“the process of becoming obsolete or the condition of being nearly obsolete “
It’s a lilting word, a little like “Lolita,” yet a harsh one that trips me up when I think of things fallen away, gone and useless now. I went to a conference about obsolescence a few years ago, and it awakened in me a heightened awareness of the permanence of obsolescence as a process “always already” happening. We are the primitive people of the future, et cetera.
Dear future people, even though, the way things are going, you probably won’t even be marginally literate:
It’s Friday night, or 2 AM on Saturday, May 19th, 2012, and I’m ripping all my CDs onto my laptop. I had given up on maintaining digital archives of my CDs long ago…but now I kind of want to get rid of the 300 disc CD changer that just takes up tons of room and put the CDs into storage…and next week I am flying to Portland to look for an apartment, and obviously the most responsible thing to do is to stay up all night 8 days before to make sure I have plenty of music on my laptop. Right?
That CD player itself is obsolescent. I bought it from Stephen in 2004 right before he went to Chicago. I used it for one semester, left it for safekeeping with my parents when I moved to Europe, and didn’t have room for it in New York. By the time I moved to Indiana, everything was digital. Time went on outside my CD player for so many years. It’s like those ephemeral items you see at yard sales sometimes, items somebody stuck in a closet for years, unopened, and now suddenly a cereal box is an artifact. Or wasn’t it already?
The world has passed me by in my stupid pursuit of worthless education, and I have to stop hiding in my apartment with my 2004-era electronics and music and dreams and attitudes.
I keep thinking that supposedly, human cells regenerate every 11 years. But some of these CDs, I’ve had since I was a kid. They’re frozen, just like the CD player, my embarrassing tastes intact. And I’m ripping them anyway because somehow the $15 I spent 18 years ago seems worth it.
Some of them are burned on store-brand Cds for stores that no longer exist (e.g., CompUSA).
Some of them are scratched so badly that I can’t copy them anymore.
Some of them show the progression of my always-horrible handwriting into total illegibility.
Some aren’t labeled at all.
Together, though, they make a mottled, messy patchwork of the soundtrack of my rotten life, 1995 to present.
And for right now I can stare at my iTunes library and feel I have an autobiography, of sorts, at least until the next hard drive crash.
(That’s the thing with living digitally, you know: after a while you get used to the permanence of impermanence, the holding-onto of nothing, the commodification of nothing)
And maybe later tonight, if and when I finally burn the last one, I will finally have a digital archive on my “new” (6 month old) laptop…another archive that is totally ephemeral, and incomplete, and destined for destruction during a future hardware malfunction.