This Is The Modern World

October 4th, 2004 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

We’re starting to think we don’t have any secrets left. This because we’re about to scrape the bottom of the Booksquare-secret barrel. Yes, we once had a (intellectual) crush on Robert X. Cringely. We think the infatuation was with the original Cringely, but we cannot be sure. All we know is we used to snatch copies of InfoWorld from the husband’s hands…oh no, the husband is currently lecturing, he’s waving his hands and acting all emphatic. We fell in love with the imposter. Damn. Something about personas and stealing and such…

Which means we had a great lead and now it’s pointless. One hopes the rest of this post doesn’t fall victim to the same forces that ruined our intro.

What is real, anyway? Besides, this is all about two paragraphs and our apocryphal approach to life. You, faithful reader and serious writer, need to meditate upon the words of what we are told is the original Cringely (we’re not going to bother working up a crush because we have so many things to accomplish in this life, and, frankly, one computer geek is enough).

Twenty-five years ago [editor note: ignore timeframe; this is a modern, fresh story], I wrote a book using as my word processor a line editor running on an IBM 370/168 mainframe. It was the only computer I had then, so what the heck. Working late one night on my ADM3a dumb terminal, connected to the mainframe over a 300 baud dial-up connection, I pushed the wrong key and sent 8,000 lines — almost 100,000 words — into oblivion. It was one of those moments of instant clarity where the accompanying blast of adrenaline seemed to slow time to a crawl. My finger was still on the key when I realized what I’d done. I wondered if I just kept my finger on the key, pressing down, whether I could keep the command from being executed? Of course not. So I hustled across campus to beg someone to recover my file from a backup tape. And while the backup tape existed (or so they said) it was apparently unreadable. My book was gone, and I’d have to start over.

It could have been worse. Lawrence of Arabia left the hand-written manuscript of his book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, on a railway platform in London, losing forever 350,000 words that he subsequently wrote again from scratch. At least I had a variety of printouts to scavenge. But the lesson about saving and backing-up was learned forever, reinforced by several hundred hours of work that mistake added to my project.

We can promise you that we practice safe computing. And we’ve fallen victim to defective hard drives and dodgy backup processes. Not to mention that most human of flaws: laziness. But we’ve never lost a word of a manuscript that didn’t deserve to be lost (but maybe an email or two from someone we wanted to dodge was, uh, corrupted). We’re the place people in certain weather-prone states (Oklahoma) send their work for safekeeping.

We’re going to be honest: if you lose your Opus Brilliance, we do not feel sorry for you. We feel sad, but not sorry. Back up. There is no excuse. Trust us — we’ve already tried them all.

File Under: Tools and Craft

2 responses so far ↓

  • Susan Gable // Oct 5, 2004 at 5:06 am

    I love my flashdrive for backing up. Thank goodness the techno-geeks (and I say that lovingly, since my dh is one) are always coming up with something new and improved for us to use to back-up our books.

  • Kate Rothwell // Oct 5, 2004 at 7:20 am

    When I can’t find the cute little flash stick, I do it the Lazy Person’s way using the huge email space available on my server. I send myself my latest versions of stories every day or so. I use an address I rarely check, so I figure the stories can just float around in hyperspace until I check my mail.