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Throwing away memories is never easy

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November 23rd, 2016

See that monitor up there? No, not the dinky 27-inch iMac, the giant one next to it in portrait mode. That's the 30-inch Cinema Display (2560 x 1600) I purchased for around $2,300 way back in early 2005. For context, that's more than twice the price of today's top-of-the-line UltraFine 5K Display (5120 x 2880) from LG and Apple. I bought it primarily out of spite at a difficult time in my life. At 11-years old, it's the single oldest piece of consumer tech in my house, yet I still use it every day. I feel pretty good about that in a culture and industry that promotes overconsumption as a virtue. Moreover, I feel emotionally attached to it as a relic of a decade lived.

Earlier this week I fished out my old Sanyo Xacti camcorder, aka, the "world's smallest and lightest 720p camcorder" as it was known in 2007. My kid — the six-year-old I filmed with that very camera as he learned to ride a bike — needed a second camera to help shoot a film he's making for high school. His primary video camera is a hand-me-down iPhone 5 from 2012. He's seated behind me right now, editing the film on a 15-inch MacBook Pro purchased in 2009 — the same laptop that helped me put a roof over his head. Sure, using old equipment makes processing take a bit longer. And yeah, the image quality isn't quite as good as an iPhone 7. But he's 15 for crissake. Besides, this old gear deserves some love before being shipped off to the island of misfit toys.

Chris Plante's eulogy to the perfect headphones beautifully captures the emotional attachment we sometimes make with objects. Attachments made not because the device achieved a perfect 5-star rating on Amazon, but because those ten-year-old Sennheiser HD 650's offered him an escape from a difficult situation. The device becomes attached to the memory like an icon or a totem, a symbolic representation of something much more personal, complex, and emotive.

With Black Friday and The Cyber looming I can't help but feel nostalgic for all these old gadgets. I keep my old Rio 500 MP3 player in a drawer because I can't abandon a device that created the soundtrack for my time in New York City. Even my lousy eight-year-old Sonos CR100 controller invokes a sense of melancholy when I think back on all the "family dance parties" it launched. And just like this aging gear; I, too, will one day be replaced by a newer and probably better model.

But not yet... not yet...