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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 87 - No Leica this idea of a digital diary that takes pictures

I KEEP a diary, which is simply a record of oneís thoughts and impressions, and, like that of Miss Cecily Cardew in Oscar Wildeís play, The Importance of Being Earnest, is meant for publication. I never travel without it, because, as the honourable Gwendolen Fairfax says in the play: "One should always have something sensational to read in the train" - or nowadays, "plane".

A diary is at once a confidant, confessor and aide-memoire. It resembles a stream of consciousness, sweeping along the mundane with the meaningful, and diarists have probably existed since man first put quill pen to parchment.

One of the greatest, Samuel Pepys, racily recorded events in the seventeenth century, from Londonís great fire and plague to sly gropes at serving wenches, and unknown diarists probably had entries like, "Ende of worlde reported near so drank three botts of Madeira and fell insensible."

Snobbish, lecherous and often tipsy, James Boswell, the Scottish author, biographer of supremo lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson, wrote entertaining, frankly confessional, personally-critical but often self-admiring journal entries.

Sample: "How easily and cleverly do I write just now. I am really pleased with myself. Words come skipping to me like lambs upon Moffat Hill and I turn my periods smoothly and imperceptibly like a skilful wheelwright." Writers know that feeling and, only too well, its opposite.

As an example of his all-too-variable charm, his encounter with certain Scottish women in London reads:

"Dined at the Lord Advocateís ... Mrs Millerís abominable Glasgow tongue excruciated me. I resolved never again to dine where a Scotchwoman from the West was allowed to feed with us."

MY DIARY is as revelatory as Mother Goose but could have commercial relevance as a tranquilliser. It is full of what the English poet, Frances Cornford, described as "the long littleness of life". Here are some typical entries:

"Met Mrs Purdie who is due for her first cataract operation, second hip replacement, fourth sinus wash and is planning to go to India for a trip up the Ganges with breast enlargement and colonic irrigation thrown in."

"In the doctorís waiting room where I read a five-year-old copy of Brick News despite noise made by a child attempting to demolish the furniture. Doctor cheerful, never gets depressed at the sight of me, says I could linger on for years and prescribes new capsules in crazy colours."

"It is raining. There is a hole in my sock."

It takes dedication and discipline to keep a daily diary; some people only write entries when the mood takes them or some significant event happens such as being fined for keeping a library book overdue.

Some reject diary pages and pen for computer entries, but if a device, described as the "human black box", becomes popular, people will be able, as it were, to download their life, with startling realism, onto a computer.

MICROSOFTíS British engineers will unveil in Cambridge, next month, SenseCam, a miniature, ultra-wide-angle-lens camera that can be disguised as jewellery or a badge, but is powerful enough to retain up to 2,000 images and sound recordings of people and places encountered by the wearer, thus creating a personal digital diary.

Significant or trivial moments in peopleís lives could be recalled, showing, every 12 hours, office meetings, street encounters, arguments with traffic wardens, the place where oneís spectacles were mislaid, what little Wayne did with grannyís false-teeth-cleaning tablets and the secret, household places where menís odd socks lie.

People could share images of each otherís day - the modern equivalent of slide shows - and family archives could be created. Crimes and accidents could be recorded and oneís descendants could sit enthralled, seeing and hearing about oneís early struggles against dandruff.

Along with identity cards containing iris scans, text messages, mobile phones with cameras, CCTV, and police DNA data bases, the "black box" could add to the erosion of privacy, exposing our lives like bacilli under a microscope.

I refuse to become, effectively, a camera; "No Leica", automatically, springs to mind. I shall drop the shutters on that invention, stick to my dear, old, dated diary and continue to record the progress of my ingrowing toenail. Itís as sensational as it gets.

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