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Why I Started eCapsule

After retiring from a career in the Air Force, I looked forward to learning more about my family history. I decided to focus on great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents. These three generations were most important in creating the conditions for my life. Unfortunately, after discovering all the available information, many of my curiosities went unsatisfied.

I then decided I should document my life story. I wrote a narrative and looked at what to include among my thousands of documents, photographs and videos. It became apparent that including too many would be tedious and force the reader to sort through and find meaningful content. Selecting the most relevant items, around 75 documents, 200 photographs, and 3 videos, would be more helpful and fit nicely into one gigabyte of computer memory.

Next, I learned how fragile digital media is. I was told the memory chips in my phone, computer, and thumb drives will deteriorate in a generation or so; and cloud storage is only retained if someone is paying the fees. Thus, my documents, photographs, and videos could disappear after I am gone. Without a way to preserve these files, my descendants could lack answers to the same questions left unanswered about my ancestors.

I also noted the popularity of time capsules. Why not a digital version? The concept is easy to understand and likely to create interest and excitement if the digital version remains “unopened” until some future date.

A Retirement Project

Your eCapsule

You have lived a successful life and are now enjoying the retirement dream. However, you want to stay productive by engaging in meaningful activity. Consider capturing your life story in an electronic time capsule.

Ancestry interests you and learning about your roots has helped understand who you are. You wish you knew more about your ancestors but too much has been lost to history.

Though not necessarily a famous person, you realize your descendants may have the same interest in you. You understand we are moving to digital media and much of your information is at risk because computer memory is perishable in just a few years, and cloud services will erase your files once you stop paying. Future generations could have the same unanswered questions about you.

However, it need not be this way. Create a digital time capsule containing information that tells your life story.

In the process, you may discover something else…creating a capsule will cause you to reflect on your years. You will recall what was important, meaningful, and fortunate or unfortunate; your family; career; significant relationships; and your successes and regrets. This introspection can be rewarding because memories at risk of perishing will be recovered. Photos and documents bring back satisfying thoughts that are otherwise fading away.

Process of eCapsule

Start with a folder on your computer titled, Name, Birth Date and State. My capsule is Clay John Leslie 11-26-1948 UT. This exact format is important because future generations will be able to easily recognize or search for it.

Next, populate the digital folder with documents, photos, and a few videos of potential interest to descendants and researchers. Find the right balance—include items of future interest but do not empty your computer into the capsule. Limit it to one gigabyte (GB).One GB is sufficient; more is not better. My GB of information contains a total of 300 documents, photos, and videos, easily enough to document my life story.

You can make your capsule as simple or elaborate as you wish. You could load files in no particular order. This approach still provides a wealth of information and search functions will help your descendants answer their questions about you.

Or, if you have the time and interest, a thoughtful, organized, and creative presentation of your life story will be appreciated and admired. Tell it in an interesting and descriptive way. No hurry—add a little bit every day and polish the product.

Your story is worth knowing too.

John L. Clay

“I have created my own eCapsule, less than one gigabyte of course. I am encouraging others to do the same and then, until a preservation service is created, ask family and friends to ensure their capsules survive. Concurrently, I am actively searching for a company to provide the services listed above. I am convinced that many among the 70 million American retirees also have a desire to document and preserve their life stories.”