After my disk crashed

Originally published at Reposted here with minor edits.

A couple of years ago I lost all of what I would have considered, up to that point, my intellectual life, not to mention a lot of irreplaceable photos, in a hard drive failure. And while this post is not about the technical and behavioral missteps that allowed the loss to occur those things nonetheless make up a part of the story. How does it happen that an experienced software engineer, someone who is often responsible for corporate data and has managed to not get fired for losing any of it, suffers a hard drive failure and finds himself in possession of zero backups? Almost effortlessly, as it turned out.

Since the early 1980’s I’ve kept all my digital self in a single directory tree off the root of my system’s boot disk. Over the years this directory structure was faithfully copied every time I upgraded, travelling on floppies, zip drives, CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, USB thumb drives, flash drives, from my first 8088 to my second and ridiculously expensive 80286 and so on through all of the machines I’ve bought or built in three decades. Along the way it grew, becoming the repository for all my software and writing work. The first VGA code I wrote was in there. The complete source code for my shareware backgammon game was in there. All the articles I wrote for Dr. Dobbs, Software Development and other journals were in there.

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