There are two things that I can say with absolute certainty about my future in computers; I will never give up a full-size, good action keyboard and I will never give up a large screen monitor (or two or more). That said, it follows that the poke and swipe world of tablet computers will not make much of a difference to me either now or in the foreseeable future. Now, don't get me wrong. I have an iPhone and an iPad. I use a Magic Touchpad almost exclusively to control my desktop computer rather than using a mouse. I use a mouse only for high precision selection and dragging files.
But as you can probably tell, if you read this blog, I type a lot. There is no virtual keyboard that can come close to a well balanced and responsive, full-size keyboard. In fact, I am pretty picky about my keyboards and will scrap one that doesn't work well enough and buy a good keyboard. If the Apple keyboard works, then fine and good, but if not I will buy whatever works the best. If you are fighting with your keyboard, get a life and buy a new keyboard. Sit down at a few computers (libraries, FamilySearch Centers, etc.) and try the standard type keyboards. There is nothing that says I can't use a different keyboard than the one that came with my computer and that goes for Apple also.
Screen territory is crucial. I spend a huge amount of time looking at a computer screen and I am not going to sit there and work with some squishy little tablet screen. I need space. I am usually working on more than one window at once and I need the space to have windows open side-by-side so I can work more efficiently. If you are working with a squinty little screen, get to the nearest electronics store or go online and buy a larger monitor. Make sure your computer can connect to the new monitor, but buy high resolution and large size. I would make this a priority over food and any possible entertainment. In looking at Amazon.com, I see several 27" monitors for under $300 and some for under $200. You can always spend a lot of money on better or newer equipment, but always look at the lowest price models first to get an idea what the "upgraded" models are really going to do for you.
Now where do I go from there? Another reason a tablet will NEVER replace my large screen, keyboard connected computer is the speed and variety of programs. Granted, if all you do is email and type a few documents and maybe run a genealogy program, you may end up working off of a tablet computer. I will never run Adobe Photoshop on a tablet, a laptop yes, but a tablet no.
Whenever I talk about hardware, I always get comments from the folks who are living on a very small budget and complain that I am insensitive to their economic condition. Please. I am painfully aware of the limitations on resources many genealogists suffer. But I am also aware when talking to people that we buy and spend what we want to regardless of our economic level. Some of us may think nothing of taking a weekend trip to Hawaii or New York City, but some of us have to think about our finances every minute of every day. But what I am saying is that we need to put our resources to the best use. When someone drives up to the FamilySearch Library in a Lexus, any protestations of spending $20 on a genealogy program or $200 on a monitor fall on my deaf ears.
If you are really in such poor circumstances that my suggestions seem extravagant, then start advertising your condition. I have given away or donated probably five computers in the last year. I have two right now I can't give away and will likely end up donating. I suggest that if you make your need known, there will be some one out there in the genealogy community that has an extra computer or is upgrading that would be more than willing to share their old machine with you. Maybe we need a central area to post our old computers where we would be willing to give them to some genealogist who needs one?
Let me know what you think.