How a Cloud Backup Turned Into a Time Capsule for My Nana’s Life Story

How a Cloud Backup Turned Into a Time Capsule for My Nana’s Life Story

Recently my Nana passed away and in the sadness, I was able to find something quite remarkable. I found Nana in my Voice Memos.

Nana and Papa were the purpose for writing my piece on being family tech support. They knew Nana wasn’t long for this world after her cancer came back and to be fair, she put up a pretty good fight.

They wanted Papa to be as technology-capable as possible when she was no longer around (she was the tech-savvy one between them), which I was happy to provide assistance with. It was a rewarding experience for me, tasked with breaking the simplest of iPad operations down to the smallest, easiest descriptions, condensed so that somebody who didn’t know much about tech could understand.

When Nana passed, Papa reassured me that the help and advice I give him was sufficient and helpful enough, but it’s so difficult when you live four hour’s drive away.

But hey, even though tech can be daunting, confusing and not the answer to our problems, it can also do remarkable things for us, which is exactly what happened and why I’m writing this.

After my Nana passed, I remembered a project I did in university back in 2017, in which we were tasked with interviewing close family members about their lives and opinions over their lives.

This saw me recording Nana’s voice while I interviewed her for an hour, talking to her about her life, her thoughts on things and what changed over time.

A recording, you say? One that I may have saved somewhere? Maybe I still had it.

In search of Nana’s voice memos

I remembered that I used two recording devices, just in case one was on the fritz. The first was a Windows 10 laptop, a cheap little HP two-in-one I recorded on via the Audacity app. The other device was my iPhone 5S, which I had then upgraded to the 6S, 11 and 13 mini.

At the time, I also had my computer configured to upload every new document to Google Drive. This should have included the audio from this recording, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find it in my Google Drive. I felt very defeated. I then realised I had used the same phone backup across all four of those iPhones.

My search took me to the iPhone 13’s “Voice Memos” app, Apple’s native iPhone audio recording app. I scrolled for ages through the app, having not wiped recordings of anything over the past five years.

And, to my luck, there it was. A backed-up cloud version of “Nana interview”, recorded on April 14, 2017. Jackpot.

This is a testament to how good cloud and backup technology currently is. Were it not as good as this, the recording would have been lost forever. So, you know, bravo Big Tech, I guess.

Time capsule

In 2017, Nana didn’t have cancer, or at least it wasn’t noticeable in the recording (and I don’t remember it being something discussed). Nana sounds so well in this voice memo, capable of stringing perfect sentences together and making sense without her words dragging.

When I first found it, I listened to the whole recording from beginning to end. Better yet, the content was engaging, though it did include very vague and weird questions from myself when I was still a baby journalist (I was fresh out of high school and hadn’t even started my first internship).

It’s a time capsule. It’s basically a recount of Nana’s entire life, condensed into an hour-long, 24MB audio recording. It’s also infinitely replicable, meaning I could send it to whoever I want, however I want.

So what do I do with it?

The NanaPlayer

I’m not exactly approaching this with a Black Mirror-like idea for a device that plays the voices of dead people, but I am trying to figure out what the best approach is with this recording.

I want to present Papa with a device that could easily play this recording, whenever and however he wants, in the easiest way possible. I could just send him the .MP3 recording, but that’s so lazy. He mostly uses a 9th generation iPad, but he does have a Samsung Galaxy A23 smartphone. Nothing Windows, however.

I’m not sure if a dedicated playback device is going to cut it, either. I could quite easily get an MP3 player with a built-in speaker, but this seems like a lot of extra work and cost, plus it’s an extra piece of tech for him to learn to use. But perhaps the answer lies in having a dedicated app installed on one of my Papa’s devices. Not so that he could listen to Nana anywhere, but just so it’s functionally familiar to him. It’s just a matter of choosing which device and which app.

Hold onto your memos

Even when you know your loved ones have life-threatening health problems, it can be difficult to know just how much longer they have left. If you think it’s worth it and if your loved ones are comfortable with it, keeping a time capsule of their story, as told by them, is a worthwhile practice.

It filled me with happiness and I hope my story has inspired you to try something similar.

Also, go through your cloud backups. You might find something remarkable.

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