I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t be on my Smart phone :), but likely at an airport, I’d be reading a book and responding to emails on my iPad. If I’m doing more than reading and a little typing, I like my laptop, but for me, I would probably use an airport delay (or just time in an airport) for more relaxing tasks. I notice some of the things that you said you saw people doing. These also seem like simpler activities that could easily be done on a tablet or a Smart phone. Maybe it’s not that laptops are becoming antiquated, but that they’re only being used for more “work” tasks. I’m betting if you were waiting in a business for a meeting, you’d see people around you working on computers and not tablets. Could it be less about the device and more about the job that we’re doing on it? Curious to hear what others have to say.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting observation – does the activity drive the device chosen or does the device chosen determine the activity that you do on it?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tablets are lighter, easier, quicker and always accessible, so I use mine way more than a computer, and yes, it would be my device of choice in that situation.

    However, can’t beat the laptop for getting actual work done. Despite some great apps, when I’m designing or doing serious writing (not just jotting down ideas) I want to use a laptop.

    I’ve noticed I find it less portable these days though so more and more, on the go work is started on a device and finalized later on a laptop or computer.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an interesting observation! When I first read your question in the blog title, I really couldn’t understand where you could be coming from, but when you described the situation at the airport, all became very clear.

    I’ve been using a Mac laptop as my primary computing device for over 20 years now. I said goodbye to desktop computers in the early 00s, when it became clear that they used way more electricity and were impractical to schlep from place to place in a wheelie bag. Virtual PC emulation software gave me Windows on my Mac when I needed it.

    Although I made use of the Palm computing handhelds when they first arrived — along with a separate mobile phone — the world changed when the iPhone arrived in Canada. After a short period of use, I realized via a rough estimate that approximately 40% of my computing had shifted from my laptop to the iPhone. Things like email, web browsing, video consumption, and shortly thereafter, social media, became much easier, and much more convenient to access via a mobile device. The “instant on” available with the iPhone and iTouch was not yet available on laptops, as SSDs had not yet become pervasive.

    With the arrival of the iPad in 2010, I determined that my laptop use decreased an additional 20%, such that my rough estimate put laptop, iPad, and iPhone at approximately 40%, 30%, and 30% respectively. I remember noting one summer that my laptop had remained docked at my desk for several weeks, and that I had been using my iPhone and iPad when out and about on day trips, and quite possibly longer excursions. I’m sure the packing up of the laptop to take with me was due to the fact that I was heading for a conference of some sort where it would be necessary. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been using it during the summer, but just that I hadn’t been using it as a mobile device, because the iPad and the iPhone had taken over that role.

    All of this supports the reality that today there are now additional types of devices capable of accessing Internet and providing considerable computing power to the masses. 10 years ago in the airport, you most likely would have seen laptops only, with a few people talking on phones, and maybe some kids on game devices.

    Note also the touchscreen devices have made the Internet much more accessible and at a lower price point, and so many people — especially kids — are likely to have a mobile device as opposed to a laptop. I would suggest that in this day, most people would travel with a mobile device rather than a laptop unless they know in advance they will need the laptop for a specific purpose. Probably the time of day for your flight was an influencing factor as well. If you were sitting with a bunch of commuters, there would likely be a lot more laptops. So it’s not that laptops aren’t still out there, it’s just that more people are more likely to be traveling and using a mobile device in an airport these days.

    Now that we are a few years into this multi device reality, it has become clear to me that I use different devices for different purposes. The iPhone is the most convenient, go everywhere, multipurpose device. The iPad I use primarily at home and at school for on-the-go data entry, media consumption, and Words with Friends. The laptop is the workhorse, where I do the bulk of my media creation, gaming, and writing, although speech to text on the iPhone and iPad now mean I usually reply to blog posts, such as this one, from a mobile device. There is no way that I could, or would even want, to do everything on my phone.

    If I’m waiting in a line someplace, then I will typically use my phone. If I’m sitting down waiting for a train or something, I might take out my iPad. But I’m traveling on a train or in an airport, I’m most likely take out my laptop and work on a project of some sort. And of course, if I use up the battery on one device, I will shift downwards to the next largest available device.

    The arrival of the Apple Pencil and the iPad Pro has had me question whether my workflow would be influenced with such a device, but I haven’t explored that question yet. I’m very pleased with the form factor of the iPad mini, as it is much more convenient to carry and use for watching movies. The iPad Pro and Pencil would provide the opportunity to return to a more tactile, kinesthetic interface, but I’m currently exploring that with pencil crayons, marker, and a paper book. I already know that I would still need a laptop and the power that it provides. So getting by with just one device is not in the cards.

    Thanks for this great question Doug! I look forward to reading what others have to say!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. While in the terminal I’ll usually do light web surfing and email checking on my phone and if I’m there longer, I’ll break out my kindle for reading. I use my laptop for more substantial things – composing emails, doing work and usually don’t break it out in the terminal. As to tablets, I pretty much only use one to watch videos while working out at home.

    I always see at least a couple of people working on laptops when I’m waiting for my flights and when walking up and down the aisle of the plane there are almost always a good number of people using laptops.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am totally intrigued. I tend to travel with iPad and phone, unless I’m doing something specifically related to work, in which case I’ll pack the laptop. I’m still a fast enough typist that my keyboard makes a difference for typing longer documents.However, I have noticed that I am shifting to doing more and more work on the iPad, paticularly for things like recording assessments. The laptop is still the go-to for proofreading and editing, and I’m currently using it for my scuba diving course materials.

    For me, at least, the task drives the choice of device. I notice this with my students as well. If they are going to be creating a presentation, or writing, they are far more likely to choose a Chromebook (or even a desktop). Picture-taking, apps, video-ing? Hand them a tablet, please.


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