From boxes of photos to boxes of disks…

This is actually based on a post I did on another blog eons ago. In doing a lot of cleaning lately, I’ve been coming across random, usually unmarked CDs and DVDs from my old computers and desks. Apparently I used to lose my sharpie often as many of them are literally unmarked, but I can tell there’s data on them.

I actually get excited when I find these, because there’s a small chance its an old backup of some photos or files from yesteryear.

This makes me often think what happens to all this digital media we collect over our lives. I’ve been on a push to re-organize everything and make sure its archived in multiple copies and media, but I’m sure a lot of other people have their life history on a single drive that’s merely a ticking time bomb.

Back in the day when people took photos with traditional cameras, there was a cost involved not only buying film but also developing it, so people often were very picky about what pictures they took, and took time to frame and align it to try to get the best shot in the first or only try. Now, with digital photos, its practically free or very low cost to take as many pictures or videos as you want, so many pics are often just garbage shots, with little regard to quality or setup. This also means the quantity of actual pics being stored is substantially higher than when people took traditional photos or even the old film videos.

I know very often I find tons of vintage and personal pics in junk shops, likely due to the lack of next of kin, or perhaps someone just not wanting or caring to go through them or store them anymore. What will happen to the vast hoards of digital photos, videos, and other media we’ve taken in our lifetime? Should we make sure we store them where others can find them? Are there pictures of importance, like important events, places, people, etc that may not be specific to a person or family? Should they be encrypted or protected somehow, less they end up on a 3.99 Hallmark card some day?

I recommend putting some thought into what you do with your pics, media, files, and other digital ephemera, and perhaps archiving them on multiple copies of long-term storage that could be passed down to further generations. Make sure that storage is both air-gapped (not online where a virus or malware can delete it), as well as environmentally sound and not stored in a musty basement or hot attic. Label things very clearly with dates and names if you can, and something I’ve started to do, is even putting plain note.txt files in photo folders with information about the subject of the pics. Talk to your kids or loved ones about what you have, where it is and how it should be handled once you’re gone. I feel the next generation may be the ones to skip this step, only to find that our era of media is gone forever with the trash. They’ll learn and use their digital media differently than we do, and will likely have a lot more of it!

Lastly….while taking pics can be an interesting way to save memories for later in life, remember to live in the moment and put the camera down sometimes. Watching thousands of screens take the same video at a concert, the same pics at an event, and so on makes me wonder how many will regret living out these events through a screen the size of an index card.

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