New treasures for the old shoebox

Published: Monday, August 26, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 23, 2013 at 5:29 p.m.

Excuse me while I rewind the tech clock a few years. Remember the proverbial shoebox of photos that grandma keeps under the bed? You know, tucked between the mothballs and the crochet needles? That little box of old prints no doubt contains more memories of your life than Facebook could ever imagine. You can count on that box being there for the long haul, which is more than you can say about the bounty of memories that are a delete button away from oblivion.

Let's face it, smartphone-ography is alive and well. Photographs are being snapped at a historic rate. We have the apps, we have the digital albums, we have the social media and we can even throw in some vintage “insta-filters” to make even grandma happy. What we haven't figured out is the legacy part.

How many images have we lost already between software crashes or hardware disasters? Shoeboxes don't self-destruct like hard drives do. If you're like me you might have storage devices like zip disks or floppy disks with images that very well might never be retrieved. More computers are being shipped without CD/DVD drives these days. Think those USB flash drives will do the trick? Beware, guessing what technology will look like in the future is a losing proposition.

My rule of thumb is that when it comes to preserving our lives in pictures, hit print more than you hit save. Make sense?

Channeling my inner Yoda, I can already read your thoughts. “Hate your printer, you do.” Get in line. I have never heard anyone lumping praise on an inkjet. Instead of offering advice on how to put the “user-friendly” back in your printer, I am going to offer some modern solutions to the age-old dilemma at hand.

Before we even had inkjet printers, we had the good old drug store. They still make prints and it's now even easier. How about an app for your mobile device that allows you to send the digital files straight to CVS or Walgreens for printing? You can pick them up the next time you need some toothpaste. Heaven knows we have no shortage of drug stores.

Too lazy to pick them up? Services like Snapfish will allow you to email your order and pick them up via your mailbox. You might even want to go beyond the classic 4X6 shoebox print and make some enlargements or even wallet-sized prints. Your barren walls will thank you.

If you fit the DIY stereotype and you're ready to start fresh in the printer department, you might be relieved that technology has come a long way since you bought that Hewlett-Packard printer back in 1992. Just remember, you are printing photographs and not your kid's term paper. This is what enthusiasts once had darkrooms for, and now you get to do it without much thought. Spend a few bucks and do it right.

There are the traditional PC-based inkjet photo printers from the likes of Epson, Canon and HP, many of which have a specific 4X6 area to print from and specific-sized paper to boot. Look into the proprietary software that generally comes bundled with these devices and you will find that many of them have a simple one- or two-button solution to make a print.

You might prefer a smaller specialty printer that allows you to dock a device like an iPhone right into the printer and use the device's touchscreen to select and print images straight from the camera roll or galleries. Many of these inkjets print only 4x6 or 5x7 prints, which are perfect for preserving legacy.

Finally, we have wireless printers that use your home's Wi-fi network or the Bluetooth signal from your mobile device that allows you to do the majority of your work from the comfort of your couch while the printing happens in another room.

Many options are out there for preserving special moments. Most of us just need the motivation to actually do it.

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