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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'd like to comment on a letter from the president of a large photo company. Even the great yellow father, Kodak, now makes digital cameras and programs to print them on one's own computer.

Any picture taken with the most expensive digital or automatic camera, down to the homemade Boy Scout cardboard camera, is a photograph.

Any color photograph will in time fade if left in sunlight or fluorescent light.

The ink in computer printers is heated to a high temperature before being blasted onto the receiving paper. The photos are being developed as high-tech as possible, and, as yet, have not been able to pass the test of time.

With the digital camera, a photograph can be taken, and in a matter of minutes be sent by e-mail to all parts of the world.

If anyone doubts the statements I have made, they can be verified with Kodak or Fuji films or Canon or Hewlett Packard. -- JOHN R. BURNS JR., CHESAPEAKE, VA.

DEAR JOHN: I received more than a few letters from individuals who thought that the letter I printed was biased -- and attempting to promote a business that is threatened by digital technology. I did not regard it that way, and printed it because I thought it would help people protect their photographic images.

DEAR ABBY: Mr. Robertson, the president of 1-Hour Photo Corp., made a very good point about backing up priceless family images with film negatives. What he neglected to say was that color prints, even properly stored, have a life expectancy far less than that of one human generation.

The solution? Black and white, of course. Black-and-white images, when printed on high-quality black-and-white photographic paper and developed properly, should last approximately 200 years. But I must caution your readers: Do not be taken in by processors who would tell you, "Black and white is black and white." Not so! Some developers are now printing black-and-white images on color photographic paper. Those images will fade as quickly as if they were printed from a color negative.

Of course, you should shoot the colorful balloons at your baby's first birthday party in color. But please take some black-and-white pictures, too. In a few years, the frosting on the birthday cake is going to look moldy in those color prints. When you must use color, nothing can beat slides. Prints can be made from them for albums, but the brilliantly projected image on a screen can't compare with passing around a 4-by-6-inch piece of paper.

"Monochrome" images can be oil-tinted, sepia-toned or left alone. But one thing is for sure: No matter the race of your family, the faces of your grandparents will never turn green or purple if they are preserved in black-and-white. -- DENNIS C. HUNT, FRESNO, CALIF.

DEAR DENNIS: I'm sure many readers will be as surprised as I was to know that color prints have such a short "shelf life" -- and that they must be so specific about the kind of paper they want black-and-white pictures printed on. Thank you for the input.

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