Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Sending My Stuff to the Technology Graveyard

The other day, Leland Meitzler of GenealogyBlog wrote about technology we use today that will be consigned to the rubbish heap in the near future - items like compact cameras, portable music players, CDs and DVDs, eBook readers, and everything else that seems to be incorporated into cell phones.

Confession time: My name is Susan and I am a gadgetaholic. However, my cell phone is just a cell phone. It makes and receives calls. That's all. I loathe cell phones. Especially those belonging to other people. Especially the ones with obnoxious ring tones.

That said, it brings me around to the topic of this post. I still have quite a bit of obsolete technology that was a "must have" when I started on the genealogy path in the 1970s and 1980s.

I got hooked on photography at a young age when a neighbor let me sit in her darkened bathroom while she printed photographs she had taken of our family. By the time I was in college, I worked and saved enough money to buy my first single lens reflex camera, a Minolta SRT 101. Then came the telephoto lens. Then the darkroom in my parent's basement. Then the Minolta SRT 102.

When I caught the genealogy bug, I needed something better than a copy machine at the library to copy the photographs I was borrowing from relatives. So I bought a set of close-up lenses for the camera and a copy stand. I would attach the camera to the adjustable pole, place the item I was copying on the base, set the lights for the best exposure, focus and snap. I had to copy my photos in batches of 36 because that was how Kodak Tri-X film was sold. Some of the photographs of my ancestors are still from those black and white negatives from more than 30 years ago.

I really started cooking when I bought an IBM Wheelwriter 3 typewriter. This was very VERY high tech since it had a one-line memory! If I made a mistake in that line, the correcting tape allowed me to make a very clean typeover. At the time, this typewriter was considered a "letter quality printer" and I thought it would work just fine until I could afford to purchase a computer that I would be able to hook it up to. Oh my, yes, I can actually remember a time when there was NOT a computer in every home.

Then I went through several different cassette tape recorders for interviews. I remember carrying this Panasonic model on road trips and playing music cassettes in the car - before cassette players were standard equipment in vehicles. That came after the 8-track tape players.

Next came the Sony camcorder. It was (still is!) about a foot long, cumbersome and heavy. But it was considered compact at the time. Next to my Flip video camera (not to be confused with my Flip-Pal mobile scanner), this thing is enormous. Handycam, it was called. Handy. Funny.

Then, in 1986, I really hit the big time when I bought my first computer - a Tandy T-1000 with not one, but TWO, five inch disk drives. Most computers did not come with hard drives at the time. Why would anyone need more storage capacity?

I immediately bought a very early version of Family Tree Maker software. And yes, I still have several three ring binders with descendant charts and family group sheets that were printed on my dot matrix printer. The IBM Wheelwriter wasn't compatible as a letter quality printer with the Tandy computer. Some things never change. So I still typed much of my correspondence and queries on the typewriter. And every time I got a new computer or new software, I had to re-enter all of the information in my family history database over and over again.

All of this was, of course, before the internet and email. That was back in the days when we used postage and enclosed SASEs with our queries. We sent letters through the post office before email or text messaging came along. You may recall there was once a U.S. Postal Service that was the main source of communication between family members. Handwritten letters were used for social networking and research.

Fast forward to 2011 - all of this technology, which added up to several thousand dollars when new, is still here. I checked eBay a couple years ago and these items were listed for about a $5.00 opening bid and had no bidders. I promise myself that I will do the right thing and have these once prized possessions recycled and disposed of properly - once I get used to the idea they have no value to me any longer.

Now I read that my mp3 player, tiny digital camera, my pocket size Flip video camera and my Kindle will soon be going down the same path as these once treasured essentials in my genealogy tool kit. All they need to do is add a scanner to a cell phone and that's going to be about all I'll need.

I did mention that I loathe cell phones, didn't I? But - I am beginning to see some value in upgrading - not quite yet, however. So don't rub this in my face if I eventually get a smartphone, ok?


  1. Hi Susan,

    Except for developing photos and the IBM (I had a regular typerwriter), everything sounds so familiar - I've owned pretty much what you still have but buried most of it a long time ago. I still do have what was once a great camera that I haven't parted with yet. Perhaps it is time to bury that too. The Tandy is long gone as are the various tape players and the 8 track players too. Weren't those just the best in their/our day though?

    R.I.P. past technology!


  2. This was wonderful, such humor (a scanner attached to a cell phone), and a nice trip down memory lane for me as well. But your cemetery stone picture takes the cake. So clever!

  3. That copy stand is still valuable. Too bad it went away, yours looks a lot better than the one I use. I digitize oversize documents and some books using my digital camera and a camera stand.

  4. Susan, I felt the same way about smart phones - until I went to FGS last Aug. and most of the other bloggers were using them to communicate through Twitter. Then I started looking at all the things I could do with one and finally got one in late Nov. I love it. I bet you would too.

  5. Great post. I've got/had a number of those items as well. Like Barbara, I absolutely love the cemetery stone photo. You put a smile on my face today.

  6. Oh my, so many of your gadgets are twins to the supply in my closet. I'm still trying to migrate all my files--and I can't get rid of the old gadgets until all the files get updated. I hope that happens before I have to erect a headstone for my old files to RIP!

  7. James - thanks for the valuable idea! It absolutely had not occurred to me to use the copy stand with my DIGITAL camera! I'm glad that I did not consign it to the junk heap just yet!

  8. Hi, my name is Greta, and I'm a late adopter. That's my sad story and I'm stickin' to it! I still have a plain old cell phone (though, like Linda, I felt left behind at FGS last summer without a smart phone). I don't like to buy the first versions of anything, but then by the time I'm ready to buy them, something else is going to replace them. Your post is so funny and yet so true at the same time!