Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Technology of Memory

This week my family -- me, my husband, our two daughters, our son-in-law, and our grandson -- have been at Walt Disney World celebrating our grandson's fifth birthday, the actual day of which is tomorrow. We have been to one Disney park per day -- the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Each place, we have had access to technology for preserving memories.

First to come to mind is probably the camera, in various forms. With today's digital cameras, we can edit our memories instantly: we can delete the fuzzy, out-of-focus, ill-lit, over-exposed or blurred photograph right at the camera. In the old days of the Brownie Hawkeye camera we were stuck with the photographs we took, and it was not until we had already paid to have them developed that we could sort through them and discard the ones that did not turn out well. These days, we can have printed only those pictures we want, and we can get this done either in a store or online.

Today's camcorder technology puts more power into a smaller package, such as the camcorder my husband recently bought, and which he can hold literally in the palm of his hand. Small as it is, it makes clear, sharp home movies. It is, believe me, a far cry from the home movies of the 1950s, when he and I were children. What was that stuff they used? Oh, yes -- film.

Film would break, become brittle, or in some climates like ours here in Florida, turn into a jelly if not properly stored. Film could be edited, but it was a clumsy, imprecise process for most people, involving special equipment and materials. It was not, in its basic form, terribly expensive, but again it was imprecise due to the imprecision of the less expensive equipment. Film was carried through the movie projector on pin-like sprockets. The film had sprocket holes, which would tear, causing the film to break or stop and burn from the heat of the projector lamp.

Also today we have personal computers, on which we can view or edit our photographs and movies. Don't like that tourist who got into the left side of your photo of Mickey Mouse with your grandson? Open the photograph in image-editing software and crop him out!

With the computers, too, we can share photographs with family members and friends all around the world, instantly. One thing we had better be able to do: label those photographs!

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