Ever since digital storage — a.k.a. hard drives — became so cheap that the possibility of putting all the information in my life into that medium became a reality, I have had the goal of making that happen. What exactly do I mean? Well, I would like to have all my pictures, video, documents, books, music, and everything else stored digitally. I want it all on my computer, and not cluttering up my desk or shelves.
Obviously, I am not alone in this desire, and as technology evolves and advances, much of the media we produce and consume is in fact already in a digital format. We now use digital cameras, pay our bills and receive bank statements through the internet in a digital format, communicate by email and other digital means, etc. The reason for this gradual conversion from an analog to a digital world is that the benefits of the change outweigh the disadvantages. They include easier organization, faster access, cheaper storage, better data security, protection from loss, and many others.
So, as I said, I have a goal of getting all the information in my life into a digital format. One of the reasons this makes sense for me is because I place little sentimental value on the physicalness of the objects that I own. To me, a digital copy of a book or a picture is just as good as the physical copy, no matter the circumstances. In fact, I have long considered myself the opposite of a compulsive hoarder, getting more satisfaction from having an empty drawer than from having a drawer full of “sentimentally important” things.
(Sad story to illustrate my point: When I was probably around 12 years old, I shared my room with my brother and it would frequently become so full of stuff that we could hardly move around in it. Every once in a while I would become fed up and just clean it out, throwing most things in the trash. My mom had designated a particular drawer as “Scott’s Drawer” where my important things were kept, such as drawings from kindergarten, awards, essays, and pictures. At some point during one of my cleaning binges, I became a little overzealous and decided I needed to clean all the “junk” out of that drawer. Suffice it to say that my mom was upset when she found out I had thrown away many things that she had been saving since I was baby. Sorry mom.)
Here’s where the irony comes in. As I transition to All Things Digital®, I am becoming a kind of “digital hoarder,” although not in the worst sense of the word. Since storage is so cheap, I never throw anything away (digitally speaking) anymore. I keep it all on the computer. And while I still like to throw physical things away, in my defense, I at least have a desire to convert everything to digital before I toss it out now. Unfortunately, I have a lot of information that is not yet digital. Fortunately, because I am young, a majority of what I have is already digital. This has led to the scanning of hundreds, and maybe thousands, of pictures; the capture of hundreds of hours of old family videos; and the conversion of hundreds of documents and journal pages and letters.
All of my files are backed up not only to hard drives in my house, but to online storage services like Amazon S3 via Jungle Disk and Dropbox. (One more side note: Dropbox is one of the coolest and most useful services ever. If you are not using it, it is worth taking a look at. Viewing their screencast will give you an idea of what it can do.) I love having access to all of these files from anywhere I can get internet access, and I especially take comfort in knowing that if my house was to burn down today, or half the world was to get blown up, my data would (most likely) be safe. If the whole world was to blow up I might be in trouble, so hopefully that won’t happen.