I’ve spent almost 40 years in the information technology field. During that time I’ve watched it grow from punched cards and dot-matrix printers to smart phones that not only let you talk to other people, but also tell you where you are, how to get where you’re going and how much traffic is between here and there.
All these desktops and devices are delightful, but the thing that impresses me the most is the empowerment of all us “little people” thanks to all the wired and wireless communications options available today. Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and blogger at Instapundit, wrote a fascinating book titled An Army of Davids which describes this from a business and political perspective. We genealogists have all enjoyed the benefits of these technologies too. We have seen that a relatively small number of posts on genealogy blogs can impact change a lot faster than a larger number of angry letters or phone calls because they reached a much larger audience. That’s an army of Davids at work!
Even more impressive is what “developing” countries are doing with a simple cell phone. You can’t imagine the number of small businesses running their operations via text messaging. These countries don’t have the land line infrastructure for home phones, but can provide affordable mobile service and the people in these countries have found amazing ways to use this technology. And, their businesses are growing.
The genealogy business community embraced online technologies from the very beginning. They quickly saw the advantages of computer databases, email and message boards, and Internet-based archives. In the last few years, individual researchers have ventured out of those business-built communities to find new ways to share their research and attract others with similar interests. The resulting blogs and social networks have created a community that offers moral support, encouragement and friendship with no physical boundaries.
One thing I’ve learned in the last 40 years, technology doesn’t sit still. There will be more new and amazing things developed almost every day. I’m looking forward to discovering new ways to connect, communicate, collaborate . . . and virtually hang out with family and friends regardless of where they actually reside.
These digital clouds will be the backbone for all that comes next.