|The very first Apple Computer logo, drawn by Ronald Wayne, depicts Isaac Newton under an apple tree.|
|By Rama derivative work: Przemub (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons|
|By Rama & Musée Bolo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons|
Personal Ancestral File (PAF) was an outstanding success as a software product by any measure that can be applied. PAF was not the first commercial genealogy program. That honor probably goes to "Genealogy: Compiling Roots and Branches" by John J. Armstrong advertised in the September, 1979 issue of Personal Computing Magazine. That program sold for $250. See "A Century of Genealogy" by Kathleen W. Hinkley, CGRS. Interestingly, some of the current genealogy software programs date back to those early years of computing. For example, Ancestral Quest is the great-grandchild of that early Personal Ancestral File program.
What were the basic functions of Personal Ancestral File and why did it become a de facto standard for so many years? Probably, one of the main reasons was the price. It was low priced to begin with, never more than $30, and eventually was essentially free. I took a look at my last copy of the PAF program in its original packaging to see what it was that made PAF such a pervasive program in the very modern history of genealogy.
Fundamentally, Personal Ancestral File was not a simple or easy-to-use program. It was complicated and took a considerable amount of effort to master. Most of the thousands of Family History Centers around the world, until quite recently, consistently taught classes about how to use the program. The fundamental features of the program have been copied and are found in the most recent and advanced online genealogy programs available today. There are still great numbers of people using the program on Windows-based computers today. I have a copy of PAF running on my Windows 8.2 laptop. In fact, I was just able to copy the Personal Ancestral File 5.0 Users Manual over to my iMac running OS X Yosemite. I am not aware of any other program, genealogy or otherwise, that old that I can still run on the latest version of Windows. Personal Ancestral File version 5.0 was discontinued in 2002. In July, 2013, Personal Ancestral File was "retired" and all support was discontinued.
|Family tree displaying an ancestor chart of Sigmund Christoph, Graf von Zeil und Trauchburg|
Maybe there is a lesson and a message here. Maybe the features in a genealogy program that are important to the genealogical community are those in Personal Ancestral File.