Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Every now and then, approximately this time of the year, as the academic semester comes to an end and students rush to final tests, I decide to clean-up my loft, and office space, and workshop, and actually where I live and breath. I left the rest of the house to the Mrs, but up here it's my kingdom on earth.

I have a habit of keeping useless stuff all the time, for cases of 'emergency', sorta "one never knows, innit?'. So, I came to accumulate piles of paper versions of user guides and manuals for all sorts of hardware and software that I keep acquiring every single year, like my life depended on it. I mean, on getting new toys for boys, that is. You don't wanna know how many still functional amateur camcorders I have purchased in the last 20 years and how many I still keep intact, because, like I said, 'one never knows'. There have been a couple that I bought and never used. Pathetic! Same with digital cameras. For most, I can't even find their cables, battery chargers, and other accessories. And this is only one small sample of electronics items I keep and need to get rid of. Just for kicks, I got 3 damaged Macbooks and one iMac lying there too.

For the last three days, I have been cleaning up. Yet, I am nowhere close to wiping away one third of what I need to do. Why do I keep all these things? Why does anyone keep anything? We came naked to the world, and on D-day, we're gonna leave everything behind. The day cometh, and my siblings will rush into the loft to probably pick up one thing or two, for sentimental reasons, I reckon, and the rest will massively disappear in the direction of the garbage collection container park. I only hope they won't do to my coffin what others did to William's (the Bastard) ! Sure thing!

As I am sorting out books and manuals, memories come back from software packages I used to work with 20 years ago. Especially computer games! Microsoft Flight simulator! Remember? The game was the most popular in simulator software, but not the best. My pal Shaun from Dublin convinced me the ATP simulator was way better than Microsoft's. I wouldn't know. I bought a copy, tried it once, kept crashing my planes during landings, got bored and tired, abandoned it, stored the user guide away with all it's flight maps of the US and Europe, and never looked back!  How about Myst, and Riven? My Goad, these were real games! First time ever we submerged into the fantastic virtual worlds of 3D! Remember, folks? 

As I dig deeper, I discover more pieces of hardware from obscure companies that ceased to exist many years ago, and I am like: What was I thinkin'? Why the hell did I keep buying those things? I believe technology is a serious addiction, after all. I must have spent a fortune on those things and everything became totally useless in the course of time, with no residual value whatsoever. What was their added value then? Only an early user experience it was. Trying things before others could. As I watch people struggling with small digital camera's these days, or their Samsung smartphones to shoot pictures, and feeling proud like they invented sliced bread,  I remember the time I was experimenting with my Nikon D1 ever, that cost me then the best part of 7K in today's euros! When was that again? 15 years ago? 20? I lost count. Just a two point something megapixel gear that I used to create images that even today look way better than any other of today's 'cameras' with multiples of resolution.Shooting those pictures so long ago, I felt almost orgasmic about the results. When most of my peers and friends were still struggling with color negatives, I was busy learning color management and going digital with one of the highest quality brands. Yep, I believe my added value of those hardware items, worth the money I spent on them, was the user experience from being a pioneer, tasting so many of the technology marvels that eventually changed our daily lives.

What do I have to do then? Still keep the old junk, hoping it's to become a collector's item eventually, or do I get rid of them? It depends. Some technology is so good that bleeds your heart to get rid of. Again, my rule is, if you haven't used a particular item in the last five years, what is the chance you are gonna use it in the next five? If the answer is a loud 'none, zip, nothing' the item has to go. There are still exceptions. For instance, I still keep all my equipment that I used to develop photographs with chemicals. I have an entire system from Durst to develop color photographs under strict and minimal temperature tolerances as the paper was flowing thru it's different baths in total darkness! Amazing experience. I remember, it took me longer to clean the darn thing after usage, than doing the developing job itself. The hours I spent in total darkness to experience the ability to print beautiful color pictures, you just don't wanna know. Others played golf, or chased broads. I developed photographs on paper, from color negatives and positives. I still keep my 4x5 inch enlarger, as at the end of my analog photography pastime, I have been playing around with the mother of all cameras, a Toyo, a large format technical camera. It was such a beauty. I felt like a genuine photographer then. It's all gone now. Who has the time to go look for consumables for those things. Digital photography is miles ahead in terms of quality results, and it only takes a few secs to shoot, upload, and take care of the aberrations of your digital negatives in Lightroom or Photoshop. I remember what the experts used to write in articles: "Digital photography will never be able to replace the quality of analog! Not in our lifetime, anyway". Little they knew. Mind you, there are still traditionalists out there preferring analog to digital. And old fashioned Polaroid film! They used to hate Polaroid then, but it seems to get more popular as time passes by. But quite as well, there are still many out there preferring noisy vinyl records to lossless digital, because the sound feels 'warmer' to their ears. I wouldn't know. Not in my age, with a reduced response frequency spectrum, cut-off after a couple of KHz. If I were a dog, maybe... 
Like the French say: Des goƻts et des couleurs, on ne discute pas...

So far I must have carried down more than 200 kgs of old manuals and junk hardware. But, like I said, I haven't even scratched the surface. The clue is, you need to keep going, and never think you'll fix it all in a day. Takes time and patience. And the added bonus is the memories to experience the past again, especially when you find some pictures you forgot even existed. Like my youngest son on visit today, who helped me carry some of the waste downstairs, who had the time of his life remembering a software game (for Skateboarders) he used to play with his friends 15 year ago. He couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the user guide of that thing. Like I said, cleaning up makes you quite sentimental! Not?

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