Broadband internet connection
• Connection type: A DSL or cable internet connection is ideal for genealogists who do lots of ancestor searching on the web. Companies such as NetZero, PeoplePC and Juno still offer dial-up internet, but it’s slow and ties up your phone line. DSL uses a standard phone connection, too, but it runs on a digital frequency rather than through your phone line, so callers still can get through. Companies that specialize in DSL include BellSouth, Verizon, Qwest, AT&T and Earthlink. Cable internet comes from your local cable company. The company will give you a modem to hook up to your computer, and provide you with several plan options to choose the connection speed you need.
You can check your internet connection’s current download speed by visiting <www.auditmypc.com/internet-speed-test.asp>. This will help you assess how much speed you truly need.
All-in-one printer, scanner and copier
• Scanner type: Some all-in-ones let you place one page at a time on a flatbed scanner, while other models have a feeder that takes multiple pages. Consider how much scanning you’ll do and the types of documents you plan to scan. A scanner with a feeder would be better for scanning and faxing lots of documents. Consider scanning resolution
A digital camera comes in handy when you want to take a picture of an ancestor’s gravestone or “copy” a document found in a library or archive. Plus, you can use it to capture today’s memories to share with future genealogists.
• File formats: Many devices record using waveform audio format (WAV) files, which can be played back on a PC or Mac with Windows Media Player. Some recorders use MP3, Windows Media Audio (WMA) or proprietary recording formats. While proprietary formats like Sony’s LPEC may be compressed to allow for longer recordings, you’ll need to convert the files to a more common format to edit them on your computer. Not all conversion software is compatible with all computers. For example, Mac users won’t want to get a Sony because the company provides file conversion software only for Windows.
If you have an iPod, you don’t need to buy a new digital recorder, just an iPod-compatible stereo microphone for about $20 to $40. The stereo mic will let you record oral history interviews and upload them to iTunes. Check out Apple’s support site for details on how to make recordings (and which iPod models allow recording).
Going on a genealogy road trip? You’ll probably need directions. A Global Positioning System (GPS) unit lets you enter the address of the location you’re trying to find; it then calculates the best route and gives you turn-by-turn directions. Most devices speak street names, so you don’t have to look at written directions or a map while you drive.
If you want to protect your data, look for a flash drive with password-protection software. You’ll have to enter a password when you plug it into a computer, a nice bonus for keeping your data secure if the drive is stolen or lost. Not all password-protection software works on both PCs and Macs, so make sure it’s compatible with your computer.