Monday, July 7, 2014

Print It!

I recently watched someone swiping the screen on their phone, showing off photos of their child. Cool. I have to admit that you can fit a whole lot more pictures on a smartphone than you can in a wallet. And most people always have their phone with them so they can capture those precious photos, the one-time opportunities that could easily be missed.

It’s great. Perfect even.

Or not.

There are problems with the trend of everything being electronic, and I’m not just talking photos here.

Technology changes. The newest, greatest thing is constantly surpassed by the next newest, greatest thing.

For example, I’m dating myself here, but I remember floppy disks: the 5 ¼ inch ones. If you were lucky and had double-density ones, they could hold a little over 350 KB! I have single files now that are bigger than that.

Now imagine if I had a poem or short story I had written back then and never bothered to update it or print it. There would be no way to share that with anyone today because there is not a computer on the market than even has a drive to read those. The next generation, or the one after that, would never know it ever existed.

“We can ‘store and ignore’ physical items such as books, paper photos, and documents under optimized conditions for years and expect that we can access them any time....But  ‘store and ignore’ does not work with digital files such as audio, video, photos and email because they are dependent on hardware and software to make them work. If either hardware or software is ignored for a significant length of time, it becomes obsolete, and the digital file will become difficult to access. It essentially becomes trapped.” From. The Library of Congress and Personal Digital Archiving

Another problem with everything staying on your computer, or smartphone, is technology fails. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when you’ll lose data. Hard drives crash, malware wreaks havoc with your system; and it can happen at the worst times. Just ask a friend of mine who recently lost about 80% of his manuscript.

And if you think you’re safe because you have it backed up to an online account, think again. The service providers have to rely on the same technology we do. They are not immune to the same hardware failures, malware, or hackers who revel in being able to find their way in just to be able to say they did. Yes. I know. Many services have “redundancy” built into their systems and regularly back up the data to another server, usually at a different location. But it’s still technology and can still fail or become obsolete. And what if they go out of business?

Yet another problem I see with never printing things out is the reaction of those you share them with. Someone watching pictures flash in front of them will often have their eyes start to glaze over. A person flipping through a stack of photos in their hands will, more often, stop and ask questions or comment on pictures they find interesting. But put those photos in an album, add a few journaling blocks to tell the story that goes with the photos, and they slow down, really look at the pictures, enjoy them. Same is true for stories. As easy as it is to read a document on a Kindle, Nook or any other e-reader, some people just like paper; the feel of holding a manuscript in your hands and flipping pages just makes people slow down a bit and immerse themselves in the written word.

“The Kindle certainly has its charms, but e-readers can never fully replace books.” Stephen King on e-readers.

Don’t get me wrong; I love digital. I take many more photos with my digital camera than I would ever have on film. It has helped me really experiment and learn what I can do with my camera. And typing on my computer is much faster than handwriting; easier to edit, too. But best practice is to have prints and follow the 3-2-1 principle with digital formats. Have 3 copies, using at least 2 different media, and keep 1 remote copy (in case of natural disaster in your area). Oh, and don’t forget to update your storage media every 5 years (or sooner).

So if digital is the only way you’ll produce the photos, or stories, by all means use that format. But please, don't 'store and ignore'!. Be sure to pick some of the items you think of as your best or favorites and print them out in order to share, and to pass down to future generations.


Your turn. What do you think about digital vs. print? Will print eventually be obsolete? Or will there be a place for hardcopies for generations to come?


  1. You're so right. Built-in obsolescence is an evil trick that's caught me before. Your 3-2-1 system makes perfect sense. :)

    1. Thanks for your comment, Gail! My lesson learned was the evil harddrive crash. LOL I'd love to take credit for the 3-2-1 system, but I've seen it a few different places. Have a good day!