Showing posts with label diskettes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label diskettes. Show all posts

14 April 2020

Byte Me


Back up your files!

So many stories are no longer accessible.
I’ve been hearing this since the advent of personal computers, and I’ve always tried to adhere to what is, on the surface, good advice.

I no longer have the cassette tapes from my first computer—a Radio Shack TRS-80—but I have a collection of 5.25” floppy disks, 3.5” diskettes, Zip drives, and CDs containing word-processing files created with WordStar and various iterations of Microsoft Word on a variety of PCs and Macintoshes. Except for the CDs, I no longer have any working computers that can read the disks, and the self-extracting archives I created to store large documents and then copied over each time I’ve upgraded to a new computer no longer self-extract. So, even though I have backed up much of what I’ve written, I can’t access the work from the first few, post-personal computer, decades of my writing career.

More than four decades of writing.
On the other hand, almost everything I’ve archived on paper in my six files cabinets is still readable. The few exceptions are contracts I copied using my fax machine before I had regular access to a photocopier or my own copiers and scanners. (Faxes and copies created using thermal fax machines slowly darken over time.)

BLAST FROM THE PAST

How we submitted electronic ms.
Back in the day—sometime after the advent of personal computers with word processing programs and before the use of email for manuscript submission—several of the publications for which I wrote liked to receive electronic files on diskettes. So, I prepared a label with my (no longer valid) contact information as well as information about the disk and what was on it. I’m unsure why the disk pictured was returned to me, but apparently I submitted a story titled “I Hired a Private Eye,” which I saved in Rich Text Format as a file named PrivateEye.rtf on an IBM-formatted diskette.

MUSEUM PIECES

I’ve written before about my typewriters—“Three Typewriters and a Desk”—but I’ve never written about my computers. Alas, they have mostly just been tools to which I have no inherent emotional attachment.

My "computer museum."
My first personal computer was a TRS-80 connected to a small black-and-white television I used as a monitor and to a cassette tape player I used to back up files. I was never able to use it to write, and my most significant accomplishment was learning enough BASIC to create a short, text-based choose-your-own-adventure type game.

My next computer was an IBM PC, provided by a client who subcontracted consulting work to me, and since then I’ve worked my way through several brands of PCs before transitioning to Macintoshes and working my way through several generations of Macs.

I still use both PCs and Macintoshes on a regular basis, but the Mac has become my computer of choice, and I no longer own a functioning PC. Temple calls the collection of dead PCs in the garage my “computer museum.”

PLAN AHEAD

So, backing up your files is still valid advice—especially backing up unsold work and unfinished works-in-progress—but think ahead. How will you access those files next year or next decade when the software used to create the files no long exists and the media they are stored on is no longer accessible?

I certainly wish I’d planned ahead.


“Sleepy River” appears in the May/June 2020 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, due out later this month.

22 October 2012

Technology Challenged


Jan Grapeby Jan Grape

I've mentioned many times that I'm technology challenged. After talking to many writer friends through the years, I've discovered that I'm not alone. I learned to use a computer back in the early80s. Yep, the first computer I owned was a Kaypro. It was only a word processing and it used a large 5 1/4 inch floppy disk. The computer and the printer cost around thirty-eight hundred dollars. Yeah, really.

The next computer I had was a PC called a Comp-u-add, I think it was around 1985 or so. It still mainly was only word-processing. If it did anything else I don't remember. I may have been able to used AOL then but not really sure. I bought my first desktop from Dell. Things were becoming more sophisticated. This computer used a 3.5 in diskette. By this time, I'm using AOL, and goodness AOL was all the big rage.

I also had a fax machine and had a dedicated phone line. I hate to think of how much I'm spent over the years for computers and electronic equipment. And could only utilize a small amount of intelligence these things could do. I remember also buying a Dell laptop along about then. The operating system was DOS. I took my laptop with me when I went to visit my daughter in Nashville, TN. My grandson, Riley was 5 years old and he and I played a few games on the laptop. A short time later, I'm back in TX, Riley's father was given a laptop at his sales job but there was no manual given out that day. My son-in-law got home and turned on the computer and couldn't do anything to make it start-up. He tried several things he thought might work but nothing did. Riley (age 5) sat watching his dad and finally said, "Nana always types 'dosshell' first." His skeptical father totally frustrated finally typed DOSSHELL and his computer came to life.

So at this point you'd think I was a computer expert...NOT. I could use Word Perfect processing program but about all I could do was type my stories, cut and paste. I learned to integrate addresses and work the mail program. Other writer friends still thought that was fantastic because they couldn't do that. I was able to write several short stories on the computer. That was a big step up from typing them on an electronic IBM Selectric typewriter.

I wrote my first book on my Dell laptop and Desktop. I could go back and forth, copying them onto the diskettes and keep them up to date. I made several back-up copies of everything and learned from a writer friend in CO to keep a copy in the freezer. If your house burned, chances were that diskette would survive. We all worried that we'd somehow lose our work. Computers crashed and things got lost and what would we do if that happened?

We were in New Mexico volunteering as camp hosts for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) down in the very bottom of the Rio Grande Gorge when I bought my second Dell laptop. This was probably 2001. It was delivered in Taos at the main BLM office and we were 16 miles away. As soon I we could we drove into down and I was so excited to have a new laptop. Laptops were the way to go when you lived in a 31 ft. Fifth Wheel RV. No room for a desk or desktop.

By now I could get online and transfer a file to the publisher and they could send it back with suggestions for changes but the final copy editing was still done and printed up in hard copy and paper. When you sent a final manuscript in back in earlier years, you sent a hard copy and a diskette.
So being able to send a mss online was seemingly high tech and in reality it was at that time.

Flash forward to current time. I still haven't learned much about computer operations...as Rob and Leigh can testify. I had so much trouble trying to get my blog article written and up and online that Rob finally wrote some step by step instructions for me and I have to use them every time. Here are my recent technology challenges.

There's a lady I heard about in ME who will format your books into the correct files so they can be uploaded to Nook and Kindle. I know there are people all over the place who do this, but she was recommended by a writer friend so I contacted her. She wrote me back saying she could do it and began spouting off technological things for me to do. I wrote back saying...wait, please. I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm very technology challenged. She wrote back saying, no problem. I've hand-held many first-timers, but we'll get it done.

First, I had to find a copy of my first book, written on my first laptop. Call me crazy but I still have all three of my old laptops. I looked on my second oldest and couldn't find the 1st book. I did find the second one and after a few tries managed to copy the file to a flash drive. Put the flash drive in the proper slot on my current desk top, copied to desktop and sent it to Pam. Whew...that wasn' too bad.

Next she wrote saying we needed to come up with covers for the books. I had sent actual copies of both books. I more or less had designed the cover for the 1st book published in 2001 and the publisher did a variation of that cover for the 2nd one published in 2005. In between years Five Star published a collection of my short stories (Found Dead In Texas). So I'm frantically searching for jpegs of the covers and can find pictures of the covers on these old laptops but they were in PDF not jpeg. I had at least learned a few years what a jpeg was but not how to produce one or anything.

While trying to find a copy of my first book (and she said Word Perfect was okay) I found it, but the oldest laptop would not take a flash drive. I got an e-mail from Pam saying she had the hard copies of my books and the file I had sent to her only had 16 chapters and the book had 21 chapters. I thought I had sent my final file to her...but NO, wasn't so. While still searching for the first book and have no idea how to get it off the old laptop. I came up with the idea of taking the laptop to a computer store (not a big box store, a small help place) who said they could convert the copied diskette file to a flash drive. I take it in and learn that this file is only 16 chapters. Back on the way home I realized that I had only saved the 21 file chapter file to the computer not to the diskette. (See how challenged I am.)

Back home again, I discover the correct 21 chapter file on the 2nd laptop and the also full file of the whole mss for the first book which I thought was not on this 2nd laptop (again challenged.) I have no idea how I missed it the first time. I had been sure both books were on the 2nd laptop when I began this process (challenged again). Believe it or not, I got the files to Pam, and her son was able to scan the book covers into something that can be used and things are finally looking up. I'm currently proof-reading the 2nd book because it was the first file she had ready. And actually finding typos in the book not the file. So will try to get those corrected so the e-books will be in better shape all around.

You who are computer knowledgeable folks are probably laughing by now. I don't blame you. My friend Pam is hand-holding me. Some of the notes she writes she's dumbed down (the best she can) the technical words and phrases so I can understand. Otherwise I have to write back and say...I have no idea what you're talking about.

I am about as dumb as a horned toad when it comes to technology. But I am still learning. My story and I'm sticking to it.