Warning: very bad joke ahead
There is a really terrible, really old joke about an argument that takes place in Heaven between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness about who is the better computer programmer, Jesus or the Devil.
(Now don’t go telling The Legal Genealogist you weren’t warned: Really terrible. Really old.)
Finally tired of all the bickering, God decides to put an end to the argument and sets up a test. Jesus at one computer terminal, the Devil at another computer terminal, a single problem they both have to solve… and a time limit.
Ding! The bell goes off and both begin furiously pecking at their keyboards.
A few minutes later, just to make things interesting, there’s a crash of thunder!
But both programmers are focusing on the problem and neither is distracted.
A few minutes after that, there’s a flash of lightning!
But even that can’t distract the programmers from their task.
And a few minute later, with only a little bit of time left on the timer, the power goes out. Both computer hard drives spin down to a stop. Both computer monitors go black.
The air around the Devil’s terminal grows positively sulphurous. Even Jesus looks a little startled.
But then the power comes back on and both of them return to the task, furiously pecking away at their keyboards.
And just as the bell goes off to announce that time is up, Jesus proclaims: “Done!”
The Devil can’t believe it. Nobody, but nobody, could have finished that problem in the time that was left when the power came back on, not after losing everything when the power went out. You wouldn’t have wanted to hear what the forces of Darkness were saying that turned the air even more sulphurous.
And what were the forces of Light saying?
(Remember, you were warned: Really terrible. Really old.)
So what does that really terrible, really old joke have to do with genealogy?
Think about it for a minute.
Think about all the things you’ve acquired or done in your genealogical research that exist only in the form of a computer file.
Think about all the photographs you took of original documents at that repository you went to last week. Think about the birth and death certificates you bought at no small cost to your pocketbook that were sent to you as digital files by some vital registrar’s office. Think about the pension file the National Archives sent out as a PDF file. Think about that proof argument you researched and wrote and rewrote and rewrote again and again and finally saved as a word processing file.
If your power went out… if your hard drive crashed… how sulphurous would the air be around your computer terminal?
I raise the question now because you wouldn’t have wanted to hear what was being said around my computer terminal last night after an iPad operating system update required the entry of a passcode that I had never set in the first place, locking me out of access to some documents I really really needed to finish a project with a due date of — you guessed it — 1 December.
It wouldn’t have been an issue on my desktop or laptop. I have multiple backup systems in place on my computers. Automatic offsite backups. Periodic onsite backups to external hard drives, and periodic onsite backups to other external hard drives kept offsite. Belt, suspenders, then belt on the suspenders.
But, I thought, I hadn’t quite done the same thing with the iPad. The iPad I took with me to Virginia and North Carolina and the National Archives at College Park recently. The iPad with photographs of those original documents…
Now the story turns out to have a happy ending. Thanks to a combination of an older backup on iTunes, current photos in iCloud, and some technical advice from computer gurus in the Technology for Genealogy group on Facebook, everything I needed was recovered and the iPad is now humming along nicely with the new operating system installed and everything once again fully backed up. And I have a new system in place for automatic backups of everything on the iPad too.
But for a few minutes last night that air was positively sulphurous.
And I was reminded why genealogists more than most computer and tech users need to keep remembering:
Backup. Backup. Backup.
Yes, indeedy: Jesus saves.