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Things with a Memory

I heard an interesting story on NPR this week about a man who’d lost his dog-tags in 1951, and a young couple recently found and returned them to him.  No one knew what happened to the tags between 1951 and 2008, but everyone agreed they’d probably had an interesting journey. 

Knowing the past of the everyday objects in your care could be interesting.  Probably no one cares about the history of a box of baking soda in the cabinet, but what about an old heirloom passed down to you from a rarely seen great aunt?  Wouldn’t you like to know who had owned it over the years and where it had travelled?

Before the age of digital music, I used to trade music tapes of a jam band called Phish.  Taping was allowed, and encouraged at their live shows, and fans traded the tapes so everyone could enjoy their wonderful music.  When sending a tape, many fans would put a little information about themselves in the tape case and also where the tape had come from.  I always smiled when I’d see the history of the tape.  It reminded me of all the other people that also enjoyed the band, and the comradery we felt about tape trading.  The tape had a recorded history.

In a digital age, everyday items would have digital tags to help them interact with a variety of devices similar to an iPhone.  These digital tags would allow the history of the item to be understood.  Just like a package at FedEx, one could know the life cycle of an everyday item.  Garage sales wouldn’t just be the passing along of little used goods, they could be peeks into a family’s past like a digital archaeological dig.