Memory and Megabytes Essay

In her story “Memory and megabytes” Ellen Ullman started by describing the image of discarded computers which the owners were wishing could be removed out of their sight as soon as possible (Ullman, 2003). These computer appeared worn out and invaluable. Their ability to operate to satisfy the owner’s anticipation was low and basically, it was hard to think of them as valuable object. Their current status made the owner forget their initial value since it could not be restored by any form of repair. They currently fail to satisfy the owners need due to destruction of some part, and loss of some important aspects and features that made them valuable in the past. Thus, it is hard to think of these machines as valuable despite of how helpful they were when they were functional.  However, despite of their lack of material value, these old computers have sentimental values due to a number of past events they are associated with and they remind the owner about. They were also very valuable while they were functional and in one way or another, they assisted the user to achieve ascertain thing in life that marked a huge mile stone in their life. They also hold valuable data in their hard disk which reminds the owner of good old days while certain events took place in life. In this regard they hold a sentimental value to their owner (Turkle, 2007).

Ullman expressed that, “it’s sometimes food to free yourself of the past, to wash off certain associations” (Ullman, 2003, p.120). This is basically necessary when the past experience was not very constructive or very good to an individual. Past experiences carry good and bad memory. They carry happy and sad moment in life. They can sometimes be associated with bitter moment whose effect last even today. When the past memories negatively influence our current life, mood, and decision, then it would be better to forget such moment and to move on. Ullman considered freeing herself from things that associated her with her ex-husband who she married for only six months when she was nineteen. These things made her remember of the bitter truth of poor decision she once made in life and how it affected her life. She would wish to clean off such memories and completely forget about that part of her life which she does not desire to remember. Basically, it is necessary to clean past memories that make one feel regret, bitterness, broken, and unworthy to be able to move one in life and to forget such incidences completely. One way to heal from the past disappointment is by eliminating all the past memories connected to these disappointments (Gundersheimer, 2011).

Human memory is weak and may fade with time. Basically, an individual ability to remember something is based on the level of concentration of an individual when the incident was happening, the duration that the incident persisted and the mental status during the time when the incident was taking place. This implies that, it is not guaranteed that a person who witnessed an incident will remember it in the future. In addition, it implies that it is possible for some details were not captured and thus, the entire incident may not be remembers vividly at it happened. The main difference between computer’s hard disk memory and human memory is that a hard disk can keep the memory for so long without losing any small detail of the content stored. Anything saved in the computer’s hard disk can be retraced just as it is without losing any detail as long as the drive was not tampered with. The computer can replace human long-term memory than a photograph can do. This is because the photograph just captures a part of the incident and not the entire thing. Moreover, a photograph is static and does not show motion and other details that would enhance remembrance (Lefcowitz, 2011). This does not make computer memory same as human memory since human memory fades with time. This is different to long-term computer memory that can last for a long time as long as the device is well stored or preserved.

Ullman reevaluated the content in her two old computers and realized they both hold vital memories, history of her career journey and all her past efforts as a writer.  The memory preserved by these machines was very vital and constructive to Ullman. Despite the fact that she felt that some memories needed to be forgotten, the information stored in these machines stood for her past efforts in writing (Ullman, 2003). The machines thus acted as a source of information just like journals or any other written material that can be used for future reading or learning. Written materials are preserved for future references and thus, just like other academic materials, Ullman considered these computers to contain similar information and value. Moreover, Ullman needed something to remind her of what she has gone through to reach where she is today in her writing career. The two machines acted as a memory of her long wake night as she tried to writer her first and second book and the proficiency she had gained with time. Therefore, they deserved to be preserved and not discarded like other old machines she had previously sported disposed as trash by their previous owners (Ullman, 2003).


Gundersheimer, W. (2011). A mother’s secret. The American Scholar, 80 (4), 72-75.
Lefcowitz, B. F. (2011). Memory and photography. Southwest Review, 96 (2), 231-239.
Turkle, S. (2007). The secret power of things we hold dear. New Scientist, 194 (2607), 50-52.

Ullman, E. (2003). Memory and megabytes. The American Scholar, 72 (4), 119-123.

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