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Gordon Cameron

Relearning a key lesson the hard way

When I was in elementary school, back at the dawn of the personal computing era, I was given the task of showing my classmates how to use this new technology. I taught them how to boot the machines using either the cassette tape drive or a 5.25 inch floppy, drilled into them the importance of treating our expensive Commodore Pet and Apple IIe with care and introduced them to some of the school’s collection of educational games with their mind-blowing graphics.

It was a fun job which allowed me to pass on my knowledge while sharing the sense of discovery that my friends were experiencing.

However, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and I wasn’t above having a little “fun” while I was teaching.

One of the things I used to do when helping people with the early word processing programs was to wait until they were mostly done what they were working on and then, through the use of the return key, make it so all their text scrolled off the screen. Every single one of them reacted with horror that I had just destroyed their work and wondered why I, normally such a nice and helpful boy, would ever have done that to them.

Of course, it wasn’t gone and they were all quite relieved when I showed them that their writing was kept in the computer’s short term memory so that even if you couldn’t see it, that it still was there.

So perhaps it is a bit of poetic justice for the tiniest bit of pleasure I took in giving that particular lesson that between this edition and last, a computer issue wiped out most of the files for the Mountain News, the Ancaster News and the Dundas Star News (thankfully, the Stoney Creek News was spared). While I won’t get into specifics, we not only lost many stories and photos for this week’s edition, but years of research, contact lists and archival material.

Needless to say, it’s been quite the week.

I share all this with you in part so you’ll forgive us if your event or photo didn’t make the paper this week, but also because most of us can relate to having some piece of technology eat something that you wish it hadn’t.

I can remember as a kid untangling tapes that got chewed by my Walkman, carefully untwisting the thin, magnetic strip and carefully Scotch taping any breaks. My brother and I became experts at taking apart the family VCR in order to free VHS tapes from its evil clutches. I’ve also lost not one, but two hard drives that wiped out years of digital photos, personal writings and records under a set of circumstances that are almost too fantastical to believe.

The obvious answer, which I finally came to after the second hard drive, is to back up, and back up the back up. My photos are on my hard disk, in a back up file on my external hard drive, on USB keys, DVDs and I keep them on my camera for as long as I can. A whole lot of things would have to go wrong in order for me to lose a single frame of my latest adventure.

You’ll also be happy to know that it’s a lesson we’ve learned here at Hamilton Community News as well.

We just wish we didn’t have to learn the hard way.

Gordon Cameron is Group Managing Editor for Hamilton Community News.

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