Wednesday, May 12, 2010

. . . Memory Cards

This afternoon I needed to pull my headset and mic out of the box I keep gaming fear in so that I could chat with a mate while playing a game on XBox Live and I stumbled upon an old green metal tin that came with Pokemon Emerald. I paused for a moment, trying to remember why that tin was in this box? Perhaps some background is in order...

The box in question is a fairly large Rubbermaid plastic box that has a latching cover on it, and I use it to keep pretty much anything gaming related that I own that has wither (1) a cable, or (2) a foam or rubber element. The reason that these items are kept secured in this box is that my dog Calvin (a year-old Dachshund) is hell on cables and anything even remotely chewable. In the year that he has been my faithful companion he has destroyed:

  • 2 XBox 360 headset/Microphone devices
  • 6 Power cables including the ones belonging to my notebook, netbook, and iPod
  • 15 Ethernet cables
  • 2 lamp cords
  • The power cable for a surge protector
  • The cable connecting the foot pedal to my wireless drum kit for Rock Band
  • 2 wired microphones for Rock Band
  • 2 sets of drum sticks for Rock Band
  • A Wii nun-chuck
  • 3 Cell phone charger cables
  • 11 stuffed animals
Now bear in mind the above list is just the stuff I know about... I am sure that there are other items he has destroyed that I am not aware of. I fear looking under my bed, as that is his favorite place to stash the various items he "collects" and, every now and then, where he goes to chew on them - an activity that I can hear.

Anyway, back to the tin...

This green metal tin was familiar to me - I knew that there was a reason it was in that box, I just could not recall what it was. When I opened it - as often happens - the sight of its contents instantly reminded me of why it was in there! This tin contained all of my memory cards for the various game consoles that I own, including but not limited to my Nintendo Game Cube, Nintendo 64, PS1, PS2, XBox, and my Pocket PC.

These memory cards used to be a very important element in gaming. In order to save a game you needed them! Back in the days of cartridge games there was usually some sort of battery-backed on-cartridge memory for saving - but not always - though those were the bad old days. The days of memory cards came in between today and the days of cartridges, but I digress.

After careful thought I came to the realization that I had not used a memory card in at least two years and probably longer! I do not use my Wii much - that is mostly for the kids - and my 360 has a hard drive, as does my PS3. As I do not visit friends to game as much these days what with being in a wheelchair, I am more used to them visiting me - so invariably they bring their memory cards, not the other way around.

My son Peter has a memory card for his 360 - but only because it came with one, being that I had purchased an Arcade version when I bought my kids their 360 since I had my old 20GB hard drive to give them, having upgraded to the 120GB version not too long before.

All this thinking about game console memory cards dusted off a recent memory - I recalled having received a press release not too long ago that related to them, so as is often the case, my interrupt-driven mind then fixated on finding that press release - and the finding of it added something to this whole adventure.

The release was about the upgrade to the XBox 360 that added support for USB Thumb Drives. The gist of it is this: Microsoft has discontinued their memory cards! The USB based drives are the direct replacement for those - but of course in this day and age Microsoft expects that you will have a hard drive installed on your 360 anyway, so that is doubly a good reason for doing away with those comforting little devices that used to contain all of our progress for the games that we played.

Call me sentimental, but the news that these little plastic memory cards days are now numbered struck me as sad. They say that change is a constant in life, and I can see that. It is not that I need a memory card - I have several USB Thumb Drives that I carry around with me on my key chain - one that is strictly for my writing and that contains copies of every article, column, and walkthrough I have ever written, and one that is a "mixed mode" drive, containing a partition for the 360, a partition for my Linux stuff, and a partition for Windows that holds things like the installation files for OpenOffice and other software that I find indispensable.

All of that tucked away on neat little slabs of plastic, silicone, and metal. Each one of those thumb drives contains more memory space than literally all of my console memory cards combined, and yet as I gaze into this small green tin full of oddly shaped memory cards I cannot help but feel a sense of loss. Each of these cards is distinctly shaped so that you know simply at a glance what console it belongs to, whereas the thumb drives are ubiquitous and generic, lacking any real system identity.

I am not sure what it means, to miss something that I have not touched in years. Perhaps this is part of getting old. Or perhaps it is simply that I know that no matter how efficient my thumb drives are at holding my data, they will never enjoy the same association of identity to the joy of gaming that my memory cards do. This is progress...


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