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

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Genealogist's View -- What's New in Technology January 2011

This post starts a new series of posts giving a genealogy perspective to the latest technology news. I will try to focus on those developments that may impact how we do research or the tools that we might have available. Some of the developments might not be cutting edge, but may be existing technology that has grown to the point where it is now useful for genealogists. From time to time as I see something significant, I will give another update.

At the moment, the big news is tablet computing. With the introduction of the Apple iPad, a whole new perspective was added to the way people interact with machines through touch screen technology. Despite its detractors, the iPad was and is a huge success. As a result, the iPad has spawned a huge number of copies from competitors. Google Android is in the process of releasing it Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS incorporating features to support tablet PCs. Dell Computing has announced that it will start offering iPad sized Tablets soon. There are other offerings from Fijitsu and Sansung. Only the Galaxy Tab from Samsung appears to have any possibility of eroding iPad sales. What is certain is that tablet sized computers will continue to grow in capabilities and features. Already they are a viable alternative in some situations to laptops and will likely become more so in the future.

The iPad, because it runs iPhone Apps, already has a number of genealogy programs available including Legacy Family Tree for the iPhone/iPad and a Family Tree App from Personally, the iPad has revolutionized the way my wife organizes all of her activities.

Another major area of development, again led by Apple Computer, is the laptop. The new MacBook Air is about the size and weight of an iPad but has a full sized keyboard. The MacBook Air uses all flash storage. Flash storage is another major development. Although flash memory storage has been around for some time, the size of the storage has dramatically increased while the cost has continued to decline. As genealogists we are nearly all familiar with flash memory in the form of portable flash drives or thumb drives. With the incorporation of flash memory into more and larger devices, the price will continue to come down. The MacBook Air can come with up to 128 GB flash storage, still not as much as hard drives but starting to become a viable alternative.

Digital cameras continue to be a hot technology item. The major manufacturers will continue to release newer, updated and more powerful camera models. Cameras will more generally come with LCD screens and these screen will likely contain touch technology capabilities. Watch for new cameras from all of the manufacturers but most particularly from Canon and Nikon, the two leading companies.

Scanning technology continues to improve in smaller steps than other devices but 2011 will see new improved scanners such as the Canon CanoScan 9000F and the Epson Perfection v600 both under $200. I had a look at some portable scanners recently. This portable technology has been around for more than 15 years, but through improved software capabilities is now an acceptable alternative. It is questionable however if portable scanners are really more convenient and higher quality than digital cameras.

This next year will see a continued erosion of the traditional telephone/cable TV/Internet connection currently available to most of the U.S. More and more people are finding all of the information and entertainment they can possibly use on the Internet. They are also finding no need to continue to pay for a telephone land line. This trend will undoubtedly continue in 2011.

Part of the trend towards replacing the traditional land-line telephone has been the development of smart phones, small cell phones with computer capabilities. Apple has once again led the way with its iPhone, but the Google Android operating system phones are right behind. Judging from the number of cell phones, including iPhones at the Mesa Family History Expo, I assume this technology is well on its way being integrated by genealogists.

Most of the genealogy software companies have recently announced updates to their programs. Although there may be some additional updates during 2011, presently there are no new dramatic changes on the horizon. If someone knows differently then I would be happy to incorporate the new products in my next update.


  1. James, my reading of this blog comes at a timely moment when I am facing the purchase of a scanner to do some lite 35mm slide and film digitizing for my own personal ancestral records. In the body of your blog, you mention the CanoScan 9000f. Do you have experience with this, or it's predecessor, the 8800f scanners? I will be purchasing either in the near future, but I'm not sure which to go with and internet searches if reviews and technical critique are of minimal assistance at this point. I hope you might be able to shed some light on my quesiton. Again, I understand this is a pointed question, but I was just wondering if you had any personal experience with either one of these units. Best regards.

  2. For full disclosure, I have been using an Epson scanner for years and recently purchased a Canon Canoscan 8800F which I am very happy with.