You Don’t Have a Supercomputer in Your Pocket

I was listening to an older episode of This Week in Tech (TWIT), and one of the hosts said, and I am paraphrasing, “we are all walking around with supercomputers in our pockets.” Then I started hearing people imply this frequently. I have not blogged for over a month, but I have been traveling, and I found from Asia to Kentucky, people seem to be propagating this meme.

I am going to crush your world now and tell you, that in fact, you do not have a supercomputer in the shape of a smart phone in your pocket. As smart phones and app culture has increased, I have seen nothing but a decline in good software, and power users. I see people dependent on apps that have single and simple features, often riddled with ads. Since developers are all in on smart phones and low powered tablets, the potential for new and powerful software is fading.

How powerful is your smart phone? Well in 1987 it would be equivalent to powerful computer. So if you can time travel, you can go back in time and remove your smart phones CPU, and then use it in another computer to calculate stock predictions or weather patterns. Sure those calculations might take 2-3 months, but in 1987 people were more patient.  Notice I said the CPU, the rest of the phone would be useless.

If you buy a laptop for $300.00-$400.00 today in 2015, you can out process your phone and skip the time travel. You can write software for your phone as well, try writing software for your laptop on your phone.

Yes, smart phones are more social. They have cameras and sensors that allow them to be useful in some niche situations. If you need to quickly project and unsubstantiated opinion, without references or context, smart phones are amazing.

This whole meme is troubling, because it is obviously coming from industry. The meme is designed to keep people buying fairly expensive, yet low quality hardware, with an app purchasing culture built into the life span of the product. This meme reminds me of the digital natives meme. I hear this everyday, and it drives me crazy.

People need to stop saying children are digital natives, and start actually watching what they are accomplishing when they work; and when they work on a timeline. Trust me, children/students in 2015 still need structure and skills training. Just because they can play games on their devices, or use 15 apps to share photos, does not mean they understand how to use their technology to solve real problems in a timely manner. Nor does it mean they can takes 100s of points of data and construct an argument.

Schools need to start critically looking at all these memes, and they need to stop propagating memes that cannot be substantiated.  Educational Technology should be about creating. It should be a maker-culture with an emphasis on learning to filter garbage out of any equation .


If you truly believe today’s students are born to use technology without guidance or planning, then lobby to get rid of driving tests. They obviously grew-up with cars, and cars in 2015 are much easier to drive than cars from 1975.

Logic is logic. Digital Natives using Smart Phone Supercomputers = No Need for Driving Tests.

Tony DePrato

6 thoughts on “You Don’t Have a Supercomputer in Your Pocket”

    1. Brian, would you agree that with the potential power of the iPhone, you could take 5 years worth of seismic data and create charts and graphs of earthquake zones , in less time than it would have taken in 1984?

  1. Tony – good post and a great point to keep in mind for schools who think that smartphones and tablets can be just as effective as a laptop in a BYOD setting. The analogy at the end is a good one with the driving test.

    I don’t mind the dumb downed software though. I find it a good entry point for students who want to create but don’t have time or money yet to dive deep into a program. If they are passionate, they will stretch that entry program or webservice to its limit and then look upwards to more powerful software. It’s what has happened to me and others I have known throughout my life.

    One question though – so if I traveled back to July 1969 with my iPhone – can I run mission control at NASA and just have a bunch of apps and have the rest of mission control just take the day off 🙂

    1. If Apple gave you a dongle to interface it , but that would void all their rules, imagine if you could just use the pieces you wanted when you wanted .

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