Losing Our Digital Videos and Other Ghosts in the Machine


This weekend we lost all of our digital videos.


Image: LifeSupercharger via Flickr

I’ve been slowly migrating our digital life from our old iMac, which couldn’t handle our 35,000+ photos and terabytes of video, onto our new Mac Mini. Long ago, we outgrew the hard drive in the iMac and moved first the videos and then the photos onto external hard drives. We added an additional external hard drive to backup those drives and the iMac, and on Sunday I discovered that both the drive holding all of our videos and the backup drive were no longer operating.

One would spin up, but no computer would recognize it. I tried serving drinks and crudités, playing some familiar music for them, but they really couldn’t remember ever having met. The other external drive would shine a bright power light and make a faint whine, but it didn’t sound or feel like it was spinning up. When I connected it to the computer, I might as well have connected a plate of spaghetti for the reaction I got out of the computer.

I immediately felt like an idiot. A deeply, deeply sad idiot.

No idea why I felt like an idiot, although I guess I felt like maybe there was something different I should have done. Now that I’ve had some time for my emotional reaction to pass, I see that there’s nothing I could have done, other than perhaps switching to newer drives before these failed. And I see that there’s a lot that I did do, even if inadvertently.

Much of our early digital video was recorded on tape, thanks to a generous gift from the King in Vegas. Neither a better friend nor a bigger fan have my kids had – especially one who they haven’t even had the pleasure of meeting. When you add to all that he’s done for them the fact that he introduced me to Mama, it’s literally true that without him, they wouldn’t be where they are today. In fact, they might not be anywhere at all.

And, thanks to the King, their first moves are still with us because I had most of those tapes converted to DVDs… just in time for Apple to remove optical drives from all their computers such as our new Mac Mini, but that’s a gripe for another blog post.

Because it would be sour grapes to fault Apple for that when they gave us – OK, sold us for a king’s f@#$ing ransom – our iPhones, the video for which is sucked into iPhoto. Because the only external drive left standing is the one with our iPhoto library on it, this means that all of our video since we got our iPhones is still with us.

We are missing anything we shot with our Flip camera – which was a lot – and the finished, edited versions that take out all the curse words, trips, stumbles, and face plants of both the subjects and the cameraman. But almost all of those finished videos are on YouTube, if not always in their highest resolution.

They’re on YouTube not only because I’m inordinately proud of my kids, but also because I live thousands of miles from my family, and it’s the best way I have to share my kids with them; for them to watch 3B and Jewel grow up. So it is that friends and family, as they so often do, saved me. The King’s selflessly generous gift has paid priceless dividends six years later, and my family’s love for 3B and Jewel continues to pay dividends every time I post a video to YouTube.

Of course, those are dividends on top of the real riches that 3B and Jewel reap: knowing that they are loved, even if from afar. That gift is greater than all the gigabytes of video I could ever record. Realizing this brought me to a peaceful place, even before I learned that for another king’s f@#$ing ransom our data could probably be recovered. Probably.

Regardless of what becomes of those bits and bytes, I am thankful for the reminder that it’s the good friends we have had, not the digital ghosts we’ve made and lost along the way that truly matter.

I’m a Northern Californian expatriate living in exile in Maryland with my beautiful, compassionate wife, Mama and our two kids, 3B and Jewel. Read about our adventures at bradsteinhousehold.com.

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