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June 3, 1995

We started taking home movies back in the 1950s, when black and white film, regular 8 mm, was the standard. All birthday parties and other momentous occasions celebrated by our two daughters were dutifully recorded on 50-ft. rolls of film, but of course with no sound. Color film and the wonderful new "Super 8 mm" size came along a few years later, but sound didn't become really practical until the advent of video cameras, still later. When camcorders arrived, they revolutionized the making of home "movies" and quickly obsoleted closets full of 8 mm cameras, projectors, screens, splicing gear, light attachments and all the other usual appurtenances in homes throughout the U.S.A.

I still have a very nifty Japanese-made Super 8 camera, a Kodak regular 8 camera, and a projector, along with a large box full of movies on film, some spliced into 300-ft. reels but many others still on the original 50-ft. rolls. When the family is together at Christmas or on other occasions, the movies are dragged out and now our grandchildren get a kick out of seeing how their mothers behaved when they were just kids. The movies are indeed family treasures and will be seen over and over until they become too brittle to rewind.

Going through my outmoded collection of this kind of equipment recently, I discovered a roll of black and white regular 8 mm film still in my original Kodak movie camera. The age and contents on that little roll of film are unknown, and they may very well stay that way. I took the film to be processed, and they said it would have to be sent to their laboratory in New York. Several weeks later the roll was returned with the notation that they no longer have the chemicals needed to process that kind of film.

The clerk tried to be helpful and suggested I contact the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Denver, Colo., as a possibility. He understood that the lab processes this ancient medium "once or twice a year," with no guarantee of quality or even results. The clerk had only the name of the lab, no mailing address or telephone number, and I am still pondering the next step. For all I know, the film will be blank, double-exposed, or it might picture some rare and cherished event, now long forgotten, which should be preserved.

My inclination is to just keep that mysterious and unprocessed bit of memorabilia around, and look at it occasionally to stimulate the imagination. What lies unseen on that ancient bit of celluloid? I can conjure up all kinds of possibilities. It might even be another view of the tip of my nose, one of the frequent unintended blips on several other home movies, exposed while getting the film meter to the proper setting.

If nothing else, it will help to remind me how new technology has outdated so many things we used to think would be with us forever. Makes life interesting, wouldn't you say.