Media Archeology

Artifacts of the History of Mobile Computation

By Aaron Siegel


    able to move freely or be easily moved.


    noun [c or u]
    (the study and knowledge of) the practical, especially industrial, use of scientific discoveries.


    verb [t]
    to calculate an answer or amount by using a machine.

     *Definitions from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary.

"Why focus on mobile computing instead of mobile technology in its entirety?"

Since technology is the use of all kinds of different scientific discoveries, it doesn't necessarily fall within the traditional paradigm of "high-tech" products. Certainly the first shoes made of animal skins were a mobile technology that served early humans through harsh terrain, and still they evolve in advanced ways today. People rarely consider their Nike's as high-tech, even though Nike spent 36,000 hours developing Nike Swift technology.

"Is Mobile Computing restricted to laptops and PDA's?"
Absolutely not. Computing has become so immersed in our modern mobile technology that most people find it dificult to tell. Any mobile media artifact that performs a calculation or computation in order to execute its simulation is a mobile computing device. This simulation may not directly be a calculation or computation for the end user, but instead an algorithm that utilizes calculation to accomplish a desired end.

Artifacts of Mobile Computation in chronological order:

- Abacus (500bc)

- Napier's Bones

A set of small ivory columns that acted as multiplication tables.

- Slide Rule (1620)

- Pocket Watch (1650)

- Pascaline (1642) [blaise pascal]

- Punch Cards (1810)

Punchcard series for looms made by Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1810)

Punchcard for Hollerith Tabulating Machine used in the 1890 census.

Punchcard and punchcard template.

Pantograph used to punch acurate holes in cards based on the template.

- Arithmometer (1820) [thomas de colmar]

- Mechanical calculators

- Enigma Machine (1938)

Battery powered mechanical cryptography station for german troops during WW2.

- Magnetic Removable Media (1928)

Allgemeine Elektrizitatsgesellschaft [AEG] Magnetophon (1935)

Lear 8-Track (1965)

Philips Cassette (1965)

8" floppy disk, 1kb (1960's)

5.25" floppy disk, 360kb (1985)

3.5" diskette, 720kb (1988)

Magnetic Stripes (1960's)

Flash Memory USB drive

- Portable Computer

The Apple Macintosh computer was marketed as being portable due to its relatively light weight (16.5lbs). (1984)

Eventually LCD screens replaced CRT's and system parts became thinner.

- Optical Removable Media (1970) [klass compaan, pete kramer]

- Cellular Phones (1973)

Motorola Dyna-Tac

Sony Ericsson digital camera phones

- Personal Digital Assistant

- Digital Cameras

- Portable MP3 Player


(1) Nike Fiscal Year 2004 Annual Report [p.4]
(2) Abacus: The Art of Calculating with Beads
(3) Calculating Machines
(4) Punched Cards
(5) History of the Compact Disc
(6) Card Technologies
(7) Magnetic Recording History
(8) A Brief History of Precision Timekeeping
(9) Napier's Bones
(10) History of Cell Phones