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Dec 30, 2022

(+) It’s Almost 2023. Do You Know Where Your Family Photos Are?

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Do you plan to keep your family photographs forever? If so, where will you store them? 

As printed photos:  a bad idea as photos printed with most of today’s technology solutions, including those printed at the local drug store, will fade within a very few years. The problem is best seen on color photographs where the reds will fade first, only to be followed by the other colors over time. Even black-and-white photos made by today’s techniques will fade. (Photographs printed years ago by chemical means in a photographer’s darkroom lasted much longer than today’s photographs printed at home on an inkjet printer or in a commercial film development lab using a more-or-less instant printing process.

On floppy disks:  a bad idea as floppy disks have almost disappeared. Within a few years, floppy disk drives probably will only be found in museums where they may or may not still function. (Magnetic bits stored on floppy disks do not last forever.)

On microfilm:  a bad idea as microfilm has never been a good method for storing photographs. In addition, archival-quality microfilm is no longer manufactured although you can still purchase lower-quality microfilms (at high prices) that have no promises about expected longevity. In addition, new microfilm readers are almost impossible to purchase today and spare parts for the older readers, needed to keep the machines operational, are becoming scarce.

On CD-ROM or DVD disks or Blu-Ray disks:  a bad idea as these optical drives are also disappearing. Many laptop computers and quite a few desktop systems are now manufactured without such disk drives. Within a few years, these optical drives probably will only be found in museums where they may or may not still function.

In flash drives: a bad idea as the life expectancy is limited. Flash drives can last up to ten years, but as mentioned on NYTimes.com at https://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/qa-the-lifespan-of-a-flash-drive/?_r=0, flash memory doesn’t usually degrade because of its age, but rather because of the number of write cycles, which means the more you delete and write new information, the more quickly the memory in the device will start to degrade. Since all these devices are similar in that they all use flash memory, they’ll all degrade in a similar fashion. 

In an iPad or other digital tablet:  a bad idea as these things change rapidly and standards are still evolving. If you purchased one of iPad’s first models when they first appeared in 2010, would you still be able to use that device today? How about 25 years from now? Will your descendant be able to use it 100 years after your death?

In a so-called “digital picture frame”:  a bad idea as these devices seem to appear and disappear every Christmas season. Will the digital picture frame you purchase still be useable in five years? Twenty-five years? Or longer? Sure, they look great hanging on the wall, displaying a new photograph every few seconds. However, most of them do not have a capability of searching for and displaying a specific photograph upon demand from hundreds or even thousands of photos stored in the device. Even worse, most of them do not have any capability to copy the pictures FROM the picture frame to a different device.

In a cloud-based photo storage service:  a bad idea as these services have a history of appearing and disappearing at most any time. According to an article by John Herrman in the New York Times at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/29/style/digital-photo-storage-purge.html:

In March 2000, Yahoo created Yahoo! Photos, a place to store your photos. It had limited storage space available as was typical of online storage services of that time.

In 2005, Yahoo acquired Flickr, the popular photo site.

In 2007, Yahoo announced it would discontinue Yahoo! Photos and that users should move their photos to Flickr.

In 2018, Flickr, now owned by Oath, a subsidiary of Verizon, was sold to SmugMug, a smaller competitor. Flickr said that users could only store a maximum of 1,000 photos. Users could begin paying or take the rest elsewhere. SmugMug later switched to a plan that requires payment from ALL users with plans starting at $5.99 monthly (later upgraded to $13/month) or $47.88 a year (later upgraded to $110/year) if billed annually. Details may be found at https://www.smugmug.com/plans. There are similar stories from other online photo storage services.

So where do you want to keep your photos?

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