No joke: a kitten killed my computer.
This was years ago, mind you, but the specifics of the instance have remained with me as if it happened yesterday. Benigni (named after the actor Roberto) was a funny, furry fellow who enjoyed life to the absolute fullest, especially if someone (namely me) was tossing toys for him to chase. On this particular day in early 1999, not long after we’d adopted him, I was hard at work on what was my pride and joy at the time: a Web site devoted to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Benigni ambled into the den, scrambled up my leg and hopped onto the computer station’s second shelf, a space ostensibly for a printer but that I used for a foot rest.
Within seconds everything on the computer monitor froze. Odd, but not necessarily unusual; the computer had seen better days. I moved the mouse, tapped the keyboard. Nothing. I moved the mouse again, this time with a bit more force, and realized as I did that the cord possessed more slack than normal. Long story short: Benigni mistook the mouse cord for a mouse tail and chomped it in two.
And, somehow, fried the motherboard.
At the time, I rarely backed anything up. Oh, occasional files here and there on floppy disks and Zip disks, primarily to share or move from my computer to my wife’s, but nowhere as much nor as often as one should. Recovering the site itself wasn’t difficult - with the exception of what I was working on at that particular moment, the files were mirrored on the server that it was hosted on. Downloading them was a hassle and a half in the dial-up age, but it was doable.
But the novel I’d been writing for the better part of the ‘90s? The last time I’d backed it up was a year and many revisions earlier. Now, in retrospect, it’s probably a good thing that it was lost; it’s undoubtedly much better in my memory than it was in reality. But at the time? I just about had a stroke.
I was reminded of that incident this past week when a coworker who’d ripped his entire CD library - some 1,400 platters - to an external hard drive shared a semi-recent tale of woe. He’s in front of a computer 95 percent of the time, so in his estimation an MP3 player isn’t a necessity. Instead, he totes the HD itself to and fro’ the office, plugs it in and listens to his music via iTunes. But one day, somehow, it fell from his desk to the floor and - you guessed it - shattered. (That was partially due to the model he chose; many portable HDs are actually designed to withstand such falls. At least, they claim to be.) Second time around, after he finished ripping his CDs, he backed everything up to another external hard drive.
In the age of relatively inexpensive external hard drives? There’s no excuse not to. When I ripped our entire music library - 4,000+ CDs at the time - to an external hard drive in 2007, the first thing I did when I finished was to back it up on another external hard drive. And, in the years since, then another. And another. And another. That is indeed extreme, but re-encoding everything - a task that took me five months - isn’t something I wish to do again anytime soon.
In years past, of course, backup software that used CDRs and DVDRs existed; I always found it to be cumbersome and non-intuitive. Nowadays, though? Macs come with the built-in Time Machine. Plug in a correctly formatted external hard drive and, after a mouse click or two, you’re good to go; and many Windows-formatted external HDs come with software that does the job just as well - you click a button and that’s it. So there’s really no excuse: backup, backup, backup!
And, I hasten to add, keep kittens away from your computer wires!