The last time I went to a family celebration, I took along dozens of vintage photos—all displayed on a personal digital assistant (PDA) not much bigger than a deck of cards. It was fun to hear everyone ooh and aah as they watched the digital slide show I’d created earlier in the day using my Handspring Prism www.handspring.com.
“That’s a picture of my dad!” exclaimed my 85-year-old aunt as she poked at the tiny screen. “How’d you do that?” Simple. All it took was installing a photo album on my PDA, transferring digital copies of old family photos and selecting a five-second delay option for the slide show. Nothin’ to it.
Turning your PDA into a photo album is a great way to share family mementos of all kinds, not just photos. Whatever you can photograph or scan can be transferred to your PDA album. In fact, my own slide show included my dad’s grade-school diploma and Grandma’s dance card.
Albums range from free to about $30 and come with a try-before-you-buy policy. Download as many as you want, test them all, then pay only for the one you keep. Some trial versions will let you transfer only two photos to your PDA; others will disable themselves after 30 days.
Although setup varies in each program, the process is similar for most: You install a program on both your desktop computer and your PDA. The desktop software is where you convert digitized photos to a PDA-friendly format. The PDA software is where you view the photo.
The desktop converter usually comes with a few basic image-editing functions, such as zooming, cropping and adjusting brightness and contrast. You can also select different bit-depthsת-bit (16 grays), 8-bit (256 colors) or 16-bit (65,536 colors)—to control image quality and size. A 4-bit display will take up about 15K of your memory, a 16-bit about 50K. Use the desktop software to pick which pictures you want on your PDA.
After you select and edit an image, transfer it to your PDA via a hot sync. There you can view it as a thumbnail (small image), a full-size photo or as part of a slide show. You can label and add a description to each photo. If you really want to impress the family, set up multiple albums—one for your latest vacation, another for ancestor photos and maybe one for ancestral headstones, for instance.
Aside from the “cool” factor, carrying family photos on a PDA is a practical use of handheld technology. The software displays photos with a surprising degree of clarity and sharpness, and you can show off fragile old photos that you may not want everyone handling. (And of course, there is the cool factor.)
Got a family birthday or reunion coming up? Download your photo album and hot sync all those old pictures. Then, when your elderly relative asks, “How’d you do that?” you can say, “Nothin’ to it.”
For more information on personal digital albums, see the June 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine.