This week, I found roughly 500,000 lost words that I wrote over a 6 year period.
Backstory: In 2007-2008, I had two catastrophic computer crashes on two separate machines. Shortly before my thesis was due to my adviser, my iBook had a catastrophic crash. I had it programmed for automatic back-ups, so I didn’t lose anything, but the restore process left most of my files scattered over multiple .zip files, and I didn’t have time to untangle things then. (If you don’t speak computer: A zip file is like one of those space-aged storage bags, the ones where you stack up all of your winter sweaters and then suck out all of the air so it compresses. It’s great for saving room; it’s less great, sometimes, when you just want the one sweater in the middle of the bag). The next year, I bought a new computer (a MacBook) when that computer’s case cracked, and I transferred everything over in another big .zip hunk.
Then, two years after that, my new MacBook was stolen. Again, automatic backups saved me, and I didn’t lose anything, but now I had a .zip restore of .zip transfers of .zip backups. (Translation: A Space Bag holding another Space Bag holding another Space Bag, in which all of my files were sealed into individual Ziplocs). I restored everything to a temporary computer, an iMac. When I moved to yet another new computer, I left most of these files sitting on my old iMac because they looked like big piles of crap. The new computer was lean, clean, a fresh start.
About two weeks ago, we resurrected the old iMac for use in the kitchen. When I was searching for something completely unrelated (barbecue tools), I came upon a cache of these old files. Everything I wrote between, say, 2001 and 2008 is sitting on this computer, zipped into neat little packages. It was the work of about an hour to get everything unpacked and uploaded to Dropbox and backed up to Mozy.com once again.
And now I’m digging through things. It’s — awesome. I don’t mean the quality. I mean the finding. I haven’t seen some of these stories in years; I don’t remember even writing some of them. There’s enough time separating me from most of the work that I’m not even (too) embarrassed by it. I found roughly 500,000 old words of mine this week, and they all make me want to write many, many more new ones. It’s the best unpacking I’ve done in years.