What if this was the only copy of your grandparents' wedding pictures?

blog floppy

The younger readers out there may not recognize this thing. It’s a 5.25” floppy disk, the way most of us saved computer files back in the 80s. Today you’d be hard pressed to find somebody with a 5.25” floppy disk drive. Even if you could find one, it’s very likely you wouldn’t be able to read the data on this disk anyway. Any files saved on here are probably long gone.

In our last newsletter, we started talking about how to protect our pictures to make sure they’ll still be around to share in the future. We got a lot of responses, but this one really got us thinking about the long-term problems with saving your photos:

“Thanks for making a resolution to study how we can protect/store our digital pics. We’ve been wondering the same thing. A CD is large enough to hold many but will the technology still exist to view them in the future? Some people store on thumb drives but, again, will the technology still be available in the future in order to view them? […]”
  — Marie & Paul

These are great questions. And while we’re going to talk about organizing your files and backing up your data, this email from one of our readers brought us back to the simplest, easiest way to start making sure your most important photos will still be around years from now - make prints.

In days before digital cameras (way back in the early 2000s) taking pictures meant you had to get prints. You brought in your film, and you got prints back- that was the only way to actually see your photos. And that’s why I can go to my grandmother’s house and look through albums of old pictures, all the way back to when she was a child.

Digital cameras let us take lots of pictures, and it’s great! We don’t have to pay for film and we don’t have to make prints to see the pictures, we can see them right there on the screen! And we save money by just printing the good ones, rather than needing to print every single photo. But how many of us bother? Do we remember to make prints of the photos we actually do want? I can look at those old albums in my grandmother’s attic and see my dad’s baby pictures. But I look around at my family and friends today, who have hundred of pictures of their children stored on their phone, and I wonder how many of those kids will ever have a chance to show their baby pictures to their children.

Too many of us never think to make prints or back up our files until it’s too late. When my phone breaks or my computer crashes the pictures can be lost forever – and all hard drives do fail eventually. If I upload those photos to an online storage service and trust that to keep them safe, years of family memories could disappear in the blink of an eye when that company goes out of business.

Without prints, the next generation may be the first since the invention of photography who can’t look back at pictures from their childhood. What will they think of us? In our rush for faster and easier, cheaper and more convenient, what have we lost? If I don’t make prints of the photos I took of my nephew last year, will he ever see those pictures of his first Christmas?

Looking at pictures together

Prints are only part of the story, and only part of the solution to making sure your memories are preserved for the future. But they’re a big part. They’re the simplest, most reliable way to share your family’s story for generations to come.

This year, let’s make a resolution to not let all those photos wind up trapped on the equivalent of old floppy disks! Of course we’d love it if you make prints at Dan’s. But regardless of where you go, print those pictures that are important. The ones that will sit in boxes in the attic until one day, at a family gathering years from now, someone will pull them down off the shelf and share your story with children and grandchildren who will see, in pictures, who they are and where they come from.

Has there been a particularly memorable time that you’ve gone back to look at old photos with family or friends? Are you in the habit of printing important photos regularly, or is there something keeping you from making prints? We’d like to hear your stories. Send us an email, or leave a comment on our Facebook page. We read every one, and look forward to hearing from you!

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This entry was tagged photo, tips, preservation and posted on January 7, 2015

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