Changes in Technology
I’m not sure why this morning, Saturday, July 2nd, 2011, I decided to visit the Cumberland County Library. I guess that I just wanted to touch base with an old familiar environment.
Several years ago, but not more than 10, I was doing genealogical research in the “North Carolina” Room of the New Hanover County Library in downtown Wilmington, NC, when I came across an account of the Great Fire of Wilmington. The Great Fire occurred on Sunday, the 21st of February, 1886. The fire started aboard the Bladen, a paddle wheel steamboat, which was nearing the end of its journey from Fayetteville. Fire was found in bales of cotton located near the steamer’s boiler. A strong, almost gale force wind, was blowing across the Cape Fear River and quickly whipped the flames from the bow to the stern of the boat. Fortunately, many small vessels had been dispatched from both sides of the river and all the passengers and crew were rescued. But, the flames spread from the burning boat, to other vessels along the waterfront and then to much of the “blue collar” section of the city. By the time the flames were brought under control, an estimated $1 million dollars in damage had been done.
Before reading the Great Fire article, I had never imagined that steamboats could or did travel up and down the Cape Fear River between Fayetteville and Wilmington, NC. But, my interest was piqued, and I started reading the few books, and a myriad of newspaper articles over the next years. I visited the Cumberland County and New Hanover County Libraries repeatedly & frequently, Wilson Library in Chapel Hill, and even did research in libraries in Georgetown, SC, Augusta, Darien and Savannah, GA.
When my research started, I would pore over pages of old newspapers on microfilm, zooming in and out, and sliding pages from left to right and back again, and up and down. I might transcribe an article, using a mechanical pencil, or note a date, page and column location and print out the article for 25 cents or a dime.
I honed my research paraphernalia down to close reading glasses, a mechanical pencil and eventually a digital camera. I found that I could take a picture of the film reader screen and transcribe later when at home. Every digital image was a saving of a quarter or dime.
A short time ago, I received an HTC EVO 4G from work. The EVO is a much better smart device than my previous phone, an HTC Hero. Its screen is larger, which means I can type more easily, with less “fat fingering.” The camera is 8 megapixels compared to the Hero’s 5. And, work provided me with the capability of creating a WIFI hotspot with the EVO. This means that I can use my 1st generation “WIFI only” iPad and link it to the Internet via the EVO. The nice thing about the iPad is that I have an Apple Wireless Keyboard (Bluetooth) which allows me to easily “power” blog, email or word process.