Sometime early this morning, my computer updated and rebooted itself, normally pretty much a non-event. This time, however, my personal organizer program suffered some sort of glitch and reopened with an empty file. My data file had not only failed to load, it had vanished.
My digital calendar is not particularly crowded. A couple of recurring monthly meetings, a few birthdays, holidays, a few future appointments. But the same program (an inexpensive but very useful piece of software called C-Organizer Professional) also holds my address book and all my passwords. The thought of redoing all that was not attractive.
Fortunately C-Organizer also nudges its user to back up fairly often. When I hit back up on the menu, however, a small box opened and asked me for the name of the back up file. Huh? I’m supposed to know that? Mind you, it’s 7 AM, and dark out. I haven’t been up all that long, and I have to go to work. Not the best conditions for computer experiments, but I am constitutionally incapable of letting something like that go.
Doesn’t it look like it’s asking for a file name? I hunted around my hard drive and my back up drive (yes, I do have an automatic back up program running, along with scattered flash drives), and I found the organizer back up files, but trying to enter a file name didn’t work. After ten minutes or so I gave up and, just for the hell of it, hit the “OK” button. And up popped the whole list of back up files. I clicked on the one from two weeks ago, it loaded with no problems, and I had all my information back, undamaged.
Somewhere I do have printouts of both the address book and the password list, and I’m going to make sure they’re up-to-date. I’ve been working on computers for nearly thirty years now, and I still need paper copies of the important files: manuscripts, tax files, receipts. I edit on paper. At the Scorekeeper we do most of our work on computers–then we print the results and store the reports in our tightly-packed filing cabinets. What was all that talk years ago about the paperless office?
It isn’t just computer files that seem perishable. My Kindle is a technological marvel, containing well over a hundred books, but e-reading is just not the same as holding a book in my hands. I know books can be lost, burned, torn, destroyed in a dozen ways, but they remain permanent, self powered, in a way computer files (or those floppy disks in my attic) are not.
I returned from a weekend trip not long ago to discover that my DVR had ceased to record. The hard drive hasn’t crashed–the box still supports the TV, and the stored programs still play. This may be a message from the universe, telling me that I should be writing and reading rather than watching recorded programs. One of these days I’ll have Comcast replace it. And when I do, I’ll lose the old movies I’ve recorded on it, because they are only computer files. Even old VCR tapes are more permanent.
When I trade that DVR for one that works, where will I find another copy of Johnny Guitar, possibly the strangest Western ever made?