RootsTech 2015

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reflections on the Internet, Genealogy and the World in General

The first mention of the term "Internet" was in a publication entitled, "Specification of Internet Transmission Control Program," date December 1974 by Vinton Cerf, Yogen Dalal and Carl Sunshine. My introduction to the Internet took place on Scottsdale, Arizona Community College computers while I was teaching computer classes and I had access to usenets and bulletin boards. One day in 1993, we heard a rumor that a new type of Internet program was circulating called the World Wide Web. Two of the Internet connected computers at the College were set up with the new "Browser" called Mosaic. Using one of those two computers, I was able to get onto the Internet and look at the "websites." There were a total of six websites available to view. I could immediately see that this was a game and life changing development in computers. Now, twenty or so years later, I am still amazed at the developments on the Web and have not lost my initial fascination with all things connected to the Internet.

As soon as we got access to local servers, my brother and I began learning HTML and designing webpages. At one point, we had 42 different websites we had designed and were maintaining in conjunction with our graphic design business. Although, I had been involved in genealogy for more than 10 years, it took some time for the rudimentary genealogy computer programs to start to have any contact with the Web. The idea that the Web would become an important factor in the genealogical community did not take root until many years later. From 1993 to 1998, I had to retired from the active practice of law to run a computer store. During that time, I took every technical training class I could manage to attend from Apple, Hewlett-Packard and other computer manufacturers. The computer techs in the classes thought it was a novelty that the owner of the company was there learning how to take care of computers.

As networking became more important and the Web began to grow dramatically, I kept up with all the developments and installed many local area networks. As it happened, because of some family issues, I chose to return to the practice of law. During all of this time, I kept up my interest in genealogy and maintained my contact with the world of computers.

Genealogy and computers are natural companions. Genealogical research produces tons of complex relationships and documentation that need to be stored and computer programs provide a superior method of organizing and retrieving that information in a way to make it useful. As computers and operating systems continue to develop over that time period, I moved from CP-M to MS-DOS to Apple DOS and on to each succeeding operating system. I would guess that I worked on nearly every computer model from Apple. I mentioned this before, but I was present at the introduction of the Apple Macintosh computer in San Francisco, California in 1984. I was also one of the users of prerelease versions of most of the Windows programs from Microsoft. In those early days, we usually got to see and work with a fairly good representative sample of all of the personal computers available from Commodores to Kaypros and from TRS-80s to the IBM personal computers. During all of this time, I kept acquiring every successive genealogy software program that I could find. Most of them were awkward and very difficult to use. That world began to change with the introduction of Personal Ancestral File. From 1984 until around the year 2000, Personal Ancestral File was the predominant software program. Although, there were a few contenders no one seemed to be able to make program that was as simple to use and still accommodated the needs of a genealogist (I am sure I will hear about this statement from those who disagree).

So now we fast forward to today. The computer and genealogy worlds have become unimaginably complex. There are dozens of excellent genealogical database programs. The Web has taken over practically every aspect of our lives and we live in an Internet fueled technological time warp.

As for me personally, I sometimes feel like my world has expanded to such a great extent that I have very little time to actually do all of the things that seem available in the vast world of genealogy online. I am very frequently asked whether or not I ever sleep. I can assure you that I do. I also hear comments about the quantity of material that I seem to write. We could take a vote and see whether or not my blog readers want me to cut down on the number of posts I make? But from my perspective, there are so many changes and so much new material to cover that I can not imagine slowing down or stopping.

I do have to admit, that I have gone to voice recognition software as a way of keeping up with all of the topics that I seem to develop each day.

In this Christmas season I certainly wish to thank all those who have made such kind comments to my blog posts over the past years and wish all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, with many more to come. I might add, if you like anything that you read here, please take the time to share the links with your friends and fellow genealogists. Thanks again.

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