A recent newspaper feature under the heading “Remember this: we’re losing our memory” caught my eye. No, it wasn’t about experiencing “senior moments”. It highlighted the peril this era of fast-moving technological change poses to safeguarding precious records so future generations can benefit from the accumulated knowledge of the ages.
I’m definitely a “digital immigrant” yet it doesn’t seem long ago we stored stuff on things called floppy discs. Remember them? If I had precious memories, or records, locked away on a floppy I would be hard pressed to find a PC old enough to reveal the contents – and that’s only going back 15 or 20 years.
Given the historical treasures locked away in centuries’ worth of written records, what irreplaceable chronicles will future historians, or biographers, or candidates for Who Do You Think You Are? be able to mine to reveal the past secrets of this era? According to the article the Russians authorities are aware enough of this dilemma to invest in 20 old-fashioned portable typewriters so their most sensitive data can be typed and stored.
In a nostalgic reminder of the value of the written word my delightful, almost-90-year-old aunt returned to me, 45 years after it was written, a Christmas-greeting aerogramme (remember those?) dated London, 3-12-69. It was accompanied by a beautifully penned letter from her, putting to shame what passes now for my barely-used handwriting. What a treat it was to reread the long-forgotten adventures of my 20-something self from the capital of the Swinging 60s. My mother had similarly saved a box full of letters from my early overseas travels recalling my three-years of tripping around in the UK, Europe, Middle East and North Africa, and working in PR in London.
I wish my handwriting was as neat as my aunt’s.
As my aunt said: “One day in the future there will be no more letters written…So, to my mind, letters are irreplaceable, and those that mean something to you really need to be kept.”
I’m not tempted to invest in an old Remington, or likely to put to pen to paper more often than necessary, but I really will try to make more hard copies of important communications. And I really must get cracking on that project to store precious old photographs.