Digital Scrolls

I’ve written before about my curiosity as to whether or not the period we are living in will be well documented. So much of our lives are digital these days, and so much information has already been lost. I can look back at my own digital history and see how much information of mine has disappeared.

I have this big box of floppies. There are like 200 floppies in this box. Yesterday, on a whim, I picked up a USB to 3.5” drive and started going through some of the old disks in this box. I want to get rid of them because I haven’t looked at them probably in 8 or 9 years. A lot of stuff had already degraded to the point of not being readable - these disks have moved with me many times and have not lived in an environment conducive to data preservation. Many simply refused to mount properly and a lot of what did was often riddled with data errors.

But what I was able to recover … to say it was meaningful would be a woeful understatement. It was definitely worth the $40 I paid for the drive (I would pay much more to get access to all the data I’ve lost).

I found stories I wrote in high school, smack in the middle of my “deep depression” phase. I found some of the first code I ever wrote (in 1990, I will have you know). I found old coursework from my first year at Auburn. I found massively old stuff from when I was pledging the fraternity. Old chat logs from my MUD days. Old programs, some of which may actually still work. And what I could was immediately copied to my file server, preserving the timestamps. The oldest one I’ve seen so far is late 1988. When this data was written to disk, Ronald Reagan was President.

It occurs to me that what I have here is my own digital Dead Sea Scrolls. Buried in this box that I’ve been carrying around for 8 years but otherwise not thinking much about was a treasure trove of old documents, pictures and memories, some of which was damaged but much of which was intact. I guess I probably knew about them at one time, but as time passed what exactly was on them was forgotten as I moved on to new things - CDs, hard drives and online storage. Finding all the data that was actually stored here was a massive and happy surprise for all the wonderful memories it brought back.

This has also made me keenly aware of the need for me to have a more comprehensive backup solution. The problem is that I have accumulated so much data that I want to save. “Burn it to CD,” doesn’t really work when you have 300gb+ of data to backup - I don’t feel like burning 450 CDs. At this point, I’m considering a solution that looks something like this:

  • Build another machine and take it to the office. rsync the changes to it each night. This accomplishes both an active incremental backup and an offsite backup.

  • Once every so often (maybe every six months), a back up to dual layer Blu-ray disks (which hold 50gb each). Those go into my fire safe.

One thing is for sure, though. I was so happy to find all this old data, happy with what I’ve recovered so far (I’m only about half way through the box), and want to be sure I don’t lose any more. These files represent treasured, irreplaceable events in my life and I want to hold onto them as best I can.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Rob! I'm a blogger and software developer. I wrote petfeedd, dystill, and various other projects and libraries. I'm into electronics, general hackery, and model trains and airplanes. I am based in Huntsville, Alabama, USA.

About Me · Contact Me · Don't Hire Isaiah Armstrong

Did this article help you out?

I don't earn any money from this site.

I run no ads, sell no products and participate in no affiliate programs. I do not accept gifts in exchange for articles, guest articles or link exchanges. I don't track you or sell your data. The only third-party Javascript on this website is Google Analytics.

In general I run this site very much like a 1990s homepage or early 2000s personal blog, meaning that I do this solely because it's fun! I enjoy writing and sharing what I learn.

If you found this article helpful and want to show your appreciation, a tip or donation would be very welcome. Feel free to choose from the options below.

Comments (0)

Interested in why you can't leave comments on my blog? Read the article about why comments are uniquely terrible and need to die. If you are still interested in commenting on this article, feel free to reach out to me directly and/or share it on social media.

Contact Me
Share It

Interested in reading more?

Ramblings

Stop Asking Me About Guest Articles

I am getting this request more and more often - to the tune of multiple emails a week at this point. It usually starts friendly enough - friendly enough to that I know the sender isn’t a robot, they’ve very clearly looked at some of my pages. But then the pitch starts: “I’d like to contribute to your website an article on X” or “I’d be delighted to contribute to your website on this topic.” Usually promising to do so for free.
Read More
Ramblings

Some Thoughts on Ukraine

This is just sort of a stream of consciousness, so apologies if it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I still remember the first time I realized I was directly talking with someone in another country. It was the mid 90s and I was a teenager, hooked on playing MUDs. When most people in my high school could barely turn a computer on, I felt like a wizard who knew about an entire secret world, and it was awesome. I was playing, every day, with people from Scotland, Denmark, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and so many others I can’t even remember now. And we talked. I learned so much about other cultures just by talking directly to people. And I remember thinking, in my own young, idealistic naivete, that if just everyone could be online, and could have these experiences, we might actually achieve world peace in my lifetime. We could see that we are all human bothers and sisters, separated only by artificially drawn borders. I believed free information will result in the most educated population in human history. And the Internet would bring the whole world a new age. I look back on myself then and mourn the world that we could have had. Humans apparently just aren’t ready for world peace and togetherness.
Read More
Ramblings

It's Not The Schools

Some things are as reliable as clockwork. The moon and tides. Death and taxes. Politicians lying. And out-of-touch Silicon Valley tech millionaires and billionaires descending from their gold-plated PCB thrones to bestow upon us us, the unwashed masses, their most brilliant wisdom and thoughts. Today’s myopic missive is brought to you by Sam Altman, of Y-Combinator fame. On Sunday, he opened up Twitter and blessed us with this thought in the middle of an otherwise interesting thread:
Read More