Digital Sentimentalism

Just last week, I learned from a colleague that the Android Ice Cream Sandwich was finally available for my Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF-101. After briefly going through the installation docs, I decided I’d give it a go.

There were two parts to the installation. The first was a scary sounding step called Super Wipe which essentially clears out the internal storage of the tablet before putting on the new software. Thankfully there were two versions. a Full and a Lite. I thought to my self “How clever, I can go with the Lite, and it’ll all my user data”.

So just before powering down the device in preparation for the procedure, I did a quick mental check “is there anything I might need to backup?”, followed promptly by a non-chalant “Naah…”.

I have this principle called the x-month rule of unneccessity: If something has been sitting in storage untouched for more than x number of months, it can be safely discarded (thrown away, sold, etc.) as an unnecessity. The value of x for me was 6 months, which is about how long I’ve been using my svelte Thinkpad X201 as my primary machine. Ever since then, the Transformer has seen very little use.

It all happened so quickly. Super Wipe Lite took less than 2 minutes, and flashing on the new ROM took about 10. After that, the thrill of watching the full potential of my tablet unleashed by a software upgrade took my mind of whatever digital etching were there before.

Until last night.

Maybe it was the dinner time conversation which inevitable turned to the subject of family holidays, but it suddenly occured to me that a large body of the photos from our Taipei trip were on the tablet, and nowhere else. It was during that trip that I bought the tablet, and I’d emptied all the photos from my phone to the tablet. Wifey and I would always enjoy the photos on the tablet so I never bother copying it anywhere else.

It was 1am at in the morning. The wine from dinner was keeping me awake, but the thought of our losing our photos forever haunted me. I rarely feel so helpless with my technology, I’ve never been more emotionally attached to 1’s and 0’s, and I never hated “digital” more.

One last puzzle to cap off the week, I suppose. But the stakes on these were astronomical. And it had to happened right after me accepting a post-dinner riddle from the father-in-law.

You can read a blow by blow account of how I eventually recovered the photos, but it was nerve wrecking.

More than a broad frustration with technology, it’s made me very hesitant to entrust any sentimentalism to these electrical signals. The less you have, the less you have to lose.

So much for being a technologist and a digital native.