Do You Carry a Thumb Drive with You?

I just got a new laptop recently. Eight years is several generations in laptop land.

English: 8-inch, 5,25-inch, and 3,5-inch flopp...

8-inch, 5.25-inch, 3.5-inch Floppy Disks

Of course, all my old files had to be copied to my new hard drive.

Fortunately, this mostly happened over a network. But, some files just wouldn’t move over.

I found out later I could have taken it to the dealer and, for a modest sum, they would have copied everything and handed it back to me.

But, I went with the free 90-day technical support.

How Do You Transfer Data Physically?

You may remember 8-inch floppy disks.

Then, 5.25-inch floppies, which still were.

You probably remember 3.5 inch disks, vestigially called “floppies.”

You may even remember external Zip drives.

You certainly know compact discs (CDs). And, maybe even external hard drives, if you’re fairly sophisticated.

We’re not even talking music, from records to mp3s, from vinyl to digital download.

This relentless acceleration of changes in data storage prompted Boeing, in the 1990s, to consider storing hardware, software and media, intact, so they could read manuals for their airplanes from the time they were designed.

Just data.

In our technical lives, we have seen media go from something that could only be written on in a factory, to something we could Read/Write or burn with our own laptops.

The thumbdrive was invented in 1999.  Sales began in 2000.

As recently as 2005, most laptops still had floppy drives. By 2010, almost none did.

Ten years ago, the prized giveaway at computer tradeshow booths was thumbdrives, also called USB flashdrives, because they plug into the standard USB port in your computer and use flash memory to store data, requiring no moving parts to read, like the mechanical floppy and CD drives did.

They soon became keychains.

I keep one in my purse for various, occasional uses.

Like scanning in documents at the local UPS copy store, downloading the files to my thumbdrive, , or taking a logo to my Office Depot to get business cards, or bringing a copy of a speech with me to load on the computer connected to a projector.

What About the Cloud?

Or, transferring files to my new computer when they just won’t jump onto the network like they’re supposed to and I’m still reluctant to put them into the Cloud.

“Upload your files with a company you trust,” was probably the final excuse I needed not to use the Cloud.

A company I trust? If a company has to introduce trust into the conversation, I know I can’t.

I understood that they were trying to solve the problem of rapidly evolving media.

Look, Ma! No media!

But, at least media is something I can hold.

Useless, to be sure. I no longer have a computer that will read a 3.5-inch floppy disk.

So, the manuscript of my first book, carefully preserved on floppies, is unreadable.

Just like my father put his 8-millimeter videos on CDs before he died. And, then, 10 years later I converted them to DVDs.

I still have his projector and the cans of film, just in case.

We’ve gone through several iterations of companies that stored data, then charged for the privilege, then changed their business model and stopped storing it.

So, the Cloud isn’t yet the answer.

How big is your thumbdrive? Mine is 4 gigabytes.

This January, 2012, 1 terabyte thumbdrives came on the market.

When was the last time you used a thumbdrive?

What did you use it for?

Have you cleaned out all your floppies yet?

To you and keeping within reach of your grandchildren’s world.

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Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers