For many of my stripe, two things arrived simultaneously: smartphones and childrenby Sam Leith / May 19, 2016 / Leave a comment
“What’s wrong with your stupid computer?”—My wife, about 10 days ago. “Nothing,”—Me. “Oh yeah?”—Wife.
As usual, she turned out to be right. My elderly desktop seldom runs anything more taxing than Microsoft Word, so works just about fine. But as soon as my wife sat down to edit a short video for her father’s 70th birthday party, it went over like Chris Christie trying to run the Marathon des Sables. It lurched. It burped. It played for time. It went blank and stared catatonically into whatever passes in a computer’s mind for the middle distance. Finally it collapsed altogether with a dreadful whirring of the fan.
The reason? That it had about 20 kilobytes of memory free: a full 260 gigabytes of its hard drive was silted up with family photographs. It took eight hours to back up our “Archive of Precious Memories (AOPM),” as I’d rather not call it, onto a removable hard drive and nearly as long again to delete it from the computer itself.
I do not raise this in an attempt to interest you in the running of the Leith family’s desktop computer. Rather, because the AOPM problem is one that I suspect nearly all of us now have. It’s not a computer problem—you can buy a terabyte of storage for about 50 quid. It’s a human data retrieval problem: accumulating several terabytes of family photographs is easily enough done, and might as well not be done at all.
Me, I had nothing much to do with cameras between birth and the age of 35. I didn’t have much to photograph, didn’t like photographs of myself, and regarded cameras as one of the foremost instruments of the devil’s work on Earth. I took the view, promulgated by Paul Theroux in his travel-writing days among others, that witnessing something through the viewfinder of a camera was a way of not properly witnessing it at all.
But, as for many of my stripe, two things arrived simultaneously: smartphones and children. Suddenly, there were lots of things to photograph and an ease in doing so that seemed to make it compulsory.
So the moment one or more of your kids puts on a silly hat, gets a faceful of jam, or similar, out comes the phone for the Kodak moment. You take half…