Cleaning the Closet

When we have lulls in “real work,” we have a to do list that keeps us from getting bored. At the top of that list recently was cleaning out the equipment closet. The equipment closet is where we store an array of items required for our work. You might think, by looking in our closet, that we’re an audio-visual company. (We’re not, but video recordings are a big part of our “end product” or “deliverables.”) It contains video cameras, tripods, tons of cables, plus cargo cases to pack all of it for the road or for air travel. Though we’ve purged the closet on a semi-regular basis, it is always a flashback time for me. I hate to dispose of things we might use, mainly because I don’t want have to spend money again for something which was once useful. This time around, though, we dug a bit deeper and came up with stuff I had forgotten about. We found 5 or 6 VHS to DVD players/recorders and about as many cassette recorders. We turned up many many video amplifiers to use with co-ax signals from the VHS cameras we once used (and which have long been retired, sold, or given away). All of those items, whether they cost $20, $200 or $2,000, represent an investment in things we needed to get the job done at one time or another. They are items bought with money that might otherwise have been profits. Collectively, they represent tens of thousands of dollars expended to be able to make more money. They are the old tools used to get the job done. Unfortunately, though, those tools, unlike hammers or screwdrivers which are timeless, become obsolete. It, therefore, pains me to part with these things. Megan tells me they are old and outdated, but I have to consider, could it still be useful? Alas, for many of these items this time around, the answer is no. Maybe some of them will bring a few dollars on ebay, but mostly the “junk” will go to an electronics recycling facility. It is interesting, though, when doing something like this, to reflect on why certain things were important and how they were used. Given our 25+ years of “collecting” this stuff, it is also interesting to see how many things have changed. The equipment has changed, the processes have changed, and some changes were easier than others. Some changes necessitated lots of research time and learning time. Some lessons were easier than others. Some lessons were trial and error with steep learning curves. Some involved significant errors, and additional expenditures. But all reflect the concept of “onward and upward” as we strive to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations.

As David mentioned, we have invested many thousands of dollars on equipment since Magnus’ inception in 1993. I have many fond memories of our huge video cameras that reminded me of those used by TV camera crews. Those old cameras, when new, cost a small fortune, at least as far as I was concerned. When they became outmoded and were replaced with modern, digital video cameras, I was unimpressed by the tiny size of the new cameras. Compared to our “old faithful” video cameras, the new ones look like toys, but they are now part of our standard equipment. In the old days of Magnus, it was simple for one of our employees to copy VHS tapes in order to send the tapes of the lawyers’ presentations and mock juries’ deliberations to our clients. It was a matter of placing the tape into the copier and voilá! a copy was made that would then be shipped, via an overnight delivery service, to our clients. Nowadays, so called modern technology is slow and cumbersome. The digital images from our tiny video cameras are painstakingly downloaded, manipulated, and edited upon our return to the office following a mock jury or other research project. When ready, the videos are uploaded onto a secure, password protected, client portal that we prepare for every client’s case. What used to take hours with our old equipment now takes days. So much for modern technology! I will admit not wanting to replace any of our equipment until it is absolutely necessary. I have always been rather frugal (thanks Mom, for instilling this value in me!) and I operate with the mindset of “if it’s not broken, keep using it.” But, there have been many times when I have to authorize the purchase of computers, video cameras, and other equipment so that we can keep up with the times. When this happens, I, unlike David, am ready, even eager, to replace the old, outmoded equipment with whatever we have bought as an upgrade. I see no reason whatsoever to clog our closets, and lives, with things my staff has convinced me no longer have value. My reasoning is, if it works well enough to keep, then why did I spend my hard earned money buying something new to replace it? Why save it if we are never going to use it again? I am not emotionally invested to any of our equipment, such that, when the time comes for “out with the old and in with the new,” I am ready to move on. But I still miss those big old video cameras!

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