I just had the strangely odd pleasure of resurrecting an old computer of mine, an HP Pavilion N5470, so my Dad can use it when he begins to travel internationally again beginning next year. Apparently, the last anyone ever used this computer was at some point in mid 2004. The most pleasing aspect of this activity is that, in many ways, it is the closest I have come genuinely to travel back into the past, as I opened the lid and there before me was my old desktop, much as I had left it then.
As casual click on the My Documents folder revealed folders whose existence I had long forgotten. Indeed, there were old photos I had taken that brought back many memories, such as a cherished one that merely recorded the state of my desk after I had completed my paper for my master’s degree. In other places, there were amusing jpegs that I had pulled from some site or another (most of them probably originating from Fark.com). For a few moments, I felt a couple of years younger, and full of the optimism concerning the academic life that filled me after completing that paper.
Perhaps this is a silly idea, but I think it would be a good idea, in this age of technology the preserve the hard drives from the personal computers of famous individuals after their deaths. In an age in which the standard historical primary sources such as journals are becoming ever more scarce, such an action would preserve the life–and indeed, something of the mind–of the historical significant for ages to come in a way that perhaps even the old journals cannot.