my computer travesty

The most horrifying computer problem that ever happened to me occurred many years ago — in the dinosaur age — before the mouse. Before windows. Back when Steve Jobs had a rotary phone.

On the Friday before the Monday when I had to submit the final draft of my thesis to my advisor (who was a cranky old guy), my top of the line IBM personal computer running Wordperfect 2.0 crashed. It died. The royal blue screen with the blocky white letters blinked out like The Outer Limits taking control of the monitor.

I wish it were an alien invasion. Instead, it was something far more insidious: a dead power supply.

Let me set the scene for you. In those days, my dear sweet ever-patient husband turned on the computer for me and set it to where the wordprocessor would open for me. When I finished typing, he inserted a GINORMOUS floppy disk into the computer and saved it for me because evidently all that graduate education had filled my mind with so much data I was incapable (read that as unwilling and terrified) of pressing a key. It was all so complex. And that state of the art dot matrix printer was so magical, with its draft mode that was even faster than the regular mode, that I was absolutely awestruck to be living in such modern times.

Unfortunately for me, he was on a field trip, I mean, business trip to a technology conference somewhere west of the Mississippi where part of the conference included designing and launching paper airplanes into the atrium of the hotel. If you don’t read a sufficient amount of sarcasm in that statement — where my usual knight in shining armor had abandoned me for  a weekend, leaving me with three very small children and a deadline to write a THESIS, then perhaps you should ramp up what you now know to have been a very high level of stress for me.

So, when The Outer Limits hijacked my computer screen as I was writing the last sentence of that interminable assignment, my breakdown imminent, I was too ignorant of the whole computer process to realize that I was in very big trouble.

Go ahead and ask me.

Didn’t you save the paper? Where’s the back up?

You know that’s what hubby asked. You also know that had he seen the blank look on my face he would have gone back to throwing paper airplanes — at me.

Anyway, he didn’t even have consoling words for me. In those days a dead power supply equalled a very expensive chunk of electronics and tacky cream-colored plastic. “Too bad, honey, you’ll have to retype it. There’s an older version of the paper on a floppy somewhere. See ya next week. Love ya.”


I love my husband. I really do. And because of that I will confess that when I started using computers, and to this very day as recently as last month when he bought me an external hard drive, his constant mantra is back up your stuff.

I didn’t listen. But I sure did learn my lesson the hard way. For some of us, that’s usually the only way.

I did what any young woman would do: I called my daddy, crying and out of my mind. Between sobs and hysteria I asked if I could borrow his computer. Poor guy, I must have sounded like the world was ending, and to have something with such a simple solution was almost confusing to him, but that’s all. A little TLC, some babysitting, and his clunky IBM.

The moral of the story: He is wise who is warned by the misfortunes of others.

Back. Up.


Did you like this? I must give the hat tip to my friend, Sarah Reinhard, who asked this question at but I couldn’t bring myself to leave such a large comment/story in her comments. Visit her blog, enter her contest, and share your own story!

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