Total Recall


Just a heads up, this book has nothing to do with the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film, or the Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” though, that title could definitely fit this book like a glove.

In this book, Microsoft researchers Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell talk about a suite of programs (both created by them and new uses for old ones) designed to record everything about you.

Every email you write and receive, every phone call, every phone bill, every discussion, every conference, every image, every everything. The goal is to have what Bell calls “e-memories.”

The majority of the book is about his multi-year project in bringing this idea to life and how his life has changed because of it.

At first, I didn’t see the need to have everything you have ever said, done, or saw at your fingertips, then I realized that I already do use a version of his program.

I’ve been known to use my Gmail account as a virtual “what was I doing on x date?” thing. Back on September 20, 2004, I had recently started a new college and had just finished playing Tokimeki Memorial (in Japanese) due to a friend recommending it to me. – That’s something I just learned from looking at my early Gmail emails.

Of course, Gmail is faulty when it comes to what I did prior to August 24, 2006, as that was the day I opened my Gmail account. I still have all of my old email accounts and am able to use them in much the same way.

While reading Mr. Bell’s book, I realized just how important it is to remember things. If I saved every IM chat I ever had, every document I’ve written, every email, song, book title, movie title (the actual text/video would take up lots of room), every picture I have that isn’t already digitized, I would be able to create a “digital me” that could possibly be left behind so future generations can read my words, see what was important to me, etc. I also figured out a few things that would definitely go good in the digital me archive. All that’s left of my great-grandmother is a few pictures in an album and three paintings she made circa 1915. Odds are these won’t last forever, and even if they do, the history behind them may be lost.

By having images of them along with text describing why they are important to the family, then they would still be relevant to the family in two hundred years.

I have a pile of photos I took while in high school and on a trip I made to Detroit a few years ago that need to be digitized. I believe I will start keeping my “digital me” very soon.

I cannot recommend this book enough, even if you do not decide to go as intensive as Mr. Bell did, I am sure you will find something to cherry pick about his methods.

The book’s website.

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