Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The New Reality

When I was very young, I used to think how neat it would be to be able to play with some walkie-talkies. But, of course, we just had to pretend.

My dream was never realized until many years later when I had children of my own and we were able to buy some inexpensive 2-way radios. Moving ahead to the present, even those remarkable electronics are pasé. Now I can just pull my cell phone out of my pocket and talk to almost anyone around the world. I am no longer limited by time or distance. In this same vein, this past week, there were dozens of articles about Google's augmented reality glasses.  The border between science fiction and fact, for many years, has been somewhat blurred, but now the difference between what is real and what isn't is becoming very indistinct.

But one thing that I think this last week's introduction of the 1940 U.S. Census has shown is that technology still has its limits. Google talks about glasses that would give you information about the world around you. The piece de resistance in the video is a visit to a bookstore where all of the items are instantly identified and cataloged. The basic question in all this is simple, who is going to do all that work? The second question is even easier, who is going to pay for it? Would you pay for a pair of glasses that talked to you and had database-like abilities? Is so, how much?

Why is this issue related to the 1940 U.S. Census? The Census has been released now for about a week (as of the date of this post) and as yet, the volunteer organization, has 15 states online and one state, Delaware, indexed. has had all of the states loaded online much earlier in the week and as of today, also has all of the states loaded into their database. This observation is not intended to be a criticism, it is merely an acknowledgement of the new reality of the online genealogical world. Multinational corporations and big investments of time and money. We don't need augmented reality glasses to see that these large corporations are going to take a greater and greater part in what we do with genealogy in the near future.

One of my friends was commenting to me today, that she was still going to run down to the Family History Center to view because of the expense of subscribing. My comment was, I use the program so much I am almost compelled to have a subscription. But this points out the issue, the new reality is that these types of databases, large and by subscription, are not going to go away. They are only going to get larger and have more features and be even more valuable to a certain level of genealogical research.

I knew quite a few people, and even some I still know, that refuse to pay for cable TV. They simply give up watching commercial TV and make due with rented movies or the Internet alone. In fact, I have joined that group. I have two TVs sitting in my living room right now waiting for Goodwill to come and pick them up. (For those who care, Deseret Industries does not want TVs apparently). The new reality around our house was that we did not use the cable channels enough to justify the expense. Now we will have to make the same kind of decision about genealogical service providers.

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