Tomorrow it is ten years to the day since Steve Jobs first announced Apple’s plan to launch the iPhone. The first video on YouTube, Me at the Zoo, dates back to 23 April 2005. What a difference a scant ten years can make! Today for many of us, it is a given to be in constant interaction with a range of devices and platforms, be it for social reasons, to organise aspects of our lives, to keep track of appointments, to monitor our health, to take a selfie etc.
Yet… at the same time, storing memories in bits and bytes is so ephemeral, if you flick back through the diary on your phone, you will find it going blank at some point. Unlike hard copy diaries, this information, which essentially documents a period of your life, is lost for good. Or if you forget to back up your data and your phone were to fall in the sea, that data will in all likelihood be lost to you. Or if your laptop fell into a bottomless abyss filled with boiling lava and orcs, or your iPad were swallowed by a rabid polar bear… well, you get the idea. It’d be bad news if you hadn’t backed up your content – it would be gone, kaputt.
Imagine if, in a steam-punk alternative reality, all those Victorian explorers had been keeping notes on 19th century iPads, rather than field books, what would we be left with today? Probably not much, a stack of dead electronic devices. Archiving data has become a major issue, with many switched on people racking their brains about how and what we are going to leave as a legacy to future generations from this information age. Just think floppy discs, you can hardly stick them in your DVD drive!
There is something very pleasing about hard copy, actually making notes on paper with a pen or pencil –it has a permanence and real quality to it. For that reason I always carry a notebook around with me to keep track of… stuff: to make a note of an thought or quote, to stick an interesting newspaper cutting into, to sketch something and so on. My orange book is finally full, time to retire it, fare ye well, orange book… and roll on, weird berry-coloured notebook. I find it fascinating being able to look back through the book to events from the past one and a half years, things I found to be of interest – a bit like peering through a window into that period of my life.