Our iMac has a pretty useless program called Photobooth. This program essentially allows users to play with the built in iSight camera. It has no other purpose. When someone opens Photobooth, a little window appears, and the mug of whomever is sitting in front of the computer appears in the little window which allows the user to take pictures or videos of themselves. The user can add effects to the picture and video footage. After the picture or video is captured, the iMac saves the moment in a “roll” and gives you an option of either emailing it to someone, or adding it to iPhoto. That’s pretty much it.
My wife and I have found very little use for this thing over the four plus years we’ve had this computer. The first string of pictures on the roll are of me sitting down with a very young version of my son, and cheesing it up for a few pictures to email to Mommy at work. It kind of ended there for me.
But my son has never forgotten it.
My keyboard is password protected (tiny fingers are dangerous to computers filled with work info) but every once and awhile, my son sneaks into the back before the auto lock engages (3 minutes of non-use.)
Over the course of the past few years, my son has nearly singlehandedly amassed 261 videos or pictures of himself. The other night, he left it open after fiddling with it for awhile, and my wife and I began looking through the photo roll. It was pretty astonishing. What this useless application has been doing (with my sons help) is collecting an accidental archive of the various stages of my son’s life and development. The first few images he snapped on his own are wonderful little bits of nothing; maybe a curious forehead and a tuft of curly blond hair just jutting into the bottom corner of the frame. Separately, the images themselves are pretty unremarkable, but viewed as a whole, they begin to take on a different significance. But over the course of these 200 + images, we can, essentially, witness him grow and change in a series of snapshots all photographed from the same angle , in more or less the same light, with the same background. The only thing different in each picture is the boy sitting in front of it.
In the most recent end of the roll, he begins to focus almost exclusively on capturing himself on video. And these videos are essentially a record of private moments of almost blissful goofiness. Sitting alone, in front of the computer, no one watching him, my son goes on these nonsensical little flights of fancy that only a completely uninhibited five year old could come up with. Many of the videos are little expressions of nonsense sounds and funny faces, and lately, he’s taken up improv in the form of song. Some of these little ditties are about superheroes, or Harry Potter or whatever and some of them are about absolutely nothing at all.
In the next week or so, we are going to get a new iMac and the newer iMacs dumped Photobooth a long time ago. I don’t know how I am going to save the roll he has collected inside this program. Just sending a bunch of them to iPhoto doesn’t have the same affect of seeing them uninterrupted, in chronological order inside the Photobooth. Maybe Apple knew what they were doing when they put this thing on the iMac . . . but I doubt it. More likely, the irreplaceable roll that has appeared inside this otherwise useless application is simply a magically random example of the potentially powerful symbiosis of personality and technology. Either way, this useless little application has suddenly become an indispensable record of the passage of time, and of the growth of a child.