“Have you noticed,” a colleague remarked to me today, ” that we no longer call computers ‘computers’? Here’s my iPhone. It’s a computer, but we never call it a computer.” He went on to say that the only thing we call a computer has a keyboard, such as a desktop or a laptop.
It’s true. We have tablets or book readers (Kindle, Nook, iPad, and the like), cell phones (some more sophisticated than others), global positioning systems — computers all in reality, but we don’t call them that anymore. These newer devices have shed their identities as “computers.”
I decided to see what the formal language world says, and as usual it appears to remain in the past, including none of the newer devices. Type “computer synonyms” into Google, and you get this result from http://thesaurus.yourdictionary.com/computer :
Personal computer, PC, microcomputer, minicomputer, mainframe, laptop computer, home computer, workstation, supercomputer, electronic brain, thinking machine, data processor, word processor, calculator, processor, supermini, superminicomputer, supermicro, master control, number cruncher*, machine, cybernetic organism, digital computer, analog computer, network, neural net, neural network.
Various trademarked brands of computers include: IBM, Apple, Macintosh, Mac, Compaq, Cray, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Digital, NEC, Sun, Amiga.
And lest you think this is an isolated citation, here what Roget’s Thesaurus (http://thesaurus.com/browse/computer) says:
CPU, MAC, PC, abacus, adding machine, analog, artificial intelligence, brain*, calculator, clone, data processor, digital, electronic brain, laptop, mainframe, micro, microcomputer, mini, minicomputer, number cruncher, personal computer, thinking machine
Most of these synonyms we don’t use anymore, and certainly not as a prime description. The computer is so ubiquitous, so intertwined in our lives, that we no longer pay much attention to the word, but we can’t live without the thing, whatever it’s now called, that used to be so named.