Hola amigos: Today I give you Steve Jobs, Apple and their legacy to Genealogy. In this article after the death of Steve Jobs, James Tanner tells us about his experience as a genealogist interacting with Apple technology and the rise of personal computers. He comments on how Apple II “ gave us one of the first pathways into computerizing our genealogy “. We all are in debt with Mr. Jobs, Thank You!
Steve Jobs Image with the Apple iPad
By James Tanner
The death of one of the most influential technology innovators in history, Steve Jobs, has caused me some serious reflection. My involvement with Apple Computer has been extensive over the years and I decided to write a commentary on how Apple Computer spurred on by Steve Jobs has affected the world of technology and particularly how that has affect genealogy as an interest and pursuit.
In the late 1960s I did some programing on a main frame computer at the University of Utah. My limited exposure to the computer world piqued my interest in computers and over the next few years, I watched with interest the rise of the personal computer. Meanwhile, I finished graduate school, time in the Army and law school. A few years later in 1981, I happened to be in Chicago for a deposition and went to the National Computer Conference just to see the show. That was my first big introduction to the world of personal computers, it was also the first trade show where I saw Apple Computer’s display. I was so impressed that over the next few years I acquired an Apple Computer dealership and helped start a Macintosh software company.
During all this time, I was deeply involved in genealogy. One of the very first things I did when I got my first Apple II computer, was to look for a genealogy program. If you would like a review of some of the early genealogy programs, see Dick Eastman’s Early Genealogy Programs, A Look Back at the Humble Beginnings of Genealogy Software. I used the Family Roots program on my Apple II and it worked OK for a text-based program.
So, what did Apple and Steve Jobs have to do with genealogy? The Apple II computer gave us one of the first pathways into computerizing our genealogy and because the computer was so fabulously popular, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued its PAF program for the Apple II (by then the Apple IIe) in 1986 and the Macintosh version in 1987. Of course, Apple was not the only personal computer around and programs were being written for DOS based PCs. By 1986, Personal Ancestral File support GEDCOM file transfers and so I could stop re-typing all of my genealogy every time I changed programs. The early Apple computers also encouraged third-party addons through an open architecture and connections.
The Introduction of the Macintosh computer in 1984 by Steve Jobs was to ultimately to have a profound effect on personal computers. The Macintosh had a graphic users interface (GUI) and a mouse. Although these innovations had existed previously on Xerox computers, Steve Jobs and Apple were masterful promoters and the introduction on an attractive home computer was revolutionary. The GUI ultimately had a tremendous impact on genealogy programs. By 1989 Personal Ancestral File at a cost of only $35 was the leading program on the Macintosh but other programs were becoming very popular such as Comsoft’s Roots III but at $250, PAF was quite a competitor at only $35.
It is hard to tell whether software drove the personal computer market or the technology of newer, faster computers drove the software market. But in Apple’s case the hardware innovations were crucial to the development of new software. Unfortunately, between the 1980s and into the 1990s Apple ousted Steve Jobs and went through some very difficult times. Predictions of Apple’s demise were common and the stock price fell to a few dollars a share. In 1997 after terrifically bad management for over ten years, Apple bought Steve Jobs’ company, Next Computer, and Jobs was back as the chief executive officer. Immediately the company started to recover and hasn’t stopped since.
Always the innovator, Apple unveiled the iMac in 1998 which sold almost 800,000 units in the first five months. This began Steve Jobs and Apple’s comeback from disaster. It is apparent that Steve Jobs, not just as an innovator, but as a shrewd businessman, was the reason for the turnaround. From that point on, Apple became the leader in innovation in the personal computer industry. How did that affect genealogy? Apple introduces the iPhone, the iPod, the iPad and the online store iTunes, all of which set new standards for each of those areas of personal computing.
It is impossible to tell from the present perspective what impact Apple will continue to have in the future, but presently, all of the major changes in personal computers are coming from Apple. Genealogists have benefited from all of these innovations. iPhones, iPads and iPods with integrated cameras, are used to gather digitized images of cemeteries, documents and family gatherings while marking the location with the iPhone’s built-in GPS positioning. The iPad has become the technology of choice for many genealogists, using Apps to connect with their desktop or laptops’ databases and seriously cutting into the laptop computer market with its Bluetooth keyboard. These innovations are not just another new gadget to be used for a week and then cast aside. Apple’s products and led by Steve Jobs have fundamentally altered the way computers are used and have become integrated into the fabric of our society. Meanwhile, as more and more genealogical records are digitized online, all of these Apple’s have one thing in common, convenient and easy access to the Internet. You can now do a detailed search of genealogical records while waiting for a doctor’s appointment or while traveling in your car across the country from a device you can hold in your hand. This is a small view of some of the things Steve Jobs and his Apple company have done since their beginning in 1976 with hand-built computers.