Written by Mark Kemball

I am not a techie, but my family will tell you that I am addicted to my smartphone. I hear tales of parents who restrict their childrens’ screen time. In our house, it is my teenage daughter who confiscates my phone at mealtimes.

Of all the things that my phone does, I am most amazed by its camera. Its tiny dimensions and pin head lens belie its extraordinary clarity, wide zoom and flexible light balancing ability. I have shots in my photo roll that look as if they were produced on a full SLR.

So why am I so attracted to apps that go out of their way to mask this amazing technology?

I have a couple that fudge that wonderful focus. They add toxic color casts to grubby up my perfect little images. There’s even one that renders sharp, clear videos into flickery 8mm-style footage. Honest. You can see how it works in two videos I created with my phone.

Here’s the original version:


And here’s that same video, with a filter:


I know I am not alone. Millions are re-embracing media technologies we discarded twenty, thirty, forty years ago. How come they once again have value in today’s high-tech world?

My best answer so far is an important word to alumni relations programs. Nostalgia.

Years at university represent an extended period of hard work, hard play and the most concentrated period of personal growth and development. Naturally they are happily revisited as a staple of reunions and alumni magazines.

I wonder, however, if there isn’t a little more to it?

OHSU is a science-based institution. It stimulates inquiry to improve the health of people in Oregon and beyond. Labs, clinics and classrooms hum with the daily effort to push the boundaries of knowledge and translate that effort into better care for the patient.

Yes, it is exhilarating to hurtle forward and challenge our knowledge and experience in the cause of progress. But it is also scary, occasionally depressing and confusing, sometimes lonely.

During those times the reassurance of being anchored by our past secures our route to the future. The app that turns high tech into something we are familiar with also helps us mitigate the warp speed of evolving technology

Nostalgia was always a largely irrelevant luxury for me. Now, the many ways I can use my smartphone teach me that touching base with the past can help me better navigate the future.  I do plan to do more research–just as soon as I can get my phone back from my daughter.


Mark Kemball and the alumni relations team are proud to count almost 34,000 dentists, nurses, physicians, researchers, technicians and other health professionals as OHSU alumni. The team strives to keep them all connected with the university, with its students and with each other.

You can also follow Mark on Twitter.