The Disk Disaster of '88

Voice Card  -  Volume 3  -  John Card Number 6  -  Fri, Dec 23, 1988 10:23 PM

Here's what happened:

In late November I used all my surveying money to acquire a Jasmine Direct Drive 70 megabyte external hard disk. It worked beautifully and I soon moved all Archipelago operations onto the new disk. There were no signs of any impending doom whatsoever, and I became somewhat careless.

On the morning of Saturday, December 17, I fired up my trusty Mac to put the final touches on issue 3 and do a complete backup. Imagine my horror when the new drive made a few peculiar sounds and fell silent! The entire day was spent in fruitless searches through three different manuals, dozens of desperate experiments, supplications to various gods (both above and below), and finally several hours of pathetic head banging and childish wimpering.

It simply could not have happened at a worse moment. Had the drive found the strength to spin one more time, all the data would have been completely backed up and Archipelago would have been in the mail that very day. And because it was a Saturday morning, I was forced to wait 48 stomach churning hours for Jasmine Technical Support to come on line.

The real irony is that all year long as I worked on developing Archipelago, I backed up my work every single day without ever encountering a problem. In fact, the two weeks preceding the disaster was probably the first time in many years that I ever grew careless about backing up. One of the reasons I slacked off was because I thought I was covered. Jasmine provides an extensive set of file recovery programs that can salvage data from almost any conceivable type of disk crash. But as I learned, all these programs are useless if the disk won't spin.

Another reason, and this is truly ironic, is that with the arrangement I had, backing up was so incredibly easy, so effortless, that it was that much easier to overlook. At any time I could have backed up all of my program modifications and new cards with a sweep of my wrist in under ten seconds start to finish. It was so effortless in fact, that I never felt the need to do it.

Anyway, the damage was extensive. Dozens of major modifications to five different stacks and the entire 100 card volume 3 voice stack gone. Jasmine technical support is optimistic about recovering everything, but only after an unacceptable delay of a week or so. I was determined to ship before Christmas and so I swallowed hard, turned the machine back on, and started typing it in all over again.

Needless to say, I have now introduced more stringent backup procedures into my daily routine. The burned hand teaches best. As I reflect on this unhappy incident, I am awed by swift and precise vengeance of the gods. For years they waited for a single moment of carelessness, and when that moment came, their aim was perfect. Splat!