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The Downfall of Digital

A century ago, families would take pictures, have them developed, and store them carefully in albums that would be lovingly passed from one generation to the next. Photo albums then were rather like the family bible; it was an official record of family history frequently shared and consulted by friends and family alike. The same kink in little Jimmyís nose could be seen in great great uncle Albertís, and that continuity was both comforting and important.

Well, times have changed. Or have they? Weíre still taking family pictures, and family genealogy is bigger than ever. What does seem to have changed, though, is our ability to put together the family album. And the advent of the digital camera has to bear some of the blame.

Memories donít belong on memory cards. Letís be honest. How many of us are sitting with pictures still on memory cards? Theyíre not doing anybody any good there! Whether itís a matter of time or difficulty doesnít really matter. Pictures left in the camera arenít pictures at all. Move them to the computer, and donít stop there.

To print or not to print: that is the question.
A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Wrong. A picture is only worth a thousand words if it can be viewed and appreciated, which makes pictures stored on hard drives and/or CDs pretty much meaningless. Sure, they can be shown on screen, but have you ever tried to pass around a monitor? It canít be done. Even moving a laptop from person to person is awkward, and looking at pictures in a bunch over someoneís shoulder isnít very satisfying. No, pictures are meant for albums Ö or scrapbooks Ö or even frames on walls or tables. But theyíre definitely not meant for computers and CDs Ė not if you want them to last.

Using CDs for photo storage
CDs are made of plastic with a reflective coating. That means theyíre not immune to damage. Scratches, dust and fingerprints on the reflective side can make some data unreadable. CDs can be dropped, broken, and stepped on. They wonít survive fires, being left on a car seat in the summer, or deposited in the trunk in the middle of winter. Humidity can also adversely affect them. And even in the best of circumstances, CDs wonít necessarily last forever. Life span estimates are all over the board. Recordable CDs are estimated to last from 30 to 200 years. Rewriteable CDs (the kind you can erase and re-use) are estimated to last 30 years. Because CD technology is only about twenty years old, these estimates are based on accelerated aging tests, which mean they could be right, or they could be wrong.

Photo storage on hard drives is iffy, too.
There are all kinds of things that can happen there, too. How about disk errors, power surges, or accidentally deleting the wrong folder? These are the kinds of things that can wipe out years of irreplaceable photos. Of course you can back up your hard drive with CDs (see above) or online services, but how many of us do that?

No, itís much better to print out the photos and put them in albums, scrapbooks and frames. Then you can see them, share them, and enjoy them for years to come. Just like families used to do.

About the Author: Michele Cardello, director of marketing & creative for Life Imprints, a scrapbooking supplies company based in Cleveland, Ohio, has worked in the photo packaging industry for over 10 years. Cardello helps customers find creative ways to preserve and appreciate a lifetime of memories.

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