27 Jan How the Cat Crashed My Computer

You know how cats like to wend their way in and out of your legs, then lean-slide themselves against the nearest solid object, be it a wall or table leg or your computer, which happens to be sitting on the floor? Simon, our fat tabby, kept doing this under my desk. As he passed, he’d get caught on one of my USB cords and yank it out of the computer port. That cord was attached to my external hard drive. I had been working fast and furiously on a revision of a book and everything was on the external hard drive, which I considered my safest medium. I hadn’t backed it up. My fault.

Simon kept pulling out the USB cord when I wasn’t looking. He did it five times in two days. I got pissed off and yelled at him. “Can’t you see I’m working here?” Every time he yanked out the USB cord, my computer screen showed the external hard drive rebooting. I had saved everything—nothing was simply sitting in RAM (random access memory is the computer’s temporary memory, which empties each time you turn it off). But I checked just to make sure. Enough of this, I said to myself, you’d better back up onto other drives.

But I was too late. Apparently, the computer doesn’t save everything when it says it has. Sometimes it waits until you’re about to exit, then it will make a fast save. Also, if you keep disconnecting its communication with an external device, it gets confused and loses track of what belongs where. So I lost everything I had been working on — three weeks of work.

I was depressed for a few days. And angry at Simon. But Simon was just doing what cats do. It could have been worse. You’ve heard the stories. Thackery lost one of his books when his maid threw it into the fire, thinking it was tinder. When writers lose work like this, they believe that they’ll never get back the magic they created in that first go-round. But it’s possible too that, if they have to write it again, they may do better. Mind you, I do have the first draft, just not the revision (which I thought very good).

We who have spent half our lives without computers remember how it was before — how much safer it was. Slower too. Although I am thoroughly technologized, I am not convinced that computers have been as much a help as a hindrance. I know, we can’t live without them. And, yeah, I’d be the first to admit that they do really cool things. Still, I spend an ungodly amount of time upgrading, converting, scanning, and de-bugging,

The scam of the computer industry is the perennial outdating/upgrading of software. I was perfectly happy with Word Perfect – which I think was perfect five years ago – but I succumbed finally to the tyranny of Microsoft Word because it seemed more convenient. And now my machines are always prompting me: “automatic updates available, ready to upload?” or, worse, “automatic updates installed — restart computer now or later?” There’s no choice. Sure, I can turn off the updates but I’m only stalling; they will not be denied.

Now it looks like I’ll have to upgrade from Word 2003 to 2007. I see nothing worthier about 2007, but it will get to the point when nobody will read Word 2003 any more. I’m still hanging onto my XP operating system. Microsoft’s Vista won’t be good for another three years, I figure. What I have to do is convert to Mac. But I have so many files in so many places, it would take me a few months to make all the necessary conversions, crossovers, and double-checks. And all the while I’ll be thinking, what good work could I be doing right now instead of this?