Saturday, August 22, 2015

RIP: Floppy Disks, VHS Tapes, and Slide Photographs

Glenn Kurtz came to speak in Anchorage. He’s the author of Three Minutes in Poland.  While moving his grandparents out of their apartment, he came across old family 16-mm movies. By now, they were so old they’d melted into hockey pucks in the can.

But Glenn knew the movies were of his grandparents’ European tour in 1938. What he didn’t know – but later uncovered – was that they visited their tiny homeland village in Poland one month before the Jews in it were liquidated.

So Glenn had the film restored, and the book chronicles how he found a few survivors with great memories and was able to re-create a view of now-extinguished village life. It’s a fascinating book, described in this video clip.

I had a question for Glenn:
 Okay, I knew this was a futile question….

But what Glenn also included in his book was a discussion of how long things last. Think about it: How many of you still have VCRs to play your VHS tapes? Cassette players to play your music? How many of you have a new version of Microsoft Word that can’t read your old documents? And how on earth would you read a floppy disk? (What’s a floppy disk?!?) Seen a slide projector lately? Even CDs and flash drives erode over time.
I found this liberating. Why save all this stuff that will prove un-readable and un-viewable? Get rid of it!

Except that I did transfer the 8-mm movies to VHS years back and just recently showed them to my 89-year-old mother, and she was thrilled to watch them and see her parents, her sisters, herself so young. But when will I transfer them to DVD?

And just imagine being a filmmaker like my friend Mary and how you have to keep updating all the creations of your professional life.

Unfortunately, this still leaves me where I started … with lots and lots of things on paper.

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