It’s Sunday morning and I just saw Randy Seavers’ #SaturdayNightGenealogyFun blogging prompt! For me, it is a complicated topic – so here goes.
Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission Impossible! music) is to:
1) I am a slave to my computer – how about you? What is your computer history – what have you used, when did you get it, what did you do on it, etc.?
To be upfront, I have no formal training with computers or databases. However, over half of my teaching career was spent working with computers. To say that I was self-taught is also not correct. Along the way, there were a lot of people who either helped teach me or allowed me to watch and question them as they worked.
It all began as a sophomore in college when I worked as a chemistry lab assistant. At the time, the chemistry department and the math department shared a programmable computer. I didn’t know anything about programming computers and had only heard the older lab assistances talking about their computer classes using punch cards.
However, I heard enough to know that if I could learn to program the computer, it could help me grade a particular lab report. Even though this was just chemistry II, one of the labs was a quantitative analysis lab requiring the students to do a lot of calculations. This was before calculators, so the only tool I had to check those calculations was my slide rule. Thinking this ‘magic’ machine we shared with the math department would do those calculations for me, I talked a senior into helping me learn to program the computer so I could enter the data and it would spit out the results. Knowing that I spent hours learning to program, I likely didn’t save any time.
My second hands-on came around 1983. The high school had just purchased three computers. My husband had chaired a committee that included a math teacher (John Roach) and a member of the community (Dave Lauer) to evaluate our options and make a recommendation to the board as to which brand to purchase. Let’s just say that some of the companies fell down on the job and the winning presentation was Commodore. The first purchase was for three PET computers. I was not on the committee and really had nothing to do with these PET computers. However, we had a very snowy week where it started snowing (and blowing) on Monday and continued to lightly snow and blow a lot the rest of the week causing school to be cancelled for most of the week. During the mornings, my husband would drive me thru the drifts in the parking lot so that I could work on entering my classroom inventory into the computer. (I was teaching biology at the time, and the inventory was extensive.)
Shortly after that, my husband and I purchased our first home computer, a Commodore 64. According to my husband, this computer cost $500 plus $500 for the monitor and another $500 for the printer.
In 1985, I transitioned from the biology classroom to the school library. Around 1992, the library was automated and the first ‘network’ was introduced into the high school. Even though the computer classroom was using Commodore 64s, the library used DOS based computers. I had NO knowledge of DOS, let alone computer networks and am very thankful for the patient salesman who did that initial install!
At some point, the school switched out the Commodore 64s for Apple IIGS computers. These computers were still ‘stand alone’ computers and only located in the computer classroom.
In 1998, my teaching contract changed. I was no longer just the school librarian but also the technology coordinator.
That means the school had computers outside of the computer classroom and likely had implemented a network, which I was tasked to manage. Our first network was a token ring network with Novell servers. The computers used an early version of Windows. Over the years, the school transitioned from token ring to Ethernet and implemented wireless networking. When Google for Education became available, the school quickly adapted it. Thus, our Groupwise email server was replaced by gmail accounts and our web server and the sites it hosted were replaced by Google sites. Towards the end of my career, the building transitioned again, this time to MacIntosh laptops when the building became a 1 to 1 building where each student had their own computer.
At home, we converted from our Commodore 64 to an Apple IIE computer. I believe my first genealogy software was PAF for this Apple IIE. Outgrowing the storage capacity of that Apple IIE, we purchased a DOS computer and I had my genealogy work converted to PAF for DOS.
In my early days of using PAF, it was simply the entry of birth, marriage, death and burial dates along with connecting people into families. PAF was a great program for the time, but I wanted something to allow me to keep better track of the sources I was using. After researching several programs, I transitioned to The Master Genealogist.
About the time of my retirement, support for The Master Genealogist was discontinued. Even though some are still using The Master Genealogist, I elected to convert my genealogy work to RootsMagic. When RootsMagic’s TreeShare was released, I used RootsMagic to connect my computer database to my Ancestry tree. I recently upgraded from RootsMagic 7 to RootsMagic 8 and am learning something new about this powerful software on a regular basis.
Because I had no formal training with computers, I took advantage of the learning opportunities of the time to learn from others. In my early days of computing, this involved e-mail listservs and computer conferences. In the genealogy world, I took advantage of nearby genealogy conferences when they fit in my schedule. However, it was the genealogy listservs and message boards that provided constant learning opportunities.
Today, I am still learning. However, Facebook groups, YouTube videos, blogs, webinars and Zoom meetings have become my go-to resources to learn more about genealogy tools and research.