Voice (messages) from the past

Do you remember the tape-based phone message systems that were popular twenty years ago? Perhaps you still use one. If so the voice-recording quality has likely degraded. Do you save voice messages from special people?

I read a story in the Wall Street journal (April 7, 2010) about James Alan Bouton, the author of “Ball Four” a best selling book on baseball published in 1970. The author created a controversy with antedotes about the infamous exploits of famous players of the 60’s. Several players were upset along with the commissioner. It was believed that Mickey Mantel took the accusations personally but before his death in 1995, Mickey called the author and left a personal message. The author states in the article that he is “saving the tape for his grandchildren”. But tapes don’t “save”, they decay. And worse, the devices that “play” tapes are disappearing. Unless Mr. Bouton takes steps to digitize the tape, his grandchildren won’t hear Mickey’s personal message to their grandfather.

Voice recordings are subject to accidental erasure. On a trip to visit my mother, she complained that her phone recorder was full and she didn’t know how to clean it out. No problem, I just selected ‘clear’. Then she told me that there was a message on the phone from my deceased brother. Nothing special, but just the last message he had left on the phone prior to his death. Gone now because of a reckless button push.

My cell phone messages must be re-saved every 10 days or they are automatically erased. For years I re-saved a special message from my five year-old grandson – until I forgot – and now it is lost.

Online Legacy introduced a feature called VoiceSafe that combines a simple voicemail server with perpetual storage. Subscribers receive an access code that they – or their loved ones – can use to record personal messages and brief stories over a telephone. The call is toll free in the US. The recordings are archived in the subscriber’s personal account where he can manage and share content directly through secret links or in perpetuity through his PermaSite digital safe.

Not everyone has an iPhone. Not every parent or grandparent wants to interact with a computer or the Internet. Many seniors are simply scared of the Internet because they fear loss of privacy or identity theft. And they might be right – every few months Facebook introduces a new way to expose your personal information to increase the network effects that drive advertising revenues. Facebook is a sharing site and a saving site.

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