A recent story written by Derek about 3.5 inch floppy disks and a dissertation brought back some memories for me. The fact that I am currently looking for an external hard drive to store my rapidly expanding digital information also stirred these memories. I am looking for a 500 GB drive which would be 2.5E5 times larger than the good old fashioned 3.5 inch floppy drive I stored my MS thesis on.
I was in grad school (for the first time) back in the mid-90s. I was doing work on organometallics (heavy on the organo, light on the metallics), specifically porphyrins. After a couple of years, I was offered a teaching position, and I opted for a MS and the pursuit of wealth in the world of academia.
The internet was still in its youth, but it was a rapidly growing toddler that was learning to run. Netscape was still good, and computers were becoming much more than glorified word processors.
I bought a Macintosh PowerBook 520c (the 'c' means "color"). I love that computer ("love" in the present tense. I still have this computer and use it occasionally). It was a workhorse when I wrote my thesis. I would often have 6-8 applications running at the same time, and the little thing only crashed once.
As I wrote my thesis, I realized my paranoia of losing my work was directly proportional to the thesis length. I became a compulsive saver. I would save everything I had on a 3.5 inch floppy drive. I started saving everything on just one disk. As my work got longer and longer, I started saving 2 copies. Then an event occurred that threw me deep into backup paranoia.
I was writing at home. I decided to have a beer while writing at my desk. It was a 22 oz microbrew and I had poured it into a tall glass (see where this is going?). I was typing away enjoy what I recall as bing a pale ale. I don't know what happened, but due to what was some sort of flailing arm movement I knocked the beer over.
Sudden panic. Beer every where. My bed was next to my desk and there was enough beer on my quilt so I threw that on the wood floor to sop up the beer that was cascading off of my desk. I quickly assessed the situation. Somehow, somehow, very little beer got on my computer. It had only splashed on the display and on a few keys. My stylewriter printer on the other hand got the worst of it. It would never recover. I cleaned up the mess, tried heroic efforts to resuscitate the printer, and apologized to my PowerBook for putting it in harms way.
That's also when I decided to increase the number of copies I backed up. It eventually became 10. I would literally spend about 30 minutes backing everything up each day. The floppy disks were dispersed everywhere to ensure the survival of at least one if a catastrophic beer spill of biblical proportions were to occur.
When I returned to grad school to finish my Ph.D., I followed a similar pattern, albeit with CDs. I was eventually burning 3-4 CDs daily.
Yes, I was paranoid.