A few weeks back—context is always important—I mentioned how a storage drive slipped off my sleek laptop and went insane. That is to say, it stopped working. Unfortunately at the time it was the only backup method I was using. And since my laptop forced me to move a huge amount of data so that it could do its regular updates, all my vegan eggs were in one basket. (I feel like a bit player in this drama sometimes—it’s really the tech people who are in charge.) There were literally years’ and years’ worth of data on that slipped disc. Since then I’ve purchased two back-up drives and I’m backing up onto older discs and drives that are still readable. It cost more than I care to confess to recover most of the data. Some of it is gone forever.
Although I can’t go into all the details here, the data recovery company I used—shout out to Tri-State Data Recovery—was able to recover about 99 percent of the information. They were kind enough to suggest very solid-looking data backup systems so that a slipped disc could never happen again. This all sent me back to my roots as an ancient West Asia scholar. Scribes whose data still exists 4000 years later, simply got clay for free from the river. The first writing material was the best. I’ve quadruple backed up my recovered files now. I’ve mourned some of the missing. Still, I realize that if anything goes wrong I haven’t the technical skill to recover my ideas. Or my photos. They’re mere electrons.
I want to save trees. I try to print only what’s necessary, but incidents like this reinforce my love of print. Paper has its problems too. Three years ago, when we moved into this house, torrential rains destroyed a couple hundred books in the garage waiting to be brought into the house. Data were destroyed. Granted, a flood can destroy clay tablets too. In fact, if nature sets her mind to destruction there’s pretty much nothing we can do. Just ask the dinosaurs. Still, it disturbs me that all our data are so terribly fragile. I write things down to be creative, but also because I can’t remember everything I want to. If a drive falls off a slippery laptop not only does it make a sound, it also puts a dent in your bank account. Down at the river bank, however, there’s clay free for the taking.