- With how standard computers are nowadays, you may wonder how many of them are in the world.
- This resource guide will answer that question and provide other great tidbits of information.
- You'll get a brief history of computers and learn how many users are worldwide.
It isn’t easy to imagine a modern-day world without computers. But unfortunately, society has become so indebted to these machines that we are constantly afraid of computers suddenly failing. Because of this fear, we’re fiercely protective of them.
With how much we depend on these devices, one can’t help but wonder just how many computers there are in the world? There could be millions, if not billions, of computers worldwide, and that’s what this resource guide aims to answer.
This resource guide will answer just how computers are in the world, give some other helpful tidbits of information, and ponder what the future will hold.
Computer history: a short timeline
Before we answer the main question, it would be a good idea to give a brief overview of computer history. But first, what is a computer? People use them daily but most probably can’t answer what they are.
A computer is a machine that processes information according to a set of instructions. With that concept in mind, you can make the argument that old abacuses from ancient times. They were used for calculating mathematics.
Then there were analog computers that processed information using some physical properties, like the weight of an input, temperature, and other forms of pressure.
But of course, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘computer’ is programmable, digital computers. The first of this kind of machine is ENIAC or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, built in 1945.
ENIAC was massive. It took up the 50-foot by 30-foot basement of the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, its purpose was to calculate firing tables for artillery as ENIAC was built in the middle of World War II. Back then, the keyboard wasn’t invented, so it took instructions via plugboards.
So you have a giant machine with wires coming out every which way that you would have to take out and plug into another hole to tell ENIAC what to do. For the time, it was incredibly fast, especially when other devices required paper cards.
If you had to enter a new problem, you’d have to rewire the entire thing. Plus, ENIAC was never turned off and generated immense heat, so it required its air conditioning system.
Adjusting for inflation, it cost the United State Government well over $6 million to construct and used its calculations to build the first hydrogen bomb.
After the war ended, people began to refine computers and make them much more manageable. The first transistors were invented in the early 1950s to replace the giant tubes that old computers such as ENIAC had.
Now there were tiny switches in computers that controlled electrical signals. Things proceeded to get smaller with the invention of the integrated circuit, or microchips as they were later called, in the 1950s.
Then those microchips proceed to get smaller and more potent with the creation of silicon semiconductors and microprocessors. Eventually, room-size computers become small enough to put into your home.
The world sees the creation of PCs, and some of the biggest computer companies come from this brief period. Companies like Commodore and Apple come out with their earliest machines, like the Apple II.
Then there’s a shift with portability being a primary focus. The first laptops came out during the 1980s, putting batteries into computers so people could take them wherever.
Although, those old laptops had very tiny screens compared to today. New condensing tech advancements make computers more efficient and even smaller.
Those powerful microchips move on to the telephone to become the first iPhone and Android devices in the early 2000s. Tablets soon came after and, alongside smartphones, became the most dominant computing device in the world.
Microchips undergo another significant change with SoCs (system on a chip) that put most, in some cases, of the most critical parts of a computer into something barely more significant than a coin.
Modern computers have drastically evolved and changed so much in one century than most other inventions in the past.
How many types of computers are there?
It all depends on how you classify a computer and define precisely what it is. Many different types of computers do things vastly and come in various sizes.
There are two main classes of computers: one is based on application, and the other is on size. Of course, there is some overlap between the two classes, but that’s pretty much the basics.
The first classification, as an Application, can be thought of as what a computer can do and how they work. There are types under this class: analog, digital, and hybrid.
Analog computers are a strange bunch because, on the surface, they don’t look like computers. As briefly mentioned, analog computers work on physical inputs – things that can be measured, not numbers.
This includes voltmeters, thermometers, the speedometer on your car, and even the analog clock you see in schools. Analog computers take information from the world and show that data in a way people can understand.
You know how fast your car goes by looking at the speedometer or how bad your fever is with a thermometer. Digital computers are what most people think of. PCs, Macs, laptops, Chromebooks, smartphones, all these are digital computers.
They work on data usually expressed in binary code or letters and then process that information at high speed. Hybrid computers, as the name suggests, combine the two.
These machines take information from the outside world and digitize it into code that a computer can read to turn into a legible form. Think of a gas pump, for example.
It measures the quantity of gasoline left in a pump and feeds that information to the people inside. Various medical devices are also hybrid computers.
A heart monitor measures the patient’s heartbeat and displays that data on its screen. X-ray machines scan a person’s body and digitize what it sees on a computer screen.
The other classification is based on size. For this class, all the machines are considered to be digital computers.
The bigger a computer in this class is, the more it can do. There are five types: PCs, Workstations, Minicomputers, Mainframe, and Supercomputers.
Personal computers are exactly what you think it is; machines that do a general-purpose job are explicitly designed to be used by one person. Construction is simple too.
You have a CPU, memory hardware, input via keyboard and mouse, and outputs from a screen or speakers: Macs, desktops, video game consoles, tablets, and more. Almost everyone in the world has one in their pocket in the form of a smartphone.
Next are Workstations, computers built with a specific purpose, usually technical or scientific. Think of something like video game development or engineering, so they’re pretty powerful.
Workstations are usually better performing than PCs, but that line is often blurred with so many powerful consumer-level parts. Still, however, these types of machines have lightning-fast CPUs and SSDs with a ton of space on them.
In the animation business, they may be used to render a movie overnight or data analysis in other industries. Then there are minicomputers, which have an admittedly confusing name.
Don’t confuse minicomputers with PCs as they are entirely different things. They’re more like small servers. Minicomputers have all of the features that a giant mainframe would have but on a smaller scale.
These machines are a type of multi-user computer that a business may use for inventory management or accounting. For example, you may see minicomputers supporting up to 200 users simultaneously and doing the calculations for all these people.
Compared to mainframe computers, minicomputers are much slower with lower processing power and less storage space, which is fine if they don’t have to handle a lot of information simultaneously.
These machines are great for small businesses, but if you’re a large company like Google, you will need something much bigger and more powerful. And those are mainframe computers.
Mainframe computers are those big towers with racks in a giant room at a data center. These machines are made up of smaller computers that can perform as servers for a video, for example.
If you play a game like World of Warcraft, this is what you’re connecting to. However, don’t misunderstand and assume that mainframe computers are only for video games. They have a lot of usage.
Telecommunication companies or banking institutions use mainframes to process a massive amount of data in a short period. And you better believe that these gigantic machines are expensive to build and maintain.
Mainframes have fantastic performance and an enormous amount of storage inside of them. Because these machines are crucial to a business function, they last a long time. Planned obsolescence is not a thing with them.
And as you can imagine, these types of computers aren’t meant for everyday consumers, not that they would be able to use them anyway. Speaking of which, the final computer type is the world-famous supercomputer.
Supercomputers are those giant towers of multiple systems working together for a singular purpose. They’re the fastest processing power, designed to handle trillions of data in a few seconds.
Computers are used to analyze data obtained from space probes or make weather forecasts. In addition, governments worldwide use these behemoths to help in nuclear research and for their spy agencies to break down data.
Machines of this magnitude are costly, with the low end being several thousands of dollars. But it’s not unheard of to learn about supercomputers costing many millions of dollars. Governments are more than willing to foot the bill.
The data obtained from this is invaluable. The world’s fastest supercomputer changes almost yearly as even the slightest tweaks can make a massive difference.
The current fastest is the Supercomputer Fugaku at the RIKEN Center for Computational Science located in Kobe, Japan. It has over seven million processing cores and over five million GB of memory.
The Japanese government paid around $1 billion to build the Fugaku. It’s a marvel of human engineering.
How many computers are sold each year?
Computer sales fluctuate yearly due to various circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic. So to keep things simple, this section will be using shipping information from the IDC or the International Data Corporation in 2021.
The IDC is significant market research, tech analysis, and consulting firm for the technology industry. They provide information from around the world to help IT professionals and corporations make technological decisions.
The IDC is one of the best sources for sales figures, so they’ll be referred to. And there will be two separate sections: one on traditional computers and the other on smartphones.
Traditional computers as classified by the IDC are desktops, laptops/notebooks, and workstations. The IDC doesn’t focus on business-level computers like mainframes and consumer-level products.
The top five companies that sold the most PCs in 2021 are Lenovo at number one, followed by HP, Dell, Apple, and the Acer Group. Together, the companies sold 348,800 units across the world. (pie chart)
All of these companies grew significantly from their 2020 sales which saw an understandable downturn considering supply issues. Lenovo took up almost a quarter of the total market share with 81,935 units shipped. It went up 14.1 percent.
HP had around 20 percent of the market with 74,104 units sold, a growth of 9.3 percent from 2020. Dell saw a 17.9 percent growth and 17 percent ownership of the market. Apple had one of the lowest sales but the best development.
It grew over 20 percent from 2020 with an 8 percent market share. Apple shipped 27,775 units. And to round everything off, Acer has 6.9 percent of the market share in 2021, sold 23,906 units, and grew 14 percent.
It bears repeating, but smartphones are arguably the most popular type of computer. Even if someone doesn’t have a desktop, they almost certainly have a smartphone. So 2021 was an okay year for this industry.
It didn’t see the same growth as traditional computers but still saw 1.35 billion devices shipped. The top five in this industry are Samsung (20 percent market share), Apple (17.4 percent), Xiaomi (14.1 percent), OPPO (9.9 percent), and Vivo (9.5 percent).
Samsung sold 272 million units and grew 6 percent, Apple sold 235.7 million united and had better growth at 15.9 percent, and Xiaomi had almost 30 percent growth with 191 million units.
OPPO also had a great year with 20.1 percent growth and 128.3 million units sold. Vivo sold 128.3 million units with 14.8 percent yearly growth.
Interestingly, the rest of the smartphone industry saw a decrease in 2021. All of the other companies fell 12.5 percent.
How many computers are there worldwide?
Over two billion, as of 2007. This number is provided by Worldometer, a real-time statistic website that includes information on various topics, like economics and media.
And this information has been collected from the IDC and other research organizations like Forrester Research and Gartner Dataquest. Forrester states that most of the two billion computers are being actively used.
Worldometer also states that over 73 million computers will be sold in 2022, according to Gartner. This data takes other kinds of computers like x86 Server machines which are a type of mainframe.
Now, if you take mobile device users, that number jumps dramatically. According to information collected by BankMyCell, there are 7.26 billion mobile phone users worldwide or 91.54 percent of the global population.
This includes both smartphones and regular mobile phones. Of the two types, there are more smartphones with 6.64 billion users.
How many computer users are there in the world?
The number of users depends on what is considered a user. Owning a computer may not make you a user if you aren’t connected to the internet. It’s entirely possible that someone could own a computer and never connect to the internet.
They could use it to run calculations. Supercomputers aren’t connected to the internet of things, so would the people who run them be considered users? Again, it depends on your look at things.
Statista revealed how many households worldwide have a computer at home, and it’s about half of the global population at 47.1 percent. People in developed countries are likelier to have not than those in still developing countries.
But that still doesn’t the question of who is using these computers. After all, you can have a computer and never use it. The best metric to decide who can be considered a user has an internet connection.
Using this metric, there are five billion internet users worldwide, making up around 63 percent of the global population. This finding comes from DataReportal, a website similar to Worldometer in that it tracks global trends.
DataReportal also reveals some interesting tidbits like the fact that the average user spends around seven hours using the internet, and the number of people on there is steadily growing.
Each year, the annual growth rate for internet users is 4.1 percent and has seen a massive jump in recent times. From 2021 to 2022, the total internet users jumped by 196 million, with an average of 500,000 a day.
It really cannot be understated how the advent of smartphones and mobility changed the game’s name. Those high numbers have only been possible thanks to mobile devices.
What will computers be like in the future?
It’s difficult to say what computers will be like in the future, but there are clues. The biggest one, of course, is the ever-increasing push toward making stronger and faster mobile devices for consumers.
There may also be a stronger emphasis on wearable computers. Headsets and virtual reality devices are improving yearly as tech companies work out the kinks.
Imagine a world where you see real-time information displayed in front of you. Google did something similar with its Glasses device from years back, but now imagine not needing a pair of those glasses.
Wearable computers can be helpful in an assembly line or for maintenance specialists as they can keep their full attention on the task and still access important information.
Smartphones will still be a thing but will have better processing. If anything, mobile devices will become further integrated. Augmented reality is the wave of the future.
Supercomputers will reach new heights as well. There are still many mysteries about space and the problem plaguing the health of humanity that need to be solved. With improved quantum computing, scientists might discover a new medical field.
If not a new scientific field, quantum computing may discover a new drug or better predict natural disasters. Or perhaps the field of artificial intelligence will continue massive growth.
What if the world could have an AI straight from a science fiction movie? Inklings of this exist in Siri and Cortana, who is named after the AI character from the Halo video game series.
It may seem farfetched, but many things do at first glance. But that doesn’t mean classical computers like desktops will go away. In a world with so many digital communication methods, pen and paper still exist.
Physical options will always have a place in the world. The future of computers will be exciting to see unfold.