(+) Your Next Scanner will be Free or Very Low Cost

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Scanners are some of the best computer accessories a genealogist can buy. Not only can a scanner digitize old family photographs, it is also an excellent tool for making digital copies of old documents or even of today’s handwritten notes made during a trip to the library or courthouse.

Once digitized, these images can be used in word processing documents, genealogy programs, or even printed and hung on the wall in a picture frame.

I also scan almost all other paper documents in my life: insurance policies, auto registrations, eyeglass prescriptions, the users manual for the dishwasher, receipts I wish to save for income tax purposes, notes, invoices, whiteboard discussions, business cards, certificates, and much more. I then save those digitized documents in a private account “in the cloud” where they are safe and easily accessed at any time and from anywhere by using a desktop, laptop, or handheld computing device.

I purchased my first scanner in the 1990s. It weighed thirty pounds or so] and took a lot of space on my desk. It also came with its own interface card. I had to open the computer case, plug in the new interface card into the computer, close the case, boot Windows, load the new drivers from a floppy disk, and then the scanner became operational. With the requirement for its own plug-in interface, the scanner obviously could not be installed in a laptop computer. Given the size and weight of the scanner, that wasn’t much of a restriction. I had no plans to carry a thirty pound scanner with me to the archives!

I was delighted with the images my first scanner produced, although I will say they look rather pitiful when compared to images created with today’s scanners. Scanning technology has improved a lot in the past thirty years!

I paid several hundred dollars for that scanner. When I later upgraded a few months later to a newer version of Windows, the scanner stopped working. The manufacturer never released new Windows drivers for the scanner.

My multi-hundred dollar scanner became useful only for use as a boat anchor.

In the years since I purchased the boat anchor, I have upgraded to newer and better scanners a number of times. I now have a lightweight desktop scanner that produces razor sharp images with faithful reproduction of colors. It weighs less than four pounds, plugs into a USB port on any laptop or desktop computer, and works with all versions of Windows and Macintosh operating systems. I can take the scanner to an archive, along with my two-and-a-half-pound laptop. Both fit easily into a small
backpack. Sadly, that scanner is also now obsolete.

Scanning technology is not the only thing to improve greatly in the past twenty years or so.

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