My back-up hard drive stopped working today. It won’t turn on, and I don’t know yet if the data on it was lost. Naturally, it’s a back-up hard drive, so anything important on it is also somewhere else. But that’s not the point.
The point is that I feel lost.
This was supposed to be the little box where my photos from Paris and my journal entries from the university years are safe, even if (ok, probably when) my beloved laptop gives up on me. And then the back-up died first. That which was supposed to keep me safe, turned out to be weak.
When I was a little girl, my dad showed me a picture book about what happened to people who didn’t back up their files. They were eaten by monsters.
This was probably not a children’s story, but a brochure designed to sell back-up software. I still grew up to be something of a digital hoarder. I once saved a text message for three years, transferring it from phone to phone. My digital music collection is obsessively organized, even though I usually just use Spotify. When a friend dropped his laptop on the floor, I asked him: "You had back-up right?" He told me that was the worst possible thing to say, and I felt quilty about if for weeks.
Now this loss, mere months after losing my RSS archive Bloglines, has made me paranoid. Are our files never safe? Between the cloud, where I am at the mercy of companies located on the other side of the world, and local storage, where technology just randomly dies, should I just learn to live archiveless? It’s not like I want a physical archive.
And what if my laptop chooses this week to break down for ever?
If I were suddenly without files, would I be ok?
All the decent Paris photos are on Facebook. My best writing is published or e-mailed to someone. Most of my music is available either on Spotify or on some torrent site. I would mourn some of my favorite photographs and a few specific journal entries and writing experiments. And when the sheer inconvenience and missed deadlines blew over, I would be fine.
When I looked through the journal entries just two days ago, I found old documents that I have deleted from their original place on my laptop. Forgotten details of events that made such an impact on me that I wrote short story-ish accounts of them. Texts I liked enough to cut and paste from other blogs. Collages of party photos. Digital memories.
I don’t need them, but I’m glad I looked through them. And just like I want to be able to read my journals from grade school (those notebooks are in a cardboard box in my parents’ attic), I want to be able to read today’s unbloggable personal writing ten years from now. Call me a hoarder, but at least I mainly hoard words.
So developers who want to make something upscale and sophisticated: Don’t make me an app. I want the digital file version of those super secret bank vaults where they store treasure in the movies. I want to be able to tell someone: guard these files for generations; my great-great-grandchildren should be able to look at these photos and read these words.