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

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Technology Wheel Turns

We are all so accustomed to new models of cars every year, we have come to expect it as if it were a natural part of life. But automotive technology has changed very slowly and there are few fundamental differences between year models. In fact, in the case of my old Chevrolet truck, (which I no longer own), there were few changes for the 13 years I owned it. That is not the case with electronics. First, there is no "annual" change and second, the changes are not just adjustments and cosmetic, but some are fundamental and life changing.

In the past few years we have seen smartphones, such as the iPhone, and tablet computers, such as the iPad, change the way people do their work and interact. Texting has become a way of life (and death) for many and WiFi has become ubiquitous.

We are once again on the verge of another turn of the technological wheel and the world will never be the same again. There is a dark side to the constant technological change, however. The constant pressure of change has created a world society split between the technological haves and the have nots. This split does not follow national, political or social lines. It splits families and friends. It creates new social dynamics through opening and closing channels of communication.

As genealogists, we are caught up in this rapidly changing world, whether we like it, accept it or even fight against it, or not. So what caused this periodic reflection on my part? The introduction of yet another version of Apple's Operating System, called Mountain Lion

What if you woke up today and the news was that with the introduction of the new model cars, they would no longer run on gasoline and that all the gas in the world would be used up and then your car would no longer run? What would your car be worth? This happens every time a new computer operating system comes out. The results might not be as dramatic as my gasoline example, but they are just as effective at making your older model obsolete and unusable.

Taking my car example a bit further, when new model cars come out, unless I am in the market for a new car, the introduction is a non-event. I could care less. I can keep driving my car as long as I want to maintain it. I usually keep a car anywhere from five to fifteen years (or more). I don't feel compelled to sell any of my vehicles until their value falls below the cost of repairs. I am not into restoration.

OK, but what happens if I have the same attitude towards computers? The difference is dramatic. Right now, for example, if I were still using a fifteen year old computer, I would not be able to buy even one genealogy program (except Personal Ancestral File and a few other similar programs) that would run on my computer. What is even more serious is that none of the connectors on my old computer would work with any of the newer equipment. I would have a difficult, if not impossible task in connecting to the Internet and my computer would have neither the memory storage capacity nor the speed to operate with downloaded programs from the Internet. I would not be able to buy even one new program that would work with my old operating system.

But these types of changes in computers are not just incremental. The new Apple OSX, Mountain Lion, is an example of the changes that are literally forced on the electronic users. Here are the hardware requirements for the new operating system:

  • iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
In other words, if your present computer does not fit into these categories, you cannot upgrade to the new operating system and eventually, none of the new or upgraded software will work on your computer. So you are laughing because you use a Windows compatible computer. Think again. Windows 8 will be out shortly and it will have similar requirements. Just look at the hardware requirements for the new OSX from Apple and you can see what will happen with Windows 8.

Here are some additional requirements for Mountain Lion including hardware:
  • OS X v10.6.8 or later
  • 2GB of memory
  • 8GB of available space
  • Some features require an Apple ID; terms apply.
  • Some features require a compatible Internet service provider; fees may apply.
To some, this will be another indication of the perversity of the world. These same people, probably bought a new car within the past ten years and didn't think the same thing. I know people who rail against technological change, but buy a new boat or whatever anytime they feel the old one doesn't suit their needs.

How soon will you need to buy a new computer? The first time you want to take advantage of some new innovation or software product and it turns out you cannot upgrade your present one.  If you wish, you can live with your present computer the rest of your life, just don't expect anyone to be able to use your data.

I will likely have a lot more to say about this, especially the part about data obsolescence.

1 comment:

  1. Yes please, more on the data obsolescence. I have started to migrate my genealogical data from proprietary formats and into, what I'll call, a raw format (and I do not mean GEDCOM). Some of my ancestors were interested in genealogical research and compiling content, but most were consumers of the content. I inherited a huge box of photographs and papers from one great grandparent--of course all readable. As it sits, with my digital content, if it sits dormant for decades, like my great grandmothers history box, it will not be very readable. So... How do we prepare our content for a future generation that just might not be the next generation? There might be a couple of ways to look at this. Do you want "published" material to be handed down or your "master" database that contains all previous and present research (the entire lot)?