I don’t remember Halloween being such a big holiday when I was a kid. There were pumpkins — jack-o’-lanterns, actually — and maybe a skeleton on a string or cardboard cutout witch. But today? Massive displays on yards. Halloween lights? People go all out.
It’s the scary season, where blood and gore and death are pretty much acceptable. Where bank tellers and school teachers dress like hookers and get away with it. Everything is done in the name of fun, and maybe for a good scare. But what about when your computer participates in the “fun”?
The closest I’ve come to celebrating Halloween on a computer was about ten years ago. I used the Windows Paint program to draw a jack-o’-lantern on the screen. Then I put the monitor in the window. That’s was my festive, digital Halloween.
Even more scary were the two times my computer said “Boo!” to me.
The first was back in 1985 or so when my first PC asploded. I won’t repeat the tale, because I wrote a blog post about it two years ago.
The second harkens back to 1989 or so. Unlike the puff of blue smoke that killed my PC in 1985, I didn’t laugh the second time my computer said, “Boo!”
Computers were still nerd tools back in 1989, which is way before the Internet took over. I had a Dell 386 PC, state of the art for the day. It had two whopping 90MB hard drives.
Yes, 90MB. That was plenty back in 1989, when most software came on 1.4M floppy diskettes. In fact, I had a stack of 20 or so floppies I used as my backup disks. The problem, of course, was that backup was a time-consuming chore. So I hadn’t backed up my PC’s hard drives in over six months.
Yes, that’s scary. Cue the creepy music.
Oh, and I need to mention that at the time the 90MB hard drives were very, very expensive. They were close to $900 in price each. Seriously! At the time, 20MB hard drives were the most common. I don’t know why I opted for 90MB, especially because I didn’t store a lot of junk on my PC. Anyway.
It was a gloomy day, with overcast skies. (I’m not making that up.) I was at home working on some file or something. Then, suddenly, there was an earthquake.
The ground rumbled. I remember being popped up in my chair, as if someone yanked the floor and rolled a wave across the room. There was an explosion outside; a bright flash of light followed a few milliseconds later by a loud pop. A transformer had blown. The power went out.
The earthquake lasted maybe three seconds. Just before the earthquake hit, my hard drive was busy. I wasn’t saving information, because I remember being frustrated that I’d have to re-type the last page or so that I’d been writing. But the hard drive was active when the earthquake hit. I might have even heard the drive heads literally crash into the plates.
When the power came back on, I tepidly turned on the PC. The startup BIOS ran, but the hard drive was unreachable. Gone, gone, gone.
I swapped the second 90MB drive for the first, dead drive. Formatted. Installed DOS and DESQview. Ran my most recent backup to restore files. Yep, six months worth of data gone. I was angry with myself.
That day I ordered a tape backup drive so that my backups would be automated. That’s another story I might go into later. It’s not as scary as losing a hard drive in an earthquake, but the moral is the same: Backup your stuff regularly and often!