It's not hard to lose things — in fact, I think everyone can agree that it happens a little too frequently, especially in the digital world. Backing up data is something everyone is supposed to do, but, let's be honest, sometimes it falls through the cracks. With the help of CrashPlan, the cloud solution you've been waiting for all your life, we asked ten people to tell about the time they lost the one thing they still miss to this day. Stories of lost treasures, both digital and otherwise, from tech entrepreneurs, musicians, writers, a product designer, filmmaker, photographer, and editor follow, and those who watched as their iTunes library slip into nothingness share a common sentiment: "I should have backed up!"
In June 2012, I spent a week on an uninhabited island in New Hampshire, in an ambitious effort to compose and complete a bunch of songs. It was quite successful and I arrived home to NYC with a solid batch of tunes ready to be chiseled into an album. I spent a month's worth of nights and weekends learning how to record on my own, fashioning microphones out of two audio recorders and teaching myself the software through a frustratingly inefficient method involving excessive point-and-click trial-and-error. But the work paid off, and the songs were articulated surprisingly well, with guitars, pianos, drums, percussion, bass, and various instruments that I managed to integrate. The tracks were then edited so that all the volume levels were correct and balanced. They were EQ'ed, panned, compressed, and polished to an appropriate degree so the integrity of the songs shined through while sounding rich, full, and "professional" enough to be taken seriously. I was proud and even managed to surprise myself with the quality of the finished product. One thing I did not prepare for, however, was my irresponsible and borderline psychotic inability to protect something so unique and valuable. All the files somehow became "corrupted," and when I opened them, the tracks I had poured myself into were empty. Lost.
If you'd like to hear for yourself, it's here for free download. And if you like that, maybe you'll like the other music/art he made under far more conventional circumstances. When he's not haphazardly recording his songs at home, Dave Godowsky works for Partisan Records/Figure Eight Management where he works with artists including Heartless Bastards, Field Report, and Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween).
I Googled far and wide and consulted various experts, but to no avail. The album was gone. Forever. I suppose there's some postmodern beauty in having art exist only for one's self, in this case to an unfortunately literal extent. And I gained something that even transcends the obvious "cautionary tale," which is that there's real value in creative adversity. Having obstacles to overcome can activate otherwise dormant parts of our artistic minds. It can be helpful when the GPS breaks or your cell phone dies. In this case, my gut reaction was to record all the songs over again, frantically, in one night, with a renewed sense of purpose that bordered on embitterment. I think a certain magic happened that night that would never have happened otherwise. And I guess I'm the only one able to compare the two, but I think everything actually worked out for the best. The loss of one cherished possession led to the birth of another.
[P.S.: When I finished writing this piece, my browser crashed and I realized, somewhat ironically, that I hadn't saved my work. Fortunately Gmail anticipated this and it was waiting for me in the drafts folder. Old habits die hard...]
Last year, my husband Bjarke and I went on a long-awaited trip to Brazil and Ecuador. As we're both architecture junkies and nature lovers, we'd been dying to see the cities of Brazil and the landscape - and as we're both serious amateur photographers, we'd brought along the big fancy cameras, despite warnings that we'd be mugged and left twitching in a ditch somewhere in exchange for them. We wanted some good shots and were willing to suffer for them. And we got lucky, not only getting to shoot tons of amazing colonial Portuguese baroque buildings and interiors in Salvador and Lencois, but also some really incredible canyons, waterfalls and even a glowing, turquoise-colored phosphorescent underground lake in a deep cave in central Brazil. So we were totally maniacal about uploading all our images onto not one, but two stick drives whenever we got to a computer that could handle it, and we guarded those stick drives with our lives.
Holly McWhorter is a writer and designer living in Brooklyn. She and her husband have a product design studio called PLANT.
Well, one day we'd just transferred a batch of photos from a camera card to a stick, and were about to back it up to another when the first one died - before the files copied to the hard drive of the computer we were using for the backup. Just crashed, kaput, with 5 days and 4 cities of Brazil on it. It had a little digital heart attack or something, and we never got a single thing off it again. We could have literally cried. I think maybe we did. I still cringe and feel sick when I think of all those shots, and hope I'll always be able to remember what those places looked like... Ouch.
- My bird named Popeye in middle school. He flew away. His wings were clipped but apparently that didn't matter. You can't get a bird back.
- All of my cassette tapes. Especially Guns N' Roses. And Nine Inch Nails. Where did they go, I mean, really, where did they go?
- My birthday presents in the back of a taxi when I was twelve. My dad forgot they were in the trunk. I was a bit devastated but eventually got over it.
- My 21st birthday. I can't remember what I did. Maybe that's a good sign. But I wish I had some memory of it.
- All the data on my first server from my first company. Hundreds of thousands of hours of work, gone, in one painful moment. And no, there was no cloud then. Just some thunderstorms that lingered.
- My laptop on a plane that they claimed had disappeared when I went back to get it twenty minutes later. Had I backed up the data? No. And yes, I should have. (Thank you for thinking that. It doesn't help now.)
- The many, many MP3s that lived on various hard drives that eventually died. I must have a dozen carcasses in various boxes in my apartment from the last ten years.
- The data that I didn't lose in my new company because there are happy clouds floating in the sky these days.
- Vivian Rosenthal is the Founder & CEO of GoldRun.
- Technology still dies, not just humans. At least for now. Soon we'll die first and all the data will live on. Nothing lost, minus some flesh and blood.
When I moved to NYC in 2004, I capped off my first day as New Yorker at a bar in Chelsea. As my first night came to a close, my friends and I exited the bar, and a Bentley with tinted windows pulled up right in front of us. And of course, none other than Jay-Z stepped out. The Jigga Man! I had a disposable camera in my pocket, so I had one of Jay's bodyguards snap a photo of me and H.O.V.A.
Alex Scordelis is a writer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and the music critic at Paper magazine.
Somewhere in the shuffle of moving to a new apartment years later, I lost that photograph. I wish I still had it — not that anyone doubts my story of meeting Jay-Z on my first day living in New York — but I wish I had documentation of the dumbstruck and naive look on my face — a look that said, "I bet this sort of thing is gonna happen to me all the time now."
Sometimes you don't even know you've lost something until it shows up again. A few years ago, my then-newly-ex-boyfriend received an email from an old friend, subject line, "IS THIS YOU?" Someone had seen a few pictures of him and me on a website, Ifoundyourcamera.net, captioned "a young couple that lived in New York." Even the website manager put us in past tense. My ex received all 600+ photos, and because we were considering reconciling at the time, I asked him to send them. There we were: at a wedding — a beautiful July day on the Oregon coast, then in Prospect Park, then outside a cafe in Fort Greene before our relationship turned long-distance.
Rebecca Keith is a writer and musician in and from New York City.
The website now has a whole section of "success stories." I suppose you could file us under there, in a sense, for having a good run, lost and found. We had a time, as Rayanne Graff would say.
As a tech writer, I preach the gospel of constantly-backing-up-everything. All. The. Time. But that doesn't mean I'm not prone to a wee bit of hypocrisy every once in a while. Like when my laptop's hard drive suddenly decided to stop working (lemons). The lemonade: I made a story out of it, one in which I sent the defunct drive to a data forensics firm to find out what exactly had happened to it. Turns out it had simply reached the end of its life — most hard drives only last a few years before their moving parts go kaput — and it had reached its time.
We all read the stories about how hard drives are full of moving parts and have limited lifespans and all that, but until you actually LOSE your stuff, it doesn't really sink in. Well, it did then. The damage was bad (I lost a couple of half-done stories), but I definitely learned my lesson, and now have about three redundant backup methods saving my stuff. Never again.
I lost an entire set of original Stephen Shore postcards made in Amarillo, Texas in 1971 while he was crisscrossing the U.S. making work for his project American Surfaces. The postcards are especially significant because they mark the very beginning of a style of photographing that would later become Shore's career-defining project, Uncommon Places (and because Shore would covertly place them in postcard racks all over the country while traveling to photograph Uncommon Places). They are especially significant to me because Shore gave a complete set of ten to me upon finishing my senior thesis project in photography at Bard College.
During my freshman year I had heard rumors about an old Bard photo department tradition wherein graduating seniors would trade one print from their thesis project for a print by one of their professors. I "subtly" inserted this hearsay into conversations with Stephen over the course of my four years at Bard, and, to my great surprise and delight, at the end of my senior year he agreed, and gave me a set of the Amarillo postcards in exchange for a large print of a night landscape.
Flash forward 4½ years to the unexpected end (and very rushed move made possible by the Department of Buildings) of my time living in an illegal loft building on the border of Brooklyn and Queens. I thought I had packed the cards safely away with all of other treasured items, but they disappeared. It was a pretty stressful time, and the majority of the packing was done in about a three hour window. I've moved twice since then, and keep thinking they may show up if I were to say, find an old manila envelope in the back of a filing cabinet or a box inside a box hiding in a box (photographers are hoarders, ahem, "collectors" by nature), but alas, nothing yet.
Samuel Sachs Morgan is a native New Yorker and the owner and operator of The Photo Booth Party.
So here I am, on the verge of my third move since I most-likely-(never give up hope!)-but-almost-certainly lost Stephen's post cards. I keep thinking that this is the move that will uncover them, but they are probably gone forever. I hope they made their way back through the postal system, more than 35 years later, or into some postcard rack, maybe even one in Amarillo, Texas.
My music collection, the video I've shot, and my photos are the only items worth anything to me in my apartment. All live on hard drives. My music collection has been painstakingly assembled for as long as I can remember: No single songs, only full albums. I think of my collection as a soundtrack to my life — who I used to be, who I am, who I wish I was. I have collected different kinds of music from all over the world, from friends of varying taste, for different seasons and moods, and they are all compiled into a giant digital database: My ‘SoulDrive.'
My music inspires me while I work, reflects a good mood, and consoles me when I need help. It's always on and I've been generous with sharing it, making mixed tapes, CD's and now digital mixes that I send to loved ones. This collection was lost a few years ago in an instant; 200 GB of media forever gone. An uncomfortable whirl led to a jarring click, then more clicking, then gone — all of it. I was crushed. It felt like a death. Unlike a photo, the music was technically ‘replaceable,' but it wasn't any individual album I mourned, it was the whole package, together — my journey. I couldn't even remember half the things that I owned. Witnessing my devastation, the first question anyone asked was, "Well did you back it up?"
"No, and thanks for your help" was always my reply. It was gone, and I've spent the last 3 years rebuilding my collection. And now I back up my music, and I back up my backup, but I'm sure one day soon, it wall all go poof and disappear again.
I wish I'd never lost…
…my nerve. It's the kind of thing you take for granted when you're a teenager, like your wrinkle-free forehead and the ability to start a Friday night at 11 PM. You had gobs of nerve, heaps of it, when you were young, like that time you worked up the courage to leave a secret-admirer note in Mr. Sensitive Ponytail Man's mailbox freshman year on Valentine's Day — you didn't know his name, but he was so cute and so, so weird. You invited him to breakfast, because why not do that? You were 18 and unstoppable. And in the dining hall he told you tales of being a national snowboarding champ and living somewhere you'd never heard of called Düsseldorf, and you were sure he was lying about all of it but you didn't care because there you were. You didn't see him again — you had nerve but not much know-how — and it didn't matter.
Carla's work has appeared in Jezebel, Marie Claire, Self, The Hairpin, The Awl, and Heeb.
You were brazen and ballsy. And now you wish you still had that valentine, had asked for it back so that you might meet your spunky 18-year-old self now and follow her scripty, heart-dotted lead and be bold and nervy, even if maybe your forehead is just a little more wrinkled now.
I thought I was being responsible by moving my entire iTunes library to what I assumed was a reliable 500 GB external hard drive. It seemed the transfer went smoothly, as I double clicked the drive's icon on my desktop and saw all of my music files. When my iPod crashed months later and I was forced to restore it to its original factory settings, I wasn't at all concerned since my entire library was safe on that drive. But alas, almost half of my music files had magically disappeared.
Dylan Gadino is the Editor of Laughspin.
For what I considered the indispensable portion of my collection, I had to re-purchase music I had already owned. And for the other hundreds of songs, I had to just accept they were gone forever.
It's okay; dry your eyes. CrashPlan provides continuous backup (most recent files are backed up first) to ultra-secure global data centers — even to a friend's computer. Access file versions and your entire backup via free mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows, or find out the status of your backups via email or Twitter. Get CrashPlan now, and don't let the good stuff in your digital world slip away.