The way I do my genealogical research has certainly evolved from the days of microfilm and photocopies. But it is a fact of life that the current technological changes will dramatically affect the way I do my research and record my findings in the near future.
I guess we all come to the point of wondering if we will live long enough to see the technology we see coming in the future. One thing we do know, if we look around things will have changed since yesterday. I started to think about some of the technology that is just now becoming available and how it will likely affect me and the genealogical community.
Digitized books and records
I think this must be the number one trend in genealogy that will have the largest effect on me and my work and I assume everyone else is feeling the importance of this change also. Despite the seemingly significant problems that need to be resolved before online materials are universally available, the quantity of useful material going online every day is almost overwhelming. At one time in the recent past, new online collections of records were noteworthy, today, millions of new records go online almost unnoticed. New records online are no longer news, they are every day occurrences. But the impact on my research is significant. I certainly acknowledge that there is still a long way to go before many of the valuable local and hard-to-find records are digitized, but the impact of the vast online collections cannot be overstated.
The expansion of libraries into the service of providing digitized content
Having huge digitized collections of books and records is meaningless unless those records are easily available. The expansion of the public and private library distribution networks to include more and more valuable resources enables those who cannot afford to travel or pay the expense of purchasing digitized media, the opportunity to check those items out of a library for use, just as has been the case with physical book collections for many, many years. As the online collections grow and start to include more reference and lower circulation items, we will all be using our computers and tablets to "go to the library" in the not-too-distant future.
The availability of online educational classes
In just the last year in the genealogical community, we have seen a proliferation of online classes, webinars, webcasts and YouTube videos dealing with all sorts of both general and technical subjects. I cannot predict the impact of the availability of online instruction but I do see it changing the way conferences and seminars are held. I do not think there is a substitute for in-person teaching, but that sort of instruction may become rare or more centralized. RootsTech 2014, if it is broadcast to over 600 locations world-wide, may be the turning point for this type of conference. There are social and networking reasons for attending conferences in person, but the need to go to a conference to obtain high-quality training is evaporating through technological advances.
The impact of online training will ultimately obviate the need for some types of schools and training facilities. Right now, there are free classes online that will give you a complete grade school and high school education and even a college degree. What used to be called distance learning or correspondence school, has been changed by the technology into a reasonable substitute for classroom attendance. In genealogy, there is a flood of classes and learning opportunities online.
Portable Internet devices
The availability of a way to connect to the Internet virtually anywhere at anytime is having a huge impact on me and I am sure on the rest of the world also, genealogically and otherwise. It is more than convenient to be able to carry my entire genealogy file, including documentation and sources, around in my pocket. In addition, I can access the entire Internet in an instant from anyplace I happen to be. EBook readers are revolutionizing the printed book industry. It is only a matter of time before genealogy materials are likewise available in digital format.
The ability to move large files, including graphics and texts almost instantly
Genealogy usually deals in large numbers of documents and images. The ability to share and send large files from one place to another almost instantly is changing the way I view my data files. I can easily share hundreds of images online with my family in a matter of minutes using a program such as Dropbox. This type of program will continue to evolve with even more features in the near future.
High quality digitizing equipment
The availability of high quality digitizing equipment is spurring the vast increase in online images.
All of these and others will continue impact us for the foreseeable future.