What it is: Technology rapidly improves until it’s just as powerful as dedicated devices from the past.
Anyone remember the early days when mainframe and minicomputer users dismissed PCs as “toys”? Back then, mainframe and minicomputer users claimed that PCs were so much weaker than mainframe and minicomputers that they were practically useless – and they were right up until the point that PCs rapidly improved while mainframe and minicomputers did not.
Even today mainframe and minicomputers are still more powerful than a typical PC, but all that power means nothing when the PC can do what most people need in the comfort of their home or office without being tied down to a special room housing a mainframe or minicomputer. Given a choice between top of the line power that’s stuck in one location all the time, or near top of the line power that you can move and place in your home, office, or anywhere you can take a laptop, it’s clear that the PC will never be as powerful as mainframe and minicomputers, but it will always be more versatile.
Now that PCs are as powerful as yesterday’s mainframe and minicomputers, they’re far more useful in most cases than mainframe and minicomputers. Only a handful of people need a mainframe or minicomputer. For the rest of the world, a PC is more than adequate despite never having the same power as today’s mainframe and minicomputers. The difference in processing power is not much of an advantage over portability and versatility that a PC offers.
That’s exactly the same situation cameras currently face. In the old days, digital cameras captured poorer images than film. That’s why Kodak clung to film for so long because they made money processing film and selling it. Eventually digital cameras not only equaled film in quality, but surpassed it. It was inevitable, but Kodak failed to see the obvious and suffered as a result.
Today, professional photographers still cling to dedicated cameras that will always be better than smartphone cameras. Yet smartphone cameras keep improving to the point where they’re better than the dedicated professional cameras of the past. That means professional photographers now have a choice. Lug around a suitcase full of equipment that needs to be set up each time to capture a shot, or use a smartphone camera such as the latest iPhone 6s to capture images quickly and easily while carrying it around in their pocket.
The iPhone’s camera will never equal the quality of dedicated cameras since dedicated cameras have more room for lenses to capture higher quality images. However, the iPhone’s camera can capture images superior to yesterday’s dedicated professional cameras, so the tradeoff is carrying around a suitcase full of equipment to capture marginally better images or carrying around an iPhone to capture images superior to yesterday’s dedicated cameras but never as good as today’s dedicated cameras.
The technology behind the iPhone’s cameras keeps rapidly improving to the point where even a National Geographic professional photographer prefers to use the iPhone instead of lugging around a suitcase full of equipment. With so much extra equipment, photographers not only have to carry it around, but take time to set it up. By then, their perfect image could be gone.
With the iPhone, a fleeting image can be captured immediately and simply. That advantage alone makes up for the lack of equal quality between the iPhone and a dedicated professional camera. The iPhone makes it easy and fast to capture images, and that advantage is something that dedicated cameras can never match. The quality difference is no longer so great to make lugging around extra equipment worth the cost any more.
Just as there are still mainframe and minicomputers, there will always be a need for dedicated professional cameras. There just won’t be much of a need for them just as there’s little need for mainframe and minicomputers. Smartphone cameras like the iPhone are good enough with plenty of advantages of their own to make the choice between an iPhone or a dedicated camera easier with each passing day.
Anyone still think PCs are toys that can be easily dismissed? Those same people still think smartphones and tablets are toys compared to PCs, and they’ll be wrong just as badly as mainframe and minicomputer users were wrong about PCs. When technology becomes good enough with advantages of its own, the old technology can’t help but get surpassed over time.