Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Blue Screen of Death

by Brian Mullen

Yesterday was a fateful day. I got to work at 7:15 a.m. and immediately experienced some computer problems. My company-provided computer could not access the Internet. This is a problem I've been experiencing off and on for about three weeks now. Because the IT department doesn't come in until 8ish, I've historically found partial success through repeated rebooting of the computer. Not today.

Today whilst rebooting, the computer suddenly stopped its normal functions and showed me something new: a royal blue screen with lots of white text on it. The text remained on screen only a few seconds, not even long enough for me to reach the third line, but what I did catch was essentially this: "Windows has experienced a problem, the computer interrupted the reboot to prevent it from becoming catastrophic, you may reboot, if you dare. Bwah Ha Ha Ha!" or words to that effect.

When the IT folks arrived I explained what had happened. "Ah," they said. "You've been BSOD'd."

"BSOD'd?" I asked.

"The Blue Screen of Death. Your hard drive has failed."

Fortunately the several weeks of problems had put the fear of God and/or Bill Gates in me and I had been saving everything of any importance onto the company's server each and every day. So when my computer's life flashed before my eyes, there was nothing on it that couldn't be retrieved later. But, I reflected on my way home, the same cannot be said for my personal computer.

I thought of the characters in my drafted stories and what would happen to them if my computer similarly crashed. I like to believe my characters enjoy a "Toy Story"-esque existence when the computer is turned off and they all get together in cyberspace and hang out. I imagine they meet in the several nicely furnished houses I made for them in my hours of Sims games and brag of their adventures, point out each others typographical errors and speculate on unfinished plots. Then, in a scene fresh from some sci-fi horror flick, I imagine a giant blue screen of death sliding inexorably towards them, flinging pixilated debris as it plows relentlessly forward. My characters scream and run helplessly trying to find cover before they are defragmented for the last time.

But there is hope for them, of course. Reincarnation is a strong force for imaginary characters and they will live on in other computers. Plus I have cloned most of them onto CD-Roms so none will die forever.

Still, it is an eye-opening moment when one gazes into the blue screen of death for the first time and ponder what could have been.

Back-up your hard drives...while you still can.


Gina said...

Yikes, Brian! What a terrifying post.

Tory said...

Brian, too funny!

Have you seen the "error messages Haiku"? Your blog reminded me of that. I first saw it years and years ago, saw it again a month ago and it was still awesomely funny.

Yes, I back up everything daily on my work computer. At home, I backup all my writing AND print out a hardcopy after every writing session. I'm okay with my characters comingling, but resurrection just requires too much energy.

Brian said...

I'm thinking that "The Blue Screen of Death" would make an interesting title for a story though what plot would work is beyond me (apart from the cyber-slaughter I already described).

Joyce said...

I have everything backed up on our desktop, my laptop, a zip drive, my work computer, and I email myself a copy, too. I'm not taking any chances!

Martha Reed said...

Isn't that every writer's nightmare? Loosing a fully completed manuscript?

I think I remember that Stephen King lost one of his books when his suitcase was stolen, it was his only copy, and he's still hoping to find it. I can understand that feeling.

We only know of Beowulf from a single toasty copy because a clerk had the courage to run into a library fire and save it. And what would have known if the Romans hadn't burned the library at Alexandria? Ours is a fragile art.