The Past, Present, and Future of Laptops

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The Past, Present, and Future of Laptops

The Past, Present, and Future of Laptops

            The use of laptops and other personal computers has increased rapidly in modern day living. The demand and burdens of contemporary lifestyles have significantly reduced due to the quick access provided by the laptop and other portable devices. People can now access their health information, shop online, balance work and home, communicate more with their loved ones and business partners, bank, and get entertainment regardless of their location using a laptop. The portable device is a convenient size and portability is second to a smartphone, which makes it a preferred choice of all technological devices. The most notable aspects of the laptop, when compared to desktop, include its processing capability, the display technology, and the storage capacity. These characteristics facilitate communication between people differently from other devices. The computing technology embedded in laptops and computers facilitates the natural interface that humans crave in communication. Many studies have focused on laptop effects on modern life, especially in education and business. However, few have focused on the evolution of the laptop and the current implication of its design. This paper explores the laptop’s past and present state, what happens after its useful life, and its impact on the surrounding.  

In the past, one computer filled an entire room, and its primary aim was to accomplish more government jobs. Nonetheless, the computing power of this computer is equal to that of a modern smartphone. Other computer models were developed; however, they were bulky, featured primitive displays, and accompanied other large accessories. As technology improved, other laptops were developed, and their usefulness increased. Adam Osborne developed the first real portable computer, and his version weighed 24 pounds with a five-inch screen (Morrison et al. 169). Osborne’s computer company failed, but his invention impacted the technology field for the first time in history. The design inspired other inventors to develop more personal computers. For example, Epson invented a better version of laptops followed by Radio Shack (Morrison et al. 174). Microsoft released its first version of a laptop with a mouse and single microchip technology. Since these inventions, better computer versions have been created making them more portable and convenient for users.

Today, laptop and computers have become part of life to millions of people across the globe. They have been developed at high speed; they are small with more extended battery capabilities and better graphics. According to a recent report by Census Bureau, more than 79 percent of the population owns a laptop or desktop (Ryan and Lewis 3). When laptops emerged in the 1980s, only eight percent of the population owned one, but by 2000, more than 50 percent of the households had a computer, and by 2015, this percentage had grown to 79 percent (Ryan and Lewis 3). However, the report indicates that recent years have seen a decline in the use of computers. For instance, in 2013, 84 percent of households owned a desktop or laptop (Ryan Lewis Jamie 4). The decline could be associated with the emergence of other handheld devices and their convenience in accessing the internet. The report further indicates that age is an essential factor in determining laptop ownership. Householders between the age of 15 years and 35 years owned a laptop, while those aged 45-65 years used or owned a desktop (Ryan and Lewis 6). In addition, ninety percent of householders between the ages of 15 and 35 owned other handheld devices. Therefore, laptop use may decline further in the future.

 Today, people prefer cross-function devices that provide all communication capabilities. Currently, the person held computers cannot offer this capability; therefore, even though the laptop market has been declining, people are still purchasing laptops. The laptop offers an extensive diversity in its application areas from education to entertainment and business. In 2015, there were approximately more than 1.5 billion personal computers in use in the world (Statisca.com, “Installed base of personal computers” n.p). Despite the widespread usage of laptops, research indicates that the use of laptop has been decreasing in the last few years. Recent research by Credit Suisse indicates that the global shipment of the notebooks is decreasing steadily (Statisca.com, “Installed base of personal computers” n.p). Since 2010, a steady decrease in laptops has been reported with the possible explanation being the falling average price of other handheld devices such as the tablet. Also, the research indicates that in 2010, there were 201 million laptops shipped worldwide. The current projection indicates that only 171.1 million laptops will be shipped worldwide in 2023 (Statisca.com, “Shipment Forecast of Tablets” n.p). The reason behind this declining trend can be associated with the prices of other personal held devices such as the tablet. 

            Laptops and personal computers play an integral part of modern living but last only during their useful life. The central processing unit of computers, laptops, and other components contains different toxic materials. The metal plates contain chromium used to protect the inside of the computer from corrosion. The motherboard comprises beryllium while the chip resistor encompasses cadmium. Older laptops contain brominated flame retardant, which emits toxic chemicals, thus rarely used in computer models. Also, the battery in laptops contains potentially dangerous lead and polyvinyl chloride that emit toxic chemicals when burned. While the average user may not be affected by these components, the problem emerges when disposing of and recycling the computer parts. Given the increasing use of laptops and other personal computers, it is clear that they are detrimental to a country’s directive to conserve the environment. 

Broken or obsolete laptops are disposed of, and the toxic material within becomes part of the landfill. Many laptop manufacturing companies lack recycling programs, and since many municipalities cannot afford to recycle electronic waste, most of it is trashed and shipped to China, Thailand, and Kenya, where it can be dumped in unregulated conditions (Mosbergen np). According to Mosbergen, some manufacturers such as Dell have a recycling program whereby laptop users can return their old models (n.p). The recycling program for Dell takes place in China using a closed loop-recycling plan whereby the company uses recycled products to make new versions of the same device (Mosbergen np). Even though laptops contain recyclable materials, many manufacturers have not implemented a program to help reduce the environmental effects of these components. As a result, only 15 to 25 percent of the world’s electronic-waste is recycled (Mosbergen np). The damage generated by e-waste is significantly high compared to other materials. Precisely, even though e-waste makes up two percent of landfill trash, it presents more than 70 percent of all hazardous waste in landfills (Mosbergen np). The effect of laptops to the environment is significantly higher than other waste materials. As such, if manufacturing companies and consumers fail to dispose of their electronic devices responsibly, e-waste could be the cause of global warming in the future, and the impact on the environment would be hard to reverse.

A large number of laptops produced today contain recyclable components.  Also, recycling eliminates the need to obtain the element from natural sources thus decreasing the impact of laptop production on the environment. As such, laptop consumers should be encouraged to donate their old computers to companies that offer tax benefits or manufacturers who can recycle them safely. Some manufacturers offer recycling programs with benefits to the consumers, but a majority of them are yet to implement such plans as they focus on the functionality of their model. However, the current business environment requires these companies to be socially responsible by using components such as aluminum casing and removing brominated flame retardants in their computer models. 

Laptops have become a ubiquitous tool in modern life. Initially, the motivation for its invention was to provide businesses with a product that would increase production. After its invention, only a small percentage of the population owned the computer. However, with the advancement in technology and the emergence of the internet, the laptop has become an integral part of communication today. Unlike other portable handheld devices, the laptop offers an extensive diversity in its application areas for entertainment, business, and education. Despite the widespread usage of laptops, handheld devices have reduced the volume of computers produced; thus their future is uncertain. Besides, components that make computers are detrimental to the environment, with more damaging impacts than other wastes. If computer-manufacturing companies fail to develop recycling programs that reduce the effects of laptops on the environment, the devices will lead to global warming. Laptops are essential in modern day living, but there is the need to develop viable recycling programs or production methods that are safer to the surrounding.

Works Cited

Morrison, Connie, Dolores Wells, and Lisa Ruffolo. Computer literacy basics: A comprehensive guide to IC3. Cengage Learning, 2014.  http://fit.hnue.edu.vn/~trungnc/TextBookAndLectureNote/IC3/IC3,%205th%20Edition.pdf

Mosbergen, Dominique. “So You Recycled Your Old Laptop. Here is Where It Might have Gone.” The Huff Post, July 20, 2018. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/old-laptop-recycling_n_5b30d0e2e4b0040e274534a2

Ryan, Camille L., and Jamie M. Lewis. Computer and internet use in the United States: 2015. US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau, 2017. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/acs/ACS-39.pdf

Statisca.com. “Installed base of personal computers (PCs) worldwide from 2013 to 2019-in million.” https://www.statista.com/statistics/610271/worldwide-personal-computers-installed-base/

Statisca.com. “Shipment Forecast of Tablets, Laptops and Desktop Pcs Worldwide From 2010 to 2023 (In Million Units).” https://www.statista.com/statistics/272595/global-shipments-forecast-for-tablets-laptops-and-desktop-pcs/


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