Weather Forecast


Doug's Diggings: What do you do with 50,000 slides?

I was watching a television show where they were talking about the rapidly improving technology in the world and how it makes things obsolete quite quickly. One of the examples they used was the way music is brought into people's lives. For example, music was first reproduced on records; then there were 8-track tapes, then cassette tapes, then CDs, and now everything is virtually downloaded from "the cloud."

One of the persons presenting the program talked about all the cassette tapes she had in her home. The problem she faces is that she no longer has a working device to listen to those tapes. Now I don't know if there are still places where you can buy cassette tape players -- maybe there are.

I have my own little technology issue. My issue involves the world of photography. For most of my life I took slides. When I was growing up in the '50s and '60s, everyone had a slide projector in their home. You could buy slide projectors at virtually any department store, drugstore or camera shop in America.

I loved the world of showing slides. I remember going to people's homes and the projector would come out, the screen would go up, the room was darkened and everyone (well, almost everyone) was enthralled with watching the photos on the "big screen" and hearing the dialogue that went with it from the person who took the photos. The evening might involve travel slides, family slides or a variety of topics.

I always thought watching slides was much better than a group of people sitting around a table and looking at snapshots. While I would be looking at one photo, others were looking at different photos and it was hard to get the proper information in a group setting.

So, when the time came to get my first camera, the choice of film was either KodaChrome or EktaChrome -- both slide films. I used more EktaChrome in the later years because it could be developed quicker. I could take it someplace in the morning and have the slides that afternoon. When I came back from a vacation I needed those slide quickly for the evening slide show!

My first slides were taken somewhere in the neighborhood of the early '70s around the time I was married. Over the course of the next 35-plus years I took a lot slides! I say 35 years, because I switched to digital photography in about 2005.

Anyway, those 35 years involved a lot of camera work. Maybe it's because I have worked at a newspaper, but photos were a big part of every event in my life. When I went on vacation, I didn't take 50 or 100 pictures -- I often took 600 or 700 slides! When we had a family get-together, I didn't take five or 10 pictures -- I often took 50 or 60 pictures!

As bad as that sounds, with digital I take even more! Now there is no cost to purchase film and no cost to develop film. For instance a recent week-long trip to northern California resulted in about 1,000 photos. I discovered, however, I have to edit to a reasonable number if I hope to maintain any audience interest!

To make a long story short, I decided to count the number of slide reels I have stored in various places in our home. The number I came up with was just over 500 reels. With each reel holding 100 slides, a little quick math tells me that I currently have somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 slides!

When I tell people this, the first response is "get them transferred to digital." That would be a wonderful solution, but the cost would be astronomical. A quick look around the Internet shows the cost of turning them into digital is anyway from 19 cents to 39 cents per slide. Even at 19 cents, the cost would be $9,500 -- not an option!

There are also ways a person can convert slides themselves, but most appear to be very time consuming. It's one thing if you're converting a few hundred. It's another thing if you're converting 50,000.

My youngest son wanted some of the old slides and he essentially put them on a screen and took a digital picture of them. You lose quality, but he ended up with a useable photo at no cost.

I guess the good news is I can still purchase a projector if I'm willing to explore a little bit. Gone are the days when I could get one at the local stores. It may still be possible to purchase one at some camera shops or a projector could at least be ordered. Online, there are plenty of projectors available, along with replacement bulbs, etc. So I guess I'll still be able to view slides for the foreseeable future.

The day will come, however, when someone else will probably have to sort it all out. I don't envy that job!

Doug Stohlberg

Doug Stohlberg has been part of the Hudson Star-Observer since 1973 and has been editor since 1987. He worked at the New Richmond News from 1971 to 1973. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

(715) 808-8600