Now of course you can (and I do) go out on your own armed only with your binoculars and camera gear not knowing what you're going to find, but it's always nice to have a target of something new, even if it's only new for this year or this area and with a very good chance of seeing it. This is where the internet comes in - there's no guarantee that a bird will still be there when you arrive, but through regular reports and updates you can weigh up the odds a lot more easily and you can carry all this information with you on your phone or tablet.
Nowadays high specification digital cameras and lenses are within the means of many people, and although the most powerful equipment does still cost a fair bit, you only have to look on Facebook to see what can be done with just a modest set up. There are some amazing photographs to be seen, even those taken with a camera phone.
Digital photography allows anyone the chance to take an outstanding shot, especially as much of this is down to luck when photographing birds and wildlife. But you don't need to worry about taking too many shots of the same thing as you're not going to run out of film! And better still, you can get a good idea of what a shot looks like just after you've taken it, and so can adjust your settings if necessary.
I know some of the old traditional birders, naturalists and photographers don't like all this new fangled technology, but all I can say to them is that technology has always been a part of birding, it's just got more advanced. Old school birders usually use binoculars, spotting scopes and sometimes pagers and then often take a photo with 'compact' camera. Modern equipment does the same thing, except much better in my opinion. Old schoolers often think that this new technology is spoiling birding and even endangering the birds, but let's not forget that many of them started the hobby by collecting eggs and I include some very famous birders and naturalists in that statement.
The last part of the modern technology equation is the increased average that birds and wildlife in general now get on television. Programmes like the BBC's 'Springwatch' and 'The Natural World' and naturalists like David Attenborough and Chris Packham have raised everybody's awareness of the natural world, and many birders I know say that programmes like these were the starting point in them going birding or nature rambling themselves.
So all in all, I believe that modern technology has improved the hobby without any doubt. You only need to go out birding one day to see how many people are now enjoying the hobby with all its accompanying benefits such as getting some fresh air, exercising and making new friends. In addition the number of people now involved in conservation work either as paid employees or just volunteers is also at an all time high. In my opinion, most of this would not have happened with modern technology. Without it I wouldn't have got this photo of a drake Garganey at Elton Reservoir, near Bury on Bank Holiday Monday - I wouldn't have even known it was there.