The Idea . . .
As a child I would listen to my grandfather tell stories about his childhood, growing up on a small farm in Eastern Europe late in the nineteenth century. Among the descriptions he shared, several especially stood out for me. The entire family lived in a one room cottage with a dirt floor. I couldn't even imagine that growing up, as I did, in a typical middle class North American home in the latter part of the twentieth century. But there was more! The family owned a single pot and all meals were prepared in it. And there were no such things as plates, bowls, cups or glasses. Every member of the family had their own spoon and they all ate right out of the pot with those spoons. I found it hard to believe! But I was hearing it right from the source. My grandfather himself. As fantastic as these things sounded I knew they had to be the truth.
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My grandfather was witness to the creation of the car and mass production, the birth of flight and air travel, the development of space programs, interior plumbing, central heating and air conditioning, the evolution of retail trade into department stores and super markets, radio, movies, television and so much more.
Imagine how difficult it would be for MY grandchildren to grasp the significance of my grandfather's experiences if they were hearing them from me. After all my grandchildren would have never met my grandfather and they would, in fact, be several generations removed from him. This fact alone makes them much less likely to understand and accept these ideas. But suppose they could hear these stories direct from the source - MY grandfather. They would then take on a whole new level of credibility and importance. After all, these experiences have resulted in me and these very grandchildren being here in the first place.
While I found myself unable to provide my grandfather with the means to share his life story with future generations I was determined that the same thing not happen to my parents – or even myself for that matter. It was the late 1980’s and the state of the art video recording technology was the VHS Camcorder! (For those of you too young to know what that was you may want to search for information online.) I got my hands on one of these devices and sat my parents down and conducted one on one interviews with them detailing their lives from the time they were born to the present. Both my parents delivered a treasure trove of family history. I was elated but also confronted by a new and daunting problem. Now that I had these recordings, what was I going to do with them?
VHS videocassettes were notoriously fragile. They had to be stored in ideal conditions of temperature and relative humidity, free of dust and certain kinds of light. Even with the best care, estimates were that the expected lifespan of a VHS videocassette would be 20 years and this would require that, every year, the tape be run right through to the end and then rewound in a protocol called “exercising the tape”. After about 20 years, to be on the safe side, the tape would have to be copied. And this led to a new problem. VHS is an “analog” format and every time you make a copy of the tape, then a copy of the copy and a copy of that copy, the quality of the image and sound deteriorates. And it deteriorates at an exponential rate meaning that the first copy would be half as good as the original and the next copy would be half as good as that copy and so on until the quality would eventually be so bad as to render the cassette unwatchable. There had to be a better way to preserve these precious memories but in the late 1980’s it seemed impossible.
But there was light on the horizon. New developments were being made in “digital” technology. These included two important developments that were destined to change the world as we knew it. Engineers were developing the means to digitize audio/visual materials and there was this exciting new thing coming on stream called the “information super highway” or the Internet for short. These two developments were eventually going to solve the problem of long term storage and preservation of important visual records such as the interviews I had conducted with my parents. It was an exciting time.
The convergence of these two developments made possible the long term preservation of video biographies such as those I had produced of my parents. And now these technologies, and others, have been combined into a program making long term preservation and maintenance easy and affordable for you and your family.
Unfortunately my grandfather will never be able to share his stories and experiences directly with his descendants. But I can. And so can you! Our great grandchildren will have difficulty believing that there was ever a time when everyone didn't own a smartphone - a device with more computing capacity than was available to power the entire Apollo moon program. Or a time when there were no personal computers, no Internet, no GPS, no people permanently orbiting the earth in a space station and no who knows what might come next. But we can tell them that there was, in fact, such a time. And all the things that we have experienced will help them to understand the significance of these facts to them and their individual existences.
If you want to help your grandchildren, great grandchildren and generations far into the future better understand who they are by showing them where they have come from we have wonderful news for you. Knowing where we came from gives us a much better understanding of who we are and how we came to be the people we are.
Why VivaxTech? Excellent question.
Vivax is Latin for long-lasting, enduring, durable.
Exactly the kind of service that VivaxTech proudly delivers, using the most up-to-date technology, to each and every one of our clients.
An Excited Discussion Over Lunch
Imagine overhearing the following conversation in the year 2220.
Emma and Sally were roommates in college. From there they went on to become best friends. They promised, when leaving college, that, no matter how hectic their lives became, they would make it a point to get together at least every couple of months. They were both now in their mid-thirties, busy with building their careers, relationships, family, social obligations and all those other activities that occupy so much of day to day life. However, today, as they promised to follow through on, they were having one of those regular get togethers. But there was something different about today. Emma was practically bursting with excitement and Sally was anxious to know why.
“You look like there’s something on your mind,” Sally finally pointed out, giving Emma the opening she needed to strike up the conversation.
“Is there ever,” Emma confessed, “I’m just trying to figure out where to start.” She paused for a moment to gather her thoughts. “You do remember my baby brother Billy, don’t you?”
“He was the one who had that major crush on me back when we were in college.”
“That’s putting it mildly,” Emma chuckled.
“He was awfully cute,” Sally nodded. “Too bad he was so young.”
“Anyway, he came across something earlier this month that absolutely blew my mind.”
“Really? Tell me more.”
“Have you heard of a company called Vivaxtech?”
“There’s something familiar sounding about it,” Sally admitted searching through her memory in an effort to recall what she knew.
“They were started in the early part of the 21st century with the goal of storing, cataloging, preserving and distributing personal video biographies.”
“Personal video biographies,” Sally asked.
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“They’re basically on camera interviews where people speak about their life experiences. Things like their parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, what it was like for them growing up, where they went to school, the things that they enjoyed and what scared them, what inspired them like books, movies or people. Basically, everything that made them who and what they were.”
“Yes,” Sally nodded. “It’s coming back to me now. I just never thought of it as something I might consider doing.”
“I felt the same way,” Emma replied. “But it turns out that Vivaxtech has hundreds of millions of these video biographies securely stored away and Billy found videos made by our great, great, great, great grandparents, it’s so far back I’m not sure what the right number of greats to put in front of grandparents should be, starting back in 2016.”
“And you’ve seen these,” Sally asked, her interest genuine and her curiosity aroused.
“Have I ever,” Emma blurted. “It was incredible! Eventually their grandchildren started calling them Poppop and Oma but when they started doing this they were still in their 30’s. About the same age as we are now.”
“Started doing this? I don’t understand.”
“They each recorded a new video biography about every 10 or 15 years. It really put their lives into perspective and showed how they grew and changed over time. I always knew I had ancestors I just never knew anything about them. Now it’s like I have ancestors I never even knew about but it’s more than that. It’s like I know these ancestors in a way I never thought it would be possible to know them. I can honestly say that it’s given me a better understanding of where both me and my family came from. I’m still having a hard time processing this because the experience is so new and, well, so profound so I apologize for not explaining it very well.”
“Are you kidding,” Sally reassured her friend. “You’re explaining it really well. I wonder if they have any records like this of someone from my family?”
“I would certainly look into it if I were you. After all, they have hundreds of millions of these records so the chances are pretty good that there are at least some records of your past family members. But the video biographies are just the start. Vivaxtech also stores and maintains event videos. As a matter of fact, I watched by Poppop and Oma’s wedding video.” Emma shook her head and grinned self consciously, “I feel like I know them so well that I’ve started referring to them as Poppop and Oma. Amazing,” her voice trailed off as she started drifting away into some distant memories.
“Well, tell me. What was their wedding like?”
“You know, there seems to be something timeless about weddings,” Emma laughed, snapping back into the moment. “Same kinds of people, same speeches, people who drink too much, people who can’t dance and know it but who decide to dance anyway . . . .It was like I was actually there even though it took place hundreds of years ago. And the wedding was just one of the extra surprises Billy found. There were videos of graduation ceremonies of Poppop and Oma’s children and grandchildren. There was a video copy of Poppop’s retirement party. Believe it or not he worked for the same company for over 40 years! And who knows what we might find next. Billy’s still looking. And he’s really excited about what he might find.”
“How much did you have to pay for these video biographies?” Sally wanted to know. “After being in storage for a couple of hundred years the storage bill must have been massive.”
“That’s the beauty of the Vivaxtech program,” Emma explained. “When Poppop and Oma originally preserved all their videos they paid a set fee that covered storage, maintenance and even conversion to changing video formats.”
“I’m not sure I understand how that would work?”
“I can’t explain the real nuts and bolts of the program,” Emma admitted, “but when videos are placed in storage, most of the fees that are collected get held in trust. They collect interest just like any savings account and the interest they earn is used to cover the costs of all those storage, maintenance and conversion services.”
“So there was no cost to you or your family?”
“Not for all the storage and preservation stuff. We had to pay a small fee for database searches to find the videos – which I’m told would have been refunded if we didn’t find anything – and a download fee to get copies of the videos. But these were nothing compared to the experience of learning what we have about our distant ancestors. I mean, how do you put a price on being able to sit down and listen to one of your ancestors talk to you directly, like your mom and dad used to, and tell you stories about their lives?”
Three months later Emma and Sally were sitting down and enjoying another lunch. It didn’t take long for the conversation to circle back the Vivaxtech discussion they had been having when last they got together.
“So,” Emma wanted to know, “did you find any video biographies or event videos of your ancestors?”
Sally shook her head, “No,” she admitted “we looked and looked but couldn’t find anything.”
Emma could feel her friends disappointment as she shared this bad news with her.
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Emma replied.
“Well I’ve certainly learned my lesson,” Sally confessed. “I don’t want my future descendants to experience the same disappointment I’m feeling so I’ve started working on my own video biography. Hopefully I’ll be finished it in the next month or so.” She paused for a moment before continuing. “You know, I thought it would be difficult and a lot of work but I’ve actually found the whole process to be a lot of fun.”
“I know,” Emma agreed. “I’ve been doing the same thing and, you’re right, it has been a lot of fun. It’s amazing what we forget when we don’t think about things every day. Like high school, for example. I forgot just how much fun I had back in those days. No responsibilities or obligations and a world filled with endless possibilities. It was great.”
“And don’t forget how much fun we had in college,” Sally reminded her.
“How could I? It’s also where I met my best friend.”
Both women fell silent for a moment lost in their memories and recollections.
“There’s something else I wanted to share with you,” Emma finally offered, “Billy organized something based on Oma and Poppops videos. Something even more amazing than actually watching the videos themselves.”
“Is that even possible,” Sally wanted to know.
“Absolutely,” Emma assured her. “Billy located some of Oma and Poppop’s descendants, distant relatives of ours who we didn’t even know existed, and reached out to some of them. He asked if they’d be interested in getting together to meet and talk about our distant ancestors and connect on a really unique level. The whole thing got out of control in a real hurry. Some of the people Billy contacted reached other distant family members that they knew of and it went on like that. When we finally got together there were over 200 people! And every one of them was related to each other, and to us, in a direct way. It was unbelievable. People who were unaware of each other but shared ancestors from 2 centuries ago had so much in common. There were people who bore a striking resemblance to each other – and now we all know why. And there were a lot of people who shared similar mannerisms. I know where those came from now as well. And the next time we organize an event like this there will be even more relatives there. I don’t think Oma and Poppop could have even anticipated something like this when they sat down and recorded their life stories all those years ago.”
“That sounds incredible,” Sally agreed. “Absolutely incredible”