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We used to consider them toys

By Jean-Claude Elias - Dec 15,2016 - Last updated at Dec 15,2016

It is funny how some of the devices that we used to consider as mere gadgets or toys, upon their initial introduction in the computer market, have made the grade in the end to become indispensable, professional tools — definitely not toys.

Even those working in the field were fooled at the beginning and I confess that in many an instance I was one of them.

Perhaps the most obvious such example is the smartphone camera. When it first came to life the overall quality of the pictures you could take was poor to mediocre. Usage, therefore, was limited to pictures meant just to have some fun, to give you a mere (often blurred) idea of the real thing, and certainly not to generate shots that you would preciously keep for the generations to come to show to.

Because of that and for a long time I kept carrying around my big, trusty Nikon DSLR camera, which weight, combined with that of the pro flashgun and the additional lenses made me a potential candidate for hernia.

Over the past two to three years, however, smartphone cameras have really come a long way, and in many aspects are now able to compete with full-size dedicated pro DSLR cameras, up to a certain extent of course. There are countless situations where these cameras can take shots that are fine, sharp, perfectly usable and enjoyable. In some cases, and unless you intentionally blow up the picture several times, you would be hard pressed to tell if it was taken with a smartphone or a DSLR camera. Where it still hurts are all situations of low light shooting. Here the big machines still make a difference.

The same story happened with the mouse that today we take for granted. When Apple launched it in the early 1980s, most of us thought that it was just to play computer games or to draw funny shapes on the screen. Computer professionals looked upon it with disdain. The rest is history. Can you today accomplish any computer task without a good mouse? There are even adapters that let you use a mouse with a smartphone or a tablet, adding non-negligible functionality and convenience to the already available touch screen.

Last but not least are laptop computers. We may have forgotten that when they were first introduced they were not only bulky but also terribly low in terms of performance, connectivity, storage, processing power, etc. Here too seasoned pros and demanding users considered them as a pitiful attempt to imitate the real thing, understand the full-size desktop computer.

It took a long while but nowadays any laptop made after say 2010 has enough technical resources and capability to match a desktop machine. The success and the progress are not even comparable with that of smartphone cameras. For indeed, there is still a difference between the actual performances of these two types of cameras, whereas a high-end laptop can perfectly match and even beat a desktop computer. The only difference here remains the price. For equal performance and capability a laptop is significantly more expensive than a desktop unit.

 

Next time the industry launches a new device that looks like a gadget I will refrain from laughing at it too soon.

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