Damn the technology – full speed ahead!

I’d like to put my parents’ stories on a DVD, but what happens when DVDs become obsolete? How will future generations of my family play the video?

I hear variations of this question all the time. My short answer is always, “Don’t worry, preserve your family history using the technology available to you now. Don’t let fear of future technologies keep you from capturing your family stories today.”

I say this for a couple of reasons. First, history shows that, as audio and video recording technologies evolve, so do ways of transferring older technologies to the new. Second, “elderly” technologies tend to exist side-by-side with the new kids on the block for years.

My opinions on this subject were recently reinforced in a very delightful way when Arlo Guthrie brought his “Guthrie Family Legacy Tour” to Tucson. He took to the stage with his son, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter to celebrate a musical legacy begun by Arlo’s dad, Woody Guthrie.

Woody Guthrie left behind a huge body of work. But, as Arlo told the audience, one thing his father’s legacy lacked was a concert recording. Nowhere was there an audio record of Woody’s interaction with an audience – or so the family thought, until a gentleman walked into the Guthrie Archives office with an old wire recording of a Woody Guthrie concert performance in New York City, circa the 1940s. Wire recorders predate magnetic audiotape – and yet this vintage performance now exists on a CD which will shortly be released for sale.

After telling this story, Arlo treated the audience to a couple of minutes of his dad’s on-stage banter. The moment was magical. As Woody’s voice filled the theatre, there were, in fact, four generations of this musical family represented on stage. And why was this possible? Because someone, nearly 70 years ago, had the foresight to record Woody’s performance using the technology on hand.

So don’t be inhibited by thoughts of what “might be” when it comes to technology. Preserve your stories on video now. The future will take care of itself.

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