Saturday, October 15, 2022

Left to Our Own Devices

When I was planning out my upcoming blog post early in the week, I had no intention of blogging about computers or smartphones or anything related to technology. And then, mid-week, as I was getting ready to go to work, I logged onto my computer to look at my class-notes, as I have done hundreds of times, but this time, I found... nothing. In fact, my documents weren't where they had always been-- where they had been just a few hours ago, in fact. So, I tried to get into my email program, but once again... nothing. In fact, the program didn't recognize me at all. It said I had no account and needed to create one.

The computer itself was working-- I could get onto the internet and search for a website with no problem, although my bookmarked sites were gone too, and so were my various saved passwords. Losing all those passwords was unexpected. (Yes, I had written them down, to be on the safe side, because who can remember all of them? I've got a good memory but I've also got a lot of different passwords!!!) Meanwhile, far worse than the sudden annoyance of having to log into every site I normally went to was the fact that all of the work I had stored on my desktop for years was no longer there, and I didn't know why.

Evidently, there had been some kind of major crash (I had no idea what caused it, or when it happened), but nothing was where it had been before. I could still access some things from my phone or my tablet, but the majority of my work, and all of my research, was stored on my desktop computer, and something was wrong with it. Terribly wrong. I have a program that backs up all of my files, but there were a lot of them and I needed some of those files before I went to work. That wasn't going to happen.

It's amazing the things you take for granted. I grew up in the era before the internet and computers, and I was a late adopter-- I didn't get onto social media till 2008-2009, and frankly, to this day, I'd rather talk to folks in person or chat by phone rather than email or text messaging. But I understand that the world has changed, and it's in my best interest to access the online world. Plus it has some very real benefits: I've found so many wonderful old magazines and newspapers have been digitized, making my research as a media historian much easier. And thanks to Zoom, I can chat with people from all over the world, in real time. As someone who grew up in an era when doing such things only took place in science fiction, it's great to be able to actually do them now.

Until it's impossible. Until the stuff you got accustomed to accessing with the touch of a button suddenly vanishes. That is really disconcerting, especially when you're not sure whether it can all be found again. (I have some files that go back to my very first year online-- 1996.) Believe me, I understand that a computer crash is not the biggest problem in the world, and people are going through far worse things. But at the time, all I could think of was what would I do if I had no access to nearly thirty years worth of correspondence, syllabi, articles, research, rare photos, and more. Fortunately for me, my husband repairs computers for a living, but even with his expertise, it still took several days to find and/or recover what went missing. As for what caused the crash, that's still uncertain (my husband thinks an automatic update went wrong, but who knows?). 

And now, as things are (sort of) back to normal, I'm struck by how dependent on the internet and social media I've become. It's something I didn't want to admit: after all, I tried my best to resist it for as long as I could. Perhaps something like this has happened to you, and if it has, I wonder if you too felt as frustrated and helpless as I did-- confronting the necessity of doing without something you didn't realize mattered so much... until it was no longer there.


  1. Hi Donna always Back up and have another Device to sync up to best wishes Paul

  2. I highly recommend constant, automatic backup/sync and Microsoft 365 is the easiest. Properly configured, it will backup your desktop documents and pictures. You just have to remember to keep all your important things in those folders period of of course you do have to enable OneDrive to make it sync automatically.

  3. Went through a similar situation. What I did was set up a NAS drive that copies everything, on any divice i use, to this drive. Anywhere in the world. It has saved me from a few catastrophes.