Nothing like a computer crisis to bring up deep philosophical questions: am I too dependent on technology? How did I ever function without a computer? Why didn’t I take my computer in to the repair shop when I kept seeing the spinning wheel of death? How come I always wait until too late? How crazy is it that I can’t even look at photographs without my computer? And mostly ... why didn’t I back everything up?
It could have been worse. During spring semester last year, one of my students had a similar computer crisis. LooksLikeHanson opened his computer that morning, and it had simply died. He lost everything. The story filled me with horror. “I’ve got twenty years of writing on my hard drive,” I told my students. “And all my teaching stuff – syllabi, assignments, reports.” Sure, I’d backed up some stuff on CDs but I didn’t do that very often because it was a hassle.
Following the advice of my students, I went out that week and bought an external hard drive. So when my computer died last week, most of my text files were backed up. When I checked, I’d last backed up my manuscript at the end of March, which meant I’d only lose about a week’s worth of work.
But I’ve also taken photographs every day for more than two years. And they weren’t backed up. There’s so many of them, and the files are so big, that I simply didn’t bother. I’m a writer, not a photographer, so I figured it wouldn’t matter if I lost all my photographs. They are snapshots, mostly, not serious photography. Some are saved on the internet – the photos I post to my Flickr account, for example, or the ones that I post to Kodak.com for family members to see. And I’ve printed out photos of my kids. But still.
When Tech Guy from the local computer repair shop called me back, he didn’t even try to convince me that I should pay him all kinds of money to fix my laptop. He said, simply, “You need to buy a new computer.”
But then he told me the good news: we could probably recover all the data from the hard drive.
And we did. So now I’m back online, with a MacBook that has a special program that automatically backs up my data to my wireless external hard drive whenever I’m at home. I’ve had to re-install many of my applications and hunt through my journal to find passwords for stuff I did years ago, but most of my data survived the Computer Crisis of 2009. Reunited with all my photographs, I spent a happy 24 hours sorting them into categories with the updated iPhoto program. My old computer was so slow that looking at photos was almost painful. On the new computer, I just click and they appear. And they look so much nicer on my new screen that has no weird spots or faded areas on it.
Yeah, the harsh reality will be the bill that will come at the end of the month, but still … I have a shiny new computer! And that's a happy ending.