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A trip down Memorex lane

Floppy Disk, 3 ½ inch

You’ve got mail the Internet – for 15 hours.

I’ve noticed that people have an interesting nostalgia for obsolete media and hardware. The 8-track is used as a metaphor by others my age or even younger than me, people I’m sure have never owned one or possibly even seen one in real life. I can’t look at the AOL disk at right without remembering the time in my life when they seemed like a daily arrival in the mailbox.

On the Boxes and Arrows blog, I read a post earlier this month that described a survey assessing whether college students could identify not only what a floppy disk icon would do if they clicked on it, but also what it is. I liked this response:  “Seriously, I’m only 20, but young people aren’t THAT blind to old tech.”

Over the last few years, we’ve accumulated donations of obsolete media – not only to help with presentations on digital preservation or for exhibits, but also from people cleaning out their offices and homes who know we’re just suckers for the stuff.

Recently, we decided our collection had become large enough to merit some curation. One of our former interns, Lauren  Fowler, researched what we have, created descriptive labels, photographed many of the items, and loaded the images into flickr.

These disks and tapes, and even a record thrown in for good measure, are object lessons for why it’s important to take steps to preserve your digital content. The phones and removable drives you use today could become the 8-tracks of tomorrow. Check out simple recommendations for saving your stuff on our digital preservation education website.

But before you go off to back up the photos on your phone, take a trip down Memorex lane to see how many of our museum items you remember. This post contains a few of my favorites.

The Danger Zone
8-track cartridge

Into the Future. Just make sure you pack your VHS player.
VHS (Video Home System)

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