Are smartphones computers? – Jamaica Observer


Dear Editor,

There is a proverb which says, “One pound of learning requires 10 pounds of common sense to apply it.”

Recently, there was another delay in the trial of the 33 men alleged to be members of the St Catherine-based Klansman gang. This time, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes called the attention of prosecutors to the Evidence Act. He said they would have to satisfy the court that the phones fell under the definition of a computer and whether, so far, all the evidence that has been heard in that respect meets the requirements of the section.

The section states, “…Subject to the provisions of this section, in any proceedings, a statement in a document or other information produced by a computer shall not be admissible as evidence of fact stated or comprised therein unless it is shown that (a) there is no reasonable grounds for believing that the statement is inaccurate because of improper use of the computer and (b) at all material times the computer was operating properly, or if not, that any respect in which it was not operating properly or was out of operation was not such as to affect the production of the document or the accuracy of the contents.” The concern for Chief Justice Sykes seems to be whether phones fall under the definition of a computer.

A smartphone is basically a computer compressed to a size similar to a phone so it can be easily carried. Most times the optional peripherals have been installed and the mouse and keyboard are substituted for a touch screen and a software keyboard.

It would be helpful to compare the operating systems of a computer and a phone. Operating systems designed for computers and laptops are full-featured. They are designed to take advantage of fast central processing units (CPU), large amounts of disc space, and high amounts of RAM. Also, they utilise the features of modern chipsets that are not available on most mobile devices.

Mobile operating systems (Android and iOS) are specialised for a specific set of devices. By default, they do not offer complete access to your system hardware. They also have stricter hardware requirements because the ecosystem of mobile apps and devices is strongly connected to specific hardware features so you can run the newest apps on an older mobile operating system. A personal computer (PC) is a general purpose, cost-effective computer that is designed to be used by a single-end user. A PC can be a microcomputer, desktop, laptop, tablet, or hand-held.

A computer is really any device that accepts input from a user, performs calculations on that input, and provides an output to the user. So, yes, a mobile device, desktop, and laptop are indeed considered a PC. Today’s smartphone is an electronic device that shares the capabilities of a phone and a personal computer.

I must confess that my comfort level would be significantly increased if the legal draughtsmen could be encouraged to revisit the Evidence Act.

And, Sir Sykes, a 90-square-inch square and a 90-square-yard rectangle are both parallelograms.

Glenn Tucker

[email protected]


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