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It is not clear to me, when to use IN and when to use ON in sentences such as: "Keep it organized on your computer or in a notebook." What about if the gadget selected to write were a Laptop/Palm/Cell-phone/Tablet? Bye.

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My name and address database is 'on' my computer, also 'on' my mobile phone. It seems that in all cases where electronic equipment is involved it is 'on'. At least that is the case with me. But I do record some things 'in' a notebook, others 'on' paper. I never write 'on' the wall, though some do, but I have been known to post items 'on' a notice board. Financial data is recorded 'in' a ledger, but sometimes that ledger is held 'on' a computer.

It seems that wherever books are concerned it is 'in', because books can be closed. So I suppose there is a notion of information being inside them.

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It is likely that the convention for storing/writing data "ON" a computer (and not "IN"), derives from the good ol' days when writing to a hard drive actually involved energizing magnetic particles that existed ON the surface of the drive.

http://computer.howstuffworks.com/floppy-disk-drive3.htm

http://www.research.ibm.com/research/gmr/basics.html

Nowadays, the phrase "on a computer" embodies all computer components, including cloud storage which doesn't even physically exist within your electronic device!

It is also not uncommon also to use the phrase "save data TO a computer".

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  • As someone who predates computers (at least as we know them today) let me say that when I began training as an accountant we would work things out 'on' a mechanical calculator, as opposed to doing it 'in' our heads. So the idea of 'on' may be older than computers. And you always did workings 'on' paper rather than 'in' your head. And don't we hear things 'on' the radio, or 'on' TV, but 'in' an auditorium.
    – WS2
    Nov 15 '13 at 7:15
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All those devices are as much computers as a desktop one and so it would be "on".

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