Friday, January 14, 2011

Passing of an era

line drawing of a chunky computer monitorToday I deleted all my personal files from a computer I've had for some sixteen years and got it ready for Craig's List or donation. I've switched computers plenty of times through the years, but this was the only one that ever made me feel misty, and I even put off shutting it down for the last time.

It's not that I've had it pretty much as long as I've had The Internet (!!), or that I got it to write my Ph.D. thesis on (heh), or anything specific about the magic of the Mac Performa 5200 itself. Definitely part of it is that I started, grew, and finally passed on a publishing business conducted entirely on that system, a creative endeavor that I've gotten a bit distant from in the throes of parenthood. But even more, this was my last computer before a wave of technology cut me off, before USB ports made my peripherals obsolete and, even more, Apple's switch to a Unix base meant that my software and files couldn't be transferred to new machines. That means that for the first time I'm watching a large segment of my work and invested time get filed away in an essentially unreachable form -- there are Zip disks full of journal layouts, essays I wrote and correspondence I wanted to keep, scans and images and Christmas letters and who-knows-what that are now in practice paperweights.

I printed out some Supplement books for the new Acorn editor, in case she ever wants to republish any of them. I made sure I had clean copies of my two most important haiku theory essays. I played an ungodly number of games of that 1987 original Russian Tetris that has followed me to every computer since my very first (and that saw me through long stretches of 20-something angst and busy head). And then I shut it down and unplugged it. And moved on to other things.

3 comments:

Dan Wilcox said...

it's only a fountain pen you've replaced with a Bic. How many adolescent notebooks did you lose when you left home?
DWx

ACM said...

I'm still able to read any of those notebooks that I wish, if I want to keep them -- the few worth keeping are still in English, in my handwriting, legible. The same is not true for those files. But it may well be true that the majority of such stuff ends up in the trash when it's hardcopy and taking up shelves, whereas somehow we feel that digital copies are worth hanging onto since so many can fit on one disk. heck, I might feel different about the whole thing if just Tetris would still run on my new computer, heh.

ACM said...

You know, still a little peeved by that comment a week later. I reject the analogy and offer a different one: a fire that burned out my basement. Upstairs, fine -- everything I need for daily life is untouched. In the basement, a mix of losses: (1) some stuff I should have gotten rid of anyway -- high school memorabilia, junk I might never use again. (2) some beloved and maybe valuable things -- souvenirs from trips, maybe, or heirloom china that used to come out every Christmas. (3) an entire stocked tool and workbench, that used to get a ton of use but had grown dusty waiting for a renewal of interest -- rebuilding this would cost a fortune, so I probably won't do it (goodbye, Pagemaker and Illustrator!), but I miss the easy utility of the most ordinary tools and the inherent promise of the exotic ones that I could easily have brought to hand. That's a lost history and a lost set of abilities, and I had no say in the destruction, only the choice between rebuilding or moving on...