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March 18, 2011

How your Nokia smartphone compares with PCs of the past

In 2006, during a speech at The Smartphone Show in London, Nigel Clifford, then CEO of Symbian said, “The mobile phone is most likely to carry the dream of the personal computer to its conclusion”. Predicting the future is always risky, but with more smartphones shipped in the last quarter of 2010 than PCs for the first time ever, it looks like he hit the nail on the head. The smartphone is replacing the PC. To see why, we thought we’d show you how far computing has come in the last 30 years or so, by comparing today’s Nokia N8 with some of the PCs of the past.

The 1970’s

Launched in 1977, the Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) was one of the world’s first personal computers. Popular in the Canadian and United States educational markets, it was Commodore’s first full-featured computer, and formed the basis for their entire 8-bit product line.



CPU: 6502, 1 MHz

Memory: 4 or 8 KB / 8, 16, or 32 KB

Storage: Cassette tape / floppy disk (up to 1024 KB per drive)

The 1980’s

The ZX Spectrum was launched by the British inventor Sir Clive Sinclair in 1982. Massively popular in the UK (and my first ever PC), more than 5 million were sold worldwide. It led to a boom in software and hardware and is credited with launching the UK IT industry.



CPU: Z80@ 3.5MHz

Memory: 16 KB / 48 KB / 128 KB

Storage: Cassette tape

The 1990’s

The 1990’s really was the decade of the PC. More and more people and companies began ordering the component parts of their computers from different manufacturers. With people trying to build ever faster computers, we saw a massive improvement in hardware year on year.


Good computer’s specs circa 1998:

CPU: 400 MHz P2

Memory: 64mb sdram running at 100 MHz

Storage: 1-2 GB, ATA-2 HD


2010 saw the launch of the Nokia N8. The world’s first Symbian^3 smartphone has a host of features including a 12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon flash, HD-quality video recording, film editing software and Dolby surround sound. It was Nokia’s most pre-ordered device ever.



CPU: 680 MHz ARM 11 processor

Memory: 256MB RAM

Storage: 16 GB

It’s pretty clear, looking at these basic specs, how far computing has evolved. The Nokia N8 has tens of thousands of times more RAM memory, more than a 1000 times the processing power, and 245 645 times the storage capacity of the average computer from the early 80’s. All that computing power and you can still fit it in your pocket. Does this mean the PC is doomed? Or will it always have a place in your heart and a space on your desk?