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Old technologies

September 26, 2010

Just recently, I have had to pack up one office, at work, and move another one, at home. In the process, I have thrown out the following things which I figure just won’t be needed, ever again:

  • A packet of Letraset, bought around 25 years ago, when transferring letters onto  the page like a brass rubbing was the way to get that  professional print look.
  • A box of slide mounts, acquired 15 years ago, to sort out some old family pictures
  • Transparencies, used for the classroom overhead projector when I first started teaching six or seven years ago.

I found, but didn’t throw out, a set of rubber stamps designed by my sister as a gift, which I happily used as a letterhead for many years.

I also found a bag of large wooden letters, designed to be worn as brooches, bought in a Belgrade street market over 20 years ago. They are now stuck into the drawing board at work, making a pleasing pattern.

It was a surprise to discover that Letraset still sells transfers. But our relationship to letters is so different now. Every piece of text-related software asks us to choose a font, size, layout – choices most people never had before. And we have to make difficult archival decisions, in a very unstable technological environment. My photo albums, started when I was 10, stop abruptly about six years ago.  Pictures live on the hard drive, or up in the clouds (for example this, and also this). My scanner is no longer supported by the manufacturer – probably because there is no longer any call to handle film – and so a summer project to digitise some old film stock (for someone’s book about Big Flame) has ground to a halt.

When the time comes to throw away these technologies, there won’t be physical ‘things’ to put in the bin. I am still not sure whether that is good or bad.

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