Why I Print Things Out
To look at me, you’d hardly know I’m a Luddite. I mean, I own a desktop computer with a flatscreen monitor as well as a laptop. I use them both daily. My fiction and poetry has been published more often electronically than in print.
And yet – and yet –
I print out everything I write, yes, I do. I keep a paper file of all my columns and all my articles and all my stories and the current drafts of my novels. There is a simple reason for all this. It’s a sad tale of trust and betrayal, of a budding relationship cruelly blighted. Cue the violins. Pass the tissues.
Once upon a time, in the golden age of computing, when the floppy disc had achieved its petite 5" figure and daily backups of work were the matter of a bare half hour—say, forty-five minutes at most—there was a writer who had a folklore series on radio. Each week she would painstakingly research and construct a script on the folklore of black birds, or weddings, or ships or playing cards and print it out and fax it (for in those High and Far Off Times the e-mail was a dream of a dream) to a radio station in a far city. And on the day appointed she would chat by telephone with a radio host for broadcast across the lonely northland. And it was good.
And the writer, being chastised after a week or two by her resident geek (aka husband) for not backing up the files, did diligently scribe each one on a petite little floppy disc as it was completed. And the resident geek being an inveterate fiddler with the computer did accidentally erase the hard-disc files, but lo! they were in duplicate on the floppy. And it was good.
After two years of these labours, lo, someone said to the writer, “These would make a book. Think about it.” And the writer thought about it and said to herself, “Hot diggety, that’s a good idea.” And it was good.
Now, the writer had diligently backed up these scripts onto a disc, and she inserted the disc into the computer in order to consider her works. And on the screen she beheld these words: “Disc corrupted. Files not readable.” And it was not good.
And the radio station, on being questioned, allowed as they did not have recordings of the conversations. And that was to be expected, but wasn’t all that good, either.
And the resident geek asked, “Didn't you make printouts? I thought you had printouts. You should always have printouts.” And the scene that ensued was most definitely Not Good. Against all expectations, the resident geek survived, more or less intact.
But the writer was given to think deeply on the perfidy of computers and of geeks, even resident ones with benefits.
And that is why I keep printouts.