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If it doesn’t exist in a current file format, does it still exist?

As an undergrad, I wrote a novel for my senior Honors thesis.  Even after all this time, I’m still unable (and probably too biased) to figure out whether or not, on a scale of 1-10, whether it rated a 1, or if maybe, just maybe, it was good enough to rate as high as a 3.  If I ever make it to that point, and have the time, when I’m in my fifties, I think I might try to re-write it.  But the purpose of this post is not about literary criticism.

I wrote it on an electronic typewriter, model of which I don’t remember, but which I do remember purchasing from the Macy’s in the Galleria in Houston, which was a block or so from where I lived, and from whom I was foolishly given a credit card.  It used an entirely proprietary ‘floppy drive’ using proprietary 2” discs (IIRC).  When I left Houston to move to Miami for graduate school, in a state of utter monetary destitution, I sold the typewriter and I think I ended up just throwing away the discs.

Fast forward a few years to today….

As is apparently common for various reasons and which I’ve noted before, I have a ridiculous memory of musical passages.  I actually have a list of songs, or song fragments, that I’ve kept of things to look up at some point.  This past week or so, I finally decided to try and figure out where a particular song came from.

The only thing I remembered was that the song contained the word ‘September.’  As I think you might imagine, trying to determine from Google, power though it may be, using just that word was not exactly useful.  So, I took the plunge, and cleared out a passage to a back closet, and pulled out the box containing my old tape cassette collection, as well as the box containing my album collection.

You can probably already guess where this is going.  I am 99% sure that I no longer have any device whatsoever anywhere that can play a tape cassette.  It is hard to guestimate accurately (I think that’s an oxymoron) but from looking at the stack of tapes arranged on the floor and doing some simple math, it looks to be about 600 cassettes.  Since I only at one time actually had anything that could play albums, that is only 50-60 or so.

Going through them was fascinating in many ways, in particular, finding all of the bands that, even to this day, I have no real recollection of, as well as seeing a name and remembering the snippet of a song from a group that, by simple virtue of looking at a calendar, I can’t have listened to in over a decade (at least).

Through the power of my Zune subscription (cross referencing ITunes and Amazon in places), I’ve been tracking down various things, and a couple of things have struck me:

  1. The fact that you can actually still find and download music for some of these groups is amazing.
  2. The fact that you can still find recorded existence, but can’t download, of music for some of these groups is annoying.
  3. Most relevant to this post, the fact that you can’t (except maybe barely) find recorded existence for some of the groups is scary.

Without the fact that I have the physical record, in the form of a tape cassette, of some of this music, you couldn’t know that it ever existed at all.  For instance, there was a Canadian band called Darkroom that had a song called “Don’t play with breaking hearts.”  There doesn’t appear to be anyway to find this music at all, unless you can buy it in album or cassette format, and even then, you would have to know ahead of time exactly what to search for.  (Update: God bless You Tube.  You can find the song here)

I’m not the first person to wonder about this, but I wonder….how are future historians going to deal with this?  Cue the Ken Brooks’ PBS music while some voiceover recites the contents of some letter from a Civil War vet, “Dearest Karen, the rebels pushed against our outer positions, but we held….” or whatever.  They are able to do this because there is some physical letter they could read from.  A hundred years from now, when someone discovers an Outlook 1997 file (or whatever) that contains email from some important figure, will they be able to recover any of the data?

In case anyone is wondering, the name of the group that had the song with the word ‘September’ in it is the Lucy Show, the name of the ‘album’ was mania, and the name of the song is ‘Sad September.’  Not a great song, but not bad, which you can listen to here:

posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 7:56 PM Print
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