The Dead Bodies In the Digital World

mel2014 780Or, how to prevent the sewers from clogging up…

When I worked at a camera shop that had a secondhand license, we took in old cameras as trade-in on new cameras*. In some cases the oldies were film-based, and in some cases they were digital jobs. In the future, the proportion of the former to the latter will decrease, but in my time there was still some trade through.

As an aside, it was sometimes very sad to see equipment that was the pride and joy of the owners being written off as valueless when presented for trade. If this was hard to see with an old photographer, it was harder still when it was a widow presenting a legacy set. Real-world economics do not reward a person’s enthusiasms. In some case we were able to direct the gear on to deserving training institutions – they may not have welcomed it but at least we gave the widow hope that it was some value to someone…

In the case of the first and second generation digital gear, the process became even worse – though the consultations were more ludicrous than lachrymose. People who bought early Kodak, Konica, Sony, or other digital cameras were on the cutting edge of technology and their wallets have the scars to prove it. They remember going hungry for months and selling their children to the coal mines for the price of a camera and memory card, and it was a distressing thing then. How much more distressing now when they try to trade the DC-whatever camera now and find that it is so much plastic mulch.

The best answer ever given to this sort of a trade-in enquiry was made by a shop employee who was clever and fast. He could see the proposition coming and steeled himself to it. Then he praised the old half mega-pixel plastic blob and said that it really was a historical landmark in the history of photography…and that the owner must not think of trading it. it was far too valuable as an artefact. They must preserve it carefully at home – no battery inside and sealed in a dry, cool environment -against the time when the museum would be able to display it to future generations.

All this was said with a perfectly straight face and dignified intonation. The customer bought it, and then bought a new digital camera as well. We noticed that the salesman was sweating through his trousers afterwards.

It was only partly a pile of pony poo. There will come a time when the early efforts at digital equipment will need to be documented and displayed, and people who have the futuristic and weird cameras of the 1990’s will actually possess something of value. But, please heaven, keep them from trying to trade it it the meantime.

  • ” New” in the camera trade has started to become “New for the next two weeks until we come out with the next product”. It has bred a consumer mentality that is as useful as ebola but nowhere near as much fun.



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