Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Through efforts completely predictable, I failed to get off of my lazy ass and ended up missing seeing my friends who were visiting from China in Las Vegas. So as penance, I've been spending my time cleaning out my apartment and I've come on to another enemy of a carbon free life, and that is electronics digital technology, the very stuff that pays my salary.

A real concern for historians is that more and more information is becoming digitized and they are worried that in the future that people will be unable to recover what records our lives because it'll be trapped on little plastic plates that no one can read, or worse yet they will no longer be readable. The 10,000 year life predicted for CDs turns out to be a lot less. They have a term for this -- it's called "bit rot", well I have another term to introduce which is the opposite and I call it "bitritus" and that's the old digital data that accumulates in your life. In part of my clean up, I've been going through all these old CD-ROMs containing programs that are no longer interesting, or no longer run on any current operating system.

I'm struggling with what to, since software generally costs a lot more than a magazine, so it seems so wrong to throw it away. Not to mention that there is no easy way recycle them. As I go through the software, it's interesting is that all the really cool graphics games seem boring, but those classic games like Bridge, Scrabble and Tetris remain forever fun. Thankfully they still run on the new hardware. Though awkwardly in some cases such as Scrabble on my Mac which runs in "Classic" mode. Some things are truly timeless. So now I struggle with these old CD-ROMs, I've been trying to see if anyone wants this old software: (Answer: in most cases no, except for the games). I still try enforce my rule that any old piece of technology that is replaced in my house by a newer piece, the old one gets sold. But software just lingers. To be fair, things are getting better, I just picked up a new iPod Shuffle, and it no longer comes with a CD notifying you to download it from Apple. No CD to get rid of, but I have plenty of old iTunes CDs in the house.

It's amazing how much that technology is meant to go to the dumpster. There are old pieces of hardware for lack of driver die a premature death, and there is lots of software that will run on new hardware that has been made obsolete. It got me thinking about what lasts and what doesn't -- and the answer is low tech endures.

At the risk of dooming myself to singlehood, I still use plates that I used in college for my evening meals. It's just plastic and porcelain, but it still works great. I never felt a need to upgrade. I've burned (literally) through some pots and pans, and in most cases silverware still endures. My daily coffee mug is almost 14 years old. It's still the perfect size and microwave safe. My family still plays with a mah jongg set that is almost as old as I am.

So right now, my old plates still function, and my digital life accumulates a bitritus weighing on my shelves and conscience about what to do with them.


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