As I post this, I’m uploading hundreds of digital photos onto my Flickr account. I still do have a ton of photos I haven’t uploaded yet, and most of these are either burned onto DVDs or still inside my laptop’s hard drive. Each time I update and manage my photo collection, I come to the realization that because of technology we’ve come so far in terms of how we manage our memories.
Just a decade ago, photo albums were still the preferred way of keeping family memories. People took photos on film cameras, had these developed, and organized select photos into albums. The negatives are mostly kept tucked away, sometimes along with the album itself. This way, we had hard copies of whatever relevant events in our lives on hand. If we wanted copies, we just took the negatives to the photo shop, and had duplicates printed.
These days, though, it’s mostly digital. The first time I bought my family our own digital camera, we were hooked on digital photography. The initial cost was higher than your usual film point-and-shoot camera, but the variable costs are close to nil. You could just keep on downloading your photos to your computer, and save them to optical media for backup. Printing was only done sparsely, and we only printed photos which we would frame.
Along with this radical change came also radical changes in how we shared these memories with friends. Before, we used to bring out photo albums everytime friends or relatives visited our home. But these days, we just send emails with links to our photos online. We post them on our blogs. Or even better, our social networking contacts are automatically notified of newly uploaded photos, for them to view at their pleasure (or displeasure, if you’re not exactly the photogenic type).
However, Murphy’s law says if something can go wrong, something is bound to go wrong, and this is especially applicable in the realm of technology. So in a couple of years, my hard drive might crash. My CDs and DVDs might scratch, melt or fade. There’s still my Flickr account, you say. But how sure am I that Flickr will still exist as it is now, 10, 20 years from now? What about Photobucket? Picasa? Multiply? What about my blog?
And if nothing wrong happens, the world might adopt an entirely new way of storing and cataloging images that might render our present one obsolete. Would we be using holograms? Would we be directly interfacing our brains with computer equipment? If this be the case, would we have an easy way to migrate our data over to such formats?
The question looms. Have I haphazardly entrusted my memories to technology and to web apps?
I’m using a Flickr Pro account, and Flickr says pro users get permanent archiving of high resolution photos. I sure hope stick true to their word.
At my old room at my parents’ house, there’s this old leather attaché case filled with unfiled, un-sorted photos of our family dating from decades back (even before I was born). Some are still in pristine condition, while some have yellowed and faded. But the photos are still there, within physical reach. We still reminisce and laugh about those moments that happened ages ago, whenever we chance upon the old thing and open it to reveal the treasures hidden inside.
I’m wondering whether I can do the same with my digital photos with my kids and future grandkids decades into the future.