Building with mobile devices

My laptop, a 2015 MacBook Pro that survived being drowned during the Chennai floods that year, went into the ICU today. A service person said the RAM was fried, along with some other adjacent components. When a friend asked if I was going to get a new machine, I said I wasn’t. His question brought to mind a conversation I’d had many years ago with Anuj Srivas, The Wire’s business editor and one of the best tech journos around. Our conversation had been centred on a question posed by either Ben Evans or Ben Thompson – whether most of the world’s information was being produced on mobile phones. At the time, we’d been able to agree that most information was being consumed on phones but couldn’t possibly be created on phones. The example I’d harboured in mind was programming: surely programmers weren’t producing most of their code on mobile devices?

I’m not so sure today. Following my friend’s question, I thought my next machine would likely be a Chromebook, followed by another thought that I should probably get a powerful tablet instead, like the iPad Pro. All I do can be done in the browser. Recently, I had deployed a few Nodejs apps on DO and Linode VPSs, and had taken to managing them using a Terminal app on my iPhone. My entire digital footprint is mediated by this app and Chrome. I realised that all I needed was at least 4 GB of RAM and a good Bluetooth keyboard, and I could get to work. Suddenly, it seems quite plausible that most information is produced on mobile devices.

However, I don’t think Anuj or I were wrong at the time we had our doubts. Many things have happened since to enable coders and content creators to build on mobile devices to a preferential extent. Foremost is computing power and capacity, followed by the increasing popularity of APIs, and finally an expanding suite of apps to cash in on these advancements. I haven’t checked if DO has an app but on its mobile site, I can tap two or three buttons, spin up a virtual server, login to an HTML console (or through an SSH app), and start building. Powerful text editors like Atom even come with preset code templates that automate numerous tasks. And just like that, I have an app or website up and running within minutes, and I’m already switching to Twitter to brag about it. 😉