Sunday, March 17, 2013

Print it out!

Elated to find a flash drive a few days ago tucked into a drawer, which contains files of some prose pieces I had never printed out and now thought were lost. But the elation was dashed when I plugged the flash drive into my MacBook and clicked on the files:

(filename) uses a file type that is blocked from opening in this version

Undaunted, I opened Microsoft Word (2011) and clicked on the filenames there. Once opened, the documents appeared like this, all across the page, row after row:

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

I thought all my pieces were all lost—at least everything I wrote pre-2007 that wasn't already on paper. Then, desperate and willing to try anything, I plugged in my old iBook, which I have never had the heart to throw away, despite its appearing to be in the throes of death the last time I plugged it in. Miraculously, at least for the time being, the iBook had healed itself. The screen was clear and visible, no keys were stuck—and, best of all, it opened up the old MS Word files without complaint. It was simply the difference between .doc and .docx—.docx, the newest version of MS Word, no longer cares to open up anything from five years past.

I opened up each file and saved it as a newer version of MS Word (able on the iBook only to take them up to .doc) and then printed them all out, page after page, until I had used up most of a printer cartridge. Sure it's pricey and maybe frivolous to print out pages of things I may yet toss. Yet the alternative is, well, nothingness.

I thought the flash drive would save everything, even if my computer died. And, these days, I rely a lot on Dropbox. But neither backup addresses the problem of evolving technology. Something saved today may not be accessible in ten or even five years.

And so my advice to anyone who writes and might want to read it tomorrow or ten years later is to PRINT IT OUT!

The question, of course, then becomes what to do with all these papers, something I haven't begun to fully answer yet...

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