Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Oct 2010 16:00 UTC
In the News An interesting discussion is currently raging through the world of computing, or more accurately, through the world of bloggers and analysts. It basically comes down to this: should the iPad be included in laptop and desktop sales figures? If it is included - Apple becomes the largest PC manufacturer in the United States. But, if the iPad should be included - why not the modern smartphone?
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Simple definition
by Neolander on Tue 19th Oct 2010 06:15 UTC
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In order to avoid definitions based on vague or overly precise concepts that are specially designed to keep the iPad in or out of the "personal computer" concept, let me propose a hardware-based definition.

If it has a processor, RAM, and some mean of inputting and outputting information, it's a computer.
If an individual with average income can reasonably buy it, it's a personal computer, as opposed to computers which are always bought by groups of individuals (large servers, mainframes).

Now, the obvious problem of that definition is you have to consider everything including a Motorola or TI chip as a computer. Yeah, including my alarm clock and most watches. But we already know that those are computers. We just dismiss them as "appliances" or "devices" because we don't have access to the programmable part of the device. Their purpose is determined by the manufacturer, and only the manufacturer can do something about it.

That concept sounds important, so let's name it : I call "reprogrammable computer" a computer which gives the user full access to all its internal ability, with no artificial limitation to what the user can do.

To simplify : if I can code an OS for it and access all hardware without some sort of hacking, it's a RC.
-Servers are RC
-Desktops are RC
-Laptops and netbooks are RC
-The PS3 with OtherOS was *not* a RC because one couldn't access the graphic chip
-The GBA is a RC
-Apple iDevices are not RC. You have to bypass some lock-in before you can install another OS on them
-Android devices with ROM checks are not RC. Some Android devices are RC.
-Nokia N900 is a RC, I think.
-And so on...

If we want to introduce a more complex classification, we can also introduce the Independent Reprogrammable Computer concept. The principle is that if tomorrow a nuclear war strikes your country, leaving you as the sole miraculous survivor with the computer and some data storage media as your sole possession, you might still be able to reprogram it in a reasonable amount of time (e.g. In order to spend your last few days playing Pacman in your bunker. It's tiresome to be alone with all the world around you being a gigantic mass of radioactive wastes).
-Laptops, desktops, and netbooks are all IRC if you have installed development tools on them before the cataclysm.
-The GBA is not an IRC. Even when installing dev tools on it, programming using a 4-directional pad just takes too much time.
-I don't think a phone/tablet is. Can you boot a phone on a microSD card without some external assistance ? Can you code simple applications in a reasonable amount of time ?

I think this is neutral enough : if the iPad is a personal computer, so is almost every single electronic device on the market. As Apple fan say themselves, the good side of Apple devices is that they are in no way different from a car or a blender.

Edited 2010-10-19 06:34 UTC

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