Nothing says “professional” like showing an interview subject video of your younger self learning to use the toilet.
I was at the Rochester Public Library to learn about the Convert-O-Lab – a service that allows users to digitize dead or dying formats like VHS, Betamax, or slides and store them on other devices – and needed to bring something to digitize.
For me, the urge to convert my home video was one part nostalgia and one part desire to prove that my parents really did/do love me. As the second child, I was always disappointed going through the two family albums we have. I made very few appearances, while my older brother was made to look like the star. My parents assured me that they took pictures of me, but they’d lost the motivation to put those in a book by the time I, the baby of the family, came around.
So as I interviewed Brian Lind, a reference librarian, my home video played in the background. There I was, learning how to use the toilet from the comfort of my parents' living room. Embarrassed, I apologized to Lind that he had to see that moment of my life.
"I'm sorry you had to see your own potty training," Lind replied, apparently unfazed.
Learning to use the converting equipment was a breeze for this millennial, but that might not be the case for everyone. Lind helped explain how to take the decades-old VHS tape and convert it to a format that will hopefully stand the test of time. (A three-ring binder with instructions on how to use the equipment is also part of the setup.) Once you get trained, you are able to reserve time at the lab – which has been around for a year – to continue your digitizing work.
“There are a lot of things you just can't access anymore without the old equipment and making it digital makes it available for people to share, which is really great, especially with the internet being able to put things out there really easily,” Lind said.
Having everyone buy the equipment to convert dead or dying formats just doesn’t make sense, Lind said.
“We buy the equipment, you use it as little as you need,” Lind said. “One tape – or if you have a bunch of them – you come in and use it here, and at that point, you don't need the machine anymore.”
After Lind and I wrapped up our interview, I stayed behind to get a little more of that video onto my external hard drive. As I watched it play, I noticed how many things have stayed the same in my parents’ house and yet, how much has changed.
Those things that remain the same include the bathroom tiling, the stove, my dad wearing a robe and washing the dishes, and my older brother trying to lead me into mischief – although its safe to say he is no longer encouraging me to jump off a chair into a pile of clean cloth diapers.
But the things that have changed seem the most important. I no longer go to the bathroom in the living room with multiple people watching. I’ve stopped screaming in the bathtub. No one calls me “Emmy” unless they want to face my wrath. The grandparents the videos were made for are long dead.
I was surprised and moved by what I found in the first video I digitized. I expected to see younger versions of my brother and me but I had no idea I would get to hear the voices of my grandparents again. Lind, the librarian, had left me some time before that point so thankfully no one was there to see me cry.
Thanks, Convert-O-Lab, for letting me experience those memories.
Even the potty training.
More information about the Convert-O-Lab can be found at www.rplmn.org/convert.