Hard drives are not built to last forever. But your memories are, so you want to be careful about the best way to preserve them. Don’t be fooled by the over-the-top brilliance of an era in which a “save” button does just that. Hit the “save” button by all means, but know you are on borrowed time. Accessing those memories, people, not saving, is the issue.
Remember, the VCRs you made 20 years ago, those movies you recorded for “forever”? Maybe videos of you telling your children how much you love them so they would have a record of your love to comfort and cheer them long after you are gone? Be warned. They corrode into grainy images, the tapes – not your children, and sound muffled beyond recognition, so what good is that video of you telling your children how much you love them? And, even if the VCRs are still good, where are you going to buy a new player when the old one stops working? You can throw yourself on the mercy of EBay, but that is an iffy proposition for something that is limited in supply because, as you know, they have been consigned to some marketing dustbin. You may find a player, and you may not. If you do it will be someone’s castoff with its own limited life. If you don’t find it, you are immediately up that creek.
Laser disc players? They are not making them anymore. VHS tapes? The cassette tapes you recorded? Ditto. You might still have yours but it is not a good device to count on because it can go kablooey at any moment. Point is that they can and will all go kablooey. On what could you play your Beta Max movies today? Oh, too young to know even what they are? You can see how quickly the new turns primitive, right? Floppy disks? Now there is a phrase guaranteed to bring rolling eyes, a smirk and a laugh in any group old enough to remember when that was the latest in storage miracles. Technology changes in the blink of an eye. And, there you have the problem of preserving memories.
Yes, you can take your home movies of the 40s and 50s to have one of the wizards in that field put them on a CD, but then you still have to have a CD player that works, and, fingers crossed, back to EBay you go. Your CD player, even if still good, will not read the newer CDs, so you buy a blu-ray player. Temporary. It is a never-ending ratcheting up so you don’t lose what was once gained. USB flash drives are fabulous, but remember how quickly things go out of style for the newer improved methods. Store it in the cloud? Great for lots of things, but the very phrase “cloudburst” should be a caution for the long haul.
There is one data storage method, however, that lasts for generations. Yes, a letter. We have letters written 200 years ago and older that look as if they had been written yesterday. Consider Andrew Carroll’s collection of over 100,000 letters written over a period of over 200 years by men and women at war. Readable as can be. When you feel a love for someone that absolutely needs to be recorded and preserved (and what love does not beg for durability), write a letter and know that your grandchildren and great grandchildren will have only to open some family treasure box to access it. Use strong paper and indelible ink, because, truth be told, bad ink, alas, can fade even faster than a DVD.
Modern technology is an incomparable miracle good for many things, but don’t leave what you want preserved for generations to the whim of modern innovation. Your, children, grandchildren, your friends and your sweethearts will be happy you took matters into your own hands. Literally, because they will some day, be transported by joy to see your actual handwriting and know that what they are reading has felt the touch of your hand.
From me to you with love in the air,
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