Wednesday, May 16, 2007


This is something I had first thought about a long, long time ago. Around seven years ago, to be somewhat precise. It was the time I had to say bye to my first computer. I feared all the data I had on it would be lost to me: pictures (mostly of actors or cricketers – not personal – these were the days before digital cameras, though I had some scanned pictures, maybe), silly PowerPoint presentations and Paintbrush files, some hard-to-get-quirky music, and most importantly, those games! (How ever was I going to get them back?). But when the computer guy came home, I discovered how simple it was to effect a hard-disk-to-hard-disk transfer and I was comforted. However, I found that stuff never that exciting once I settled down with my new computer. New passions, new games, new OS, bigger hard-disks and a new feel to the computer led me to forget most of what I had wanted to preserve so desperately! “Life is short, and mental space finite.”*

But I always look back with fondness at those days I spent with our first computer at home… That does make me sound as if I really love my computers! But let me add, I have hated all my computers, every single one of them, at one time or the other. They have frustrated me with their slowness and their crankiness… the one I am on now is doing that too. Computers can be really cranky: ever known one that worked well when one person used it, but invariably “hanged” when someone else tried it? Ever known computers to work in the morning but fail in the evening? I have known a few like that and some even more eccentric. With a computer, anything is possible: internet connections don’t work, games don’t start because ‘dll’s’ are missing, software programs don’t run, movies and music refuse to play… Murphy’s laws must have been proved billions of times over. Ever heard the one about the girl who wanted to write the most powerful stuff known to mankind? She wanted to make people laugh, cry, wring their hands in despair, tear their hair apart, or dance in madness… and she did it! She got a job with Microsoft, and spent all her time writing error messages.

The worst feeling ever, though, has to be when your hard-disk crashes. Emotion, creation, pictures, music, movies, masti, everything… vanish into thin air. Or at least tens of GB containing them do. Makes me wonder: how ever did man come up with electronic storage? It’s a thin line connecting us to a world, a world which will disappear when that thin line disappears. So much stuff in one disk or drive having the capability to make your day, to break your day or just to make sure you can do exactly those mundane things that you do everyday (or ensuring that the poetry of everyday life flows on, whichever way you see it!). Now of course, this is not limited to the desktop or laptop. Devices of infinite variety are part of our work, contain many of our memories, define our personae and rule our lives. All my SMS’s I had preserved with love disappeared from my phone suddenly. My friend was too heartbroken to work for a day after her iPOD containing a careful selection of music crashed. Another one keeps having a near heart-attack whenever ‘the fatal blue-screen’ pops up on his laptop (which is quite often). Yet another keeps crying that his computer is being eaten up by viruses and that there is little he can do but watch it die a slow, but inevitable death.

So, where are we headed as more of our lives go virtual, as electric gadgets become electronic as well, as our washing machines start talking and our microwaves remember our favourite recipes? I am not sure, but I am thankful to that ocean, the internet which can take all I give it and then return it to me when I want (My research papers are safe, at any rate!). But then, I shudder to think of the day when the internet gives up on me: isn’t the internet just a network of computers like mine? Where will we all be if the internet just stops working, one fine day? Will we continue to live, to die another day?

I don’t know and I am really scared. But until that day comes, I have just one piece of advice: keep back-ups.

That, and be sincere during Ayudha Pooje.


* Thanks Bipin. (Originally of Frederick Schauer).