On Sunday, in the process of organizing backup files, A inadvertently deleted all of the movie files from our computer.

We don't go through life with video cameras glued to our eyeballs, but since Ingrid was born we had taken several hundred snippets of video with our digital camera. Spacy newborn Ingrid waving her arms and legs in the hospital bassinet. Sweaty infant Ingrid lifting her head higher and higher during the “tummy times” of her first summer. The first riveting cooing conversations between baby Ingrid and A. Barely walking toddler Ingrid stomping her feet, bossing the dog around. Spacy newborn Iris in the hospital bassinet, big sister Ingrid poking her hand lightly and exclaiming, I touched the baby!All gone.

It seems this sort of loss is endemic to the computer using world. Of course, if you were Edmund Leach, you still lost—twice—your giant trunk full of notes from your years of anthropological field work in Burma. But that was exceptional. And who, today, hasn’t experienced something like this? Digital loss: It is instantaneous. It is often irreversible. And, more often than not, it is your own damn stupid fault.

Of course, they are gone anyway, all those progressively more grown up versions of our daughters, along with the millions of Ingrids and Irises we lose every day in the ordinary mill of non-digital loss known as time and change. That’s really what made us both cry on Sunday: losing the movies is just a smaller version of what’s happening all the time anyway.

Our friend Chris, a professional photographer who once lost two years of work in a hard drive meltdown, is philosophical about this: When you take a photo, you’re not capturing something, you’re making something new. You think you have something when you have a photo, but you don’t.

He’s right. And also, let’s look at the big picture: we still have our kids.

But damn. It was a sad couple of days.

Is it mean that I waited until the end to tell you that we bought some fancy data recovery software and were able to retrieve almost all of the files? Some are in fragments, and none have dates or titles, but most are still viewable.

Philosophy and magical software aside, though, do this now: if there’s anything on your computer that would make you cry if you lost it, make a backup. And if you ever get it into your head to mess with the backup, make a backup of the backup just in case.


  1. Yes, that WAS MEAN! But I'm really glad you got most of it back. My husband is an absolute fanatic about the baby's pics and videos. I think he has everything saved in at least three different places (usually my computer, one external hard drive, and a CD) and plus he makes copies of everything to send to his parents.

    However it is worth noting his big worry that even this won't be enough probably since technology is changing. I mean, can you still read a floppy disk?

    Even if you get pics printed out, the inks they use now are crap. You need archival inks and special paper to get anything to last more than 20 years. He gets really upset about this stuff.

    I had a similar thing happen at work. Not as personally touching, but it was a new job and I was mortified I lost a bunch of files with my work while I was trying to move things around. It was a really sickening time. It SUCKED.

    So I am very, very glad that all was not lost for you!

  2. Quite mean! ;-) I'm happy for you, though, and I think your observations are apt and beautiful. not sure if you were reading my blog then, but I wrote about this very issue once here:

  3. Oh. I am SO sad for you. I wish I could hug you. Seriously.

    In my former professional life, time and time again in the business world, I saw firsthand how not having backups could bite you in the collective ass. I still feel fairly fortunate that I saw what could really happen and as a result, I am pretty anal about backing up my stuff because of it. My husband thinks I am crazy paranoid.

    I hope you do not mind, but I will be posting about this and will link to you. If you mind, let me know. However, it is an important lesson.

    Of course, in the end, you are right. What is important is the kids.