Recorded history divides naturally into eras that can be defined by how the recording happened. For millennia memory was alone. Memory was made redundant (or at least optional) by writing, later supplemented by illustration. Illustration became cheaper and more available with engraving.
Then, barely two hundred years ago, came photography. We have seen the participants in, for example, the Crimean War just as they saw each other. By the end of the 19th century came the movie; we are fully acquainted with the (rather jerky) movements of our forebears. Then speed becomes the essence of communication: in increasingly rapid succession we have the Telex and its relatives, then move on to the fax machine.
If I/we thought the fax was a lasting record of our communications we were wrong. I I have just been sorting and filing my correspondence of 50-odd years. I had to be drastic. I read or skimmed everything I had filed over the half-century, bent on keeping 20% at most. When I came to the fax years, though, there were no decisions to take: the pages were faded to blankness; nothing was left.
So many of us had abandoned pen and paper already when the email arrived. With it the succeeding eras of communication reached a precipice. Most of what passes between us now whizzes off into the ether…. What is it? Where is it? Is there any permanent record at all, anywhere, of the thoughts and messages that link most of us today?