By Boera Bisieri
Published May 20, 2017
I gave a good friend a visit in his office recently and found his usually meticulously neat desk in a mess. The poor guy was hopelessly looking for one of the works he had written in 2004 that he wanted to revise for publication. After a long futile search, he realised he had saved the work in a diskette or floppy disk but had no way of retrieving it from the disc. This incident got me thinking just how much more treasures are trapped in obsolete technology.
Jackson Muyila, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, can no longer enjoy his favourite music. Although he has tonnes of cassette tapes and vinyl records containing the songs stacked up high in his study, he cannot play them because the cassette slot in his radio is out of order.
Mark Chetambe, a playwright and adjudicator at Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama Festival is still searching for the recordings of his play and narratives that were performed at the national level in 2003. These works were stored in a Video Home System (VHS) tape.
“I have a friend with a VHS player but the machine just cannot work,” says Dr Chetambe. He, like Dr Muyila, says technology has let him down.
On her part, Zeitun Salat cannot find all her wedding photos.
“During my wedding in 2002 my photography was done using the analogue camera. I printed the photos, of course; but recently I realised some of the photos were missing. On contacting my then photographer, he laughed and simply told me he could not be of any help since the negatives cannot be found anywhere for the photos to be printed again,” Mrs Salat says.
Talking to these people, I could not help but wonder that in the interest of keeping up with the times and moving from analogue to digital (a much celebrated step) platform, how often do we tag with us treasures in the so-called old technology? How much irreplaceable information is trapped in the technology of yesterday, decaying in closets and archives? Do we even realise that when one so-called hi-tech creation is born something else dies as a result of it?
Just how many Dr Muyilas cannot listen to their ‘classic’ music nor watch their favourite movies?
What, then, do we do about these music movies, manuscripts and photos trapped in obsolete technology?
Of course reviving the machines on which to access these treasures is one thing we need to do. But most of them are not in good shape. Trouble kicks in when we have to get spare parts for these devices.
Rare and almost extinct as they are, is there really a place to get the spare parts? Wait, are there even any technicians knowledgeable enough to repair these abandoned machines? This makes it almost impossible to access and exploit our photographs, writing, music and movies.