Backing-Up Is Hard To Do


I’ve used computers since I was 11 years old, for those keeping score that means since 1981. My first computer was a TI-99 4/A. A computer that barely had the power of my daughter’s graphing calculator, but it was a personal computer, it didn’t cost but $150 if memory serves. Now, in 1981 computers didn’t have hard drive, my precious TI-99 4/A used cassette tapes. Don’t re-read that last sentence, I did write “cassette tapes.” All personal computers used cassette tapes back then, including the Apple. Big floppies were starting to come to attention, but only just.

In those early days, computers didn’t do very much, the most advanced applications were text based games and checkbook applications, maybe a cookbook. Kids like me were mostly playing computer games (not much has changed) and some of us were even trying our hands at programming. What everyone was learning, no matter what computer was being used, our data was precious and easily lost. If your data is on a cassette, how long before your little brother or sister tried to listen to the cassette or wrap the Christmas Tree with the pretty ribbon in the cassette. What did people do about this alarming situation, beat their little brother or sister over the head and said - DON’T!


Fast forward a few years and the TI-99 4/A was out and our new Tandy 100A was on its way into our lives. It was on PAR with the computers of the day, with two 5 1/4” drives, 16 bit color monitor, 256KB of RAM encased in a white box. I remember when mom bought the computer from the local Radio Shack, a boy couldn’t have been more excited. I was 15 and on cloud nine, a real computer that could do real things like - PLAY GAMES, and yes, I would continue messing around with programming. I added a 300 baud modem and joined bulletin boards and tried war dialing with my best friend. Eventually I added a 3 1/2” drive and was introduced to the concept of making a second copy of disks; or what you might call “backing-up.” The floopy had 1.4 megs of storage so it was so easy to back-up data. Did I do that? Did most of us do that? Nope, we relied on the tried and true - DON’T LOSE MY DATA COMPUTER, I’M WARNING YOU.


That computer would serve me well for years, all the way until year 2 of college-- 1990. In that year I got a job working for Apple Computer as an Apple Student Representative. My job was to evangelize the Macintosh to my fellow students and answer any questions they might have about the MAC. Apple even equipped me with a Macintosh LC; which made my Tandy look like a pad and paper. In all fairness, even by the standards of the day it wasn’t very powerful, but my Tandy was 5 years old. I took to Apple like a fish takes to water. I even did a better job of backing-up important school files because I had to move the computer around all the time. This was the first computer I used that had a hard drive in it, 40 megs as I recall. I would take important files or programs and keep them on 3.5” disks that I kept next to the LC. The computer wasn’t mine though, but through the grace of family member and a steep employee discount from Apple, I purchased a Macintosh IIsi.


Now I had a computer with an 80 meg hard drive! Twice as much space as the LC, and 4 times the space I had on the hard drive I had added to the Tandy before going to college. Here’s the rub, 3.5” floppy disks only held 1.4 megs of data. When you bought a game by this point, it would come on 5 to 7 disks; backing-up went from something that you didn’t do because you just didn’t, to you didn’t do because you had no idea how to accomplish the mission. External hard drives really weren’t the mainstream yet. What did you do? Well, After telling your computer “DON’T LOSE MY DATA COMPUTER, I’M WARNING YOU,” you prayed “LORD, PLEASE DON’T LET MY DATA GET LOST, PLEASE.” While the latter isn’t a bad thing, I’m pretty sure the Lord God Almighty has better things to do than make sure my Kings Quest Game files aren’t lost.

So began years of battles on backing-up data. Several more computers would enter my life, each with progressively more storage space. I would swtich from Mac to PC, and by 2006 back again. All the while, I backed-up those essential files like resumes, letters and some odds and ends. Once I started using external hard drives the transferring of data finally became easy, but that was like 5 computers and untold stress later. I, for the most part, relied on “DON’T LOSE MY DATA COMPUTER, I’M WARNING YOU” and “LORD, PLEASE DON’T LET MY DATA GET LOST, PLEASE.” Luckily, i’ve only lost a little data and have had few hard drive failures. Others I know have not been so lucky, and some of them didn’t even rely on “DON’T LOSE MY DATA COMPUTER, I’M WARNING YOU.” They just assumed data couldn’t be lost.


Here I am today, with the most powerful computer I’ve ever owned or used and I’m not managing 20 megs, 40 megs, 80 megs or even 80 gigs of data. My MacBook Pro has a 320 Gig hard drive that is 80% full. My iTunes collection of video, music and books is nearly 300 Gigs alone. Long gone are the days that I can back-up my data to 3.5” floppy and being on a notebook an attached hard drive can be done, but is cumbersome. For the past few years I have looked for ways to ensure my data stays safe and sound, and with each passing day, with every song I buy or photo I take, I lose ground.

I’m mixing technologies now, trying to come up with a solution that’s as solid as possible, not cumbersome and that I don’t have to remember to initiate. I’ve not found the solution yet, although I’m experimenting with solutions. If you have ever lost an important file, song or photo then you understand the importance of backing-up data. If you have a large collection then you know my pain. You are probably running out of space on your primary drive, so how are you to back-up all that data that is spilling over the levees? There are no easy solutions, and I promise you that it will never be easy. You will always need twice as much space as you have, and you will have half as much space as you need. Simply put, backing-up is truly hard to do.