What I Would Have Lost If My Computer Had Actually Died Last Week

My wife handed me my laptop. I opened the screen, and the backlight came on, but nothing else. I restarted the device, then again, then again. I held all the combinations of buttons the internet recommended, and held my breath, and repeated the mantra of all those desperate for their electronics to spring back to life, as if the little bastards were playing some awful cruel, joke.

"Please work this time, please work this time, please work this time..."

It didn't work. 

I took the computer to the technicians on Monday morning, and the guy there assured me everything would be fine. My data was safe, he was pretty sure he knew what the problem was. There was a chance it would be expensive, but it would probably be cheap and fast. Just be patient. He'd call by the end of the day, or maybe Tuesday. Wednesday at the latest.

It sounds terrible, I know it does, but it was almost like waiting for a loved one in surgery. I'm not good at backing up, and I've given that machine management responsibilities for my memories, and my creativity, and my entertainment. That's not nothing. That's not meaningless. It's certainly not life-or-death lung surgery, but I definitely felt more anxiety than my wife's wisdom tooth extraction. And what worried me most was what I would lose that couldn't be re-found, or re-constructed. What worried me most were the items sitting deep in those file folders that I had forgotten, documents and photos and files that I would remember years from now, when it would be far too late to recover.

For that reason, I am documenting the five things that I would have missed the most, had they been lost forever.

1. This is a picture of my two-year-old daughter waking up from a nap. I snuck into her room to take pictures of her with my new old timey photo app on my phone. I wasn't quiet enough, and I woke her up. This is nostalgia, a lump-in-the-throat memory. It would have been gone.

2. This is my favorite song ever, or at least a crappy version of it. This band (Here, Here) doesn't exist anymore. The song (Poor Sailor) is no longer available on iTunes, or anywhere else that I can find. I feel bad for these people, that they didn't find the lasting musical success I assume they wanted. But every time I listen to it, maybe that counts as a musical legacy. That would have ended.

3. In college, I picked a creative writing minor because it seemed like the path of least resistance. It sounded easy. Pursuing writing in any formal, professional capacity never crossed my mind. But now that I'm writing manuscripts and trying to sell short stories and taking a whole-hearted crack at it, those early writings now mean something. This is a poem I wrote in an intro to creative writing class. It's bad, but I would have missed it.

4. The routines of my life have almost always contained a computer, and I am perhaps the first generation for whom this is true. I've lost much already, to obsolete floppy disks and upgraded machines. But a few months ago I found a way to play beloved game from my childhood, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. All that game progress, for the second time in my life, would have evaporated.

A computer is a thing, a tool, but that does not excuse it from human affection. For some reason, though, we are not ready to accept our fondness for our devices. When a beloved grandparent passes away, we cherish the items she left behind. Many of us have boxes in storage of the important stuff from our childhoods, and we can hold those pinewood derby cars and dolls and experience real emotion. But electronics do not receive such deference. They are dangerous things that threaten to tear families apart and ruin our children's intelligence. A life lived through any sort of electronic filter is woeful and inauthentic.

When the technician handed me my computer, with a fresh new screen (the expensive potential, after all), data intact and ready to be booted and immediately backed up (I've learned my lesson this time, I promise), the relief felt significant, and it's something I choose not to regret. This thing, this stupid, mass-produced, shiny, amazing thing has allowed me to do and see so much. It deserves a little recognition. It deserves some angst when its LED board fails.

I hate to say it, computer, but it's good to have you back.

Eric Rasmussen