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Fragments and Shrapnel – Analog Version


At some point in every adult’s life it becomes painfully apparent the technology they used as a kid has become an artifact or punch line in a joke. I recently had a moment of silence when I found out the last Walkman had left the production line and were no longer being made. Besides a little sadness that something I used as a kid was now obsolete, my second response was confusion. Walkmans were still being made?! I could never afford the high-speed yellow Walkman with the clamps over the tape holder that ensured your cassette (speaking of another relic!) didn’t fly out while you were jogging or doing your Jazzercise routine.

Recently NPR’s Picture Show Blog posted an article on a man who kept 20 years worth of answering machine tapes (yes, tapes!) and made a movie out of them. I thought back to my childhood and the first answering machine my mom had. It was big hulking machine that weighed about 20 pounds and had two reel-to-reel tapes. My sister and I were fascinated by it and played with it a little too much. The article also got me thinking about the digital age and how Things Have Changed. I have three big binders full of CDs but I listen to all of my music on my iPod or iTunes. I have had a digital camera since the 90’s and proof of that camera is still on my computer. I have backups of all my pictures and music but I don’t have photo albums anymore.

Who does? I recently heard that Twitter was being cataloged by the library of congress and read an article by someone who complained people aren’t writing enough letters anymore. I always found the “books of letters” by famous people to be tedious and boring. If my “letters” were published it would be something like:

Dear Mom;

Camp is good and I like my counselor. I like the food here and some of the boys are cute. Please pat the dog on the head for me.



I keep letters of encouragement from my friends and family and I have e-mails that are over 10 years old (can you imagine?!) I pull out when I need a good laugh. I think we’ll always hoard things, just in different and neater ways that won’t make us guests on Clean House or featured on Hoarders. The ending sentence of the blog post: Will our relationship to these artifacts of our lives change once they are no longer tangible? Will photo albums no longer shape our lives into linear stories?

I don’t think so. We’ll always have photo albums; they just won’t be on our coffee tables. My photo album is on my computer and on my Flickr account. My family lives thousands of miles away and I can share pictures with them via Flickr or Facebook. I still have old music albums from my youth, they’re just in digital form and won’t warp if I leave them in the back seat of my car or break if I sit on them. What do you think? Do you think photo albums and answering machines are going to follow the Walkman?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play Pong on my Atari 2600.


About Anna Alexander

I get ideas. I write things. I sometimes follow through with those ideas. I also run long distances and live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband cat who lets us pay the mortgage on his house.

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