Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

December 14, 2013

A picture's worth a thousand kilobytes

This morning my computer told me it was out of memory, that it couldn’t save one more byte until I deleted some files. Did I mention that my machine’s got a ton of memory? There’s no way I could have used all that memory in only a single lifetime. Where did it all go?

I remember having a discussion years ago with a business owner who was having a hard time deciding whether he should buy a computer with 10 or 20 megabytes, because the difference was thousands of dollars. The cheapest iPhone has 1,600 times that much memory and it can make phone calls and run “Angry Birds,” so I thought the memory problem had been solved.

For years, I’ve been adding family photos and vacation pictures to my hard drive without a problem. It never complained when I would upload 300 photos of the Thanksgiving Day parade. It never said I was getting close to running out when it automatically started sucking pictures off my smartphone — pictures I shoot through the car window, pictures of funny bumper stickers, pictures of things in stores I might want to buy someday. If you’ve got a camera, you might as well use it; it’s not as if you have to spend money developing pictures anymore. You simply post them to Facebook or email them to friends. Who needs physical pictures of the grandkids? Just pass your phone around.

When people aren’t talking or texting on their cellphones, they’re taking pictures with them. Imagine how many pictures were taken just today, just by teenagers. The recent spate of news stories on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination tells an unintended story about the thing that has changed the most in 50 years. There is one, count it, one blurry, fuzzy, long-range, almost accidental film of that crime. Imagine how many videos of it there would be if cellphones had existed then. A hundred? A thousand?

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