(Data) Backup lessons from TV’s Sex and the City

World Backup Day 2023 is March 31st

Today, March 31st being World Backup Day reminded this Gadget Guy of an article I was inspired to write for the Edmonton Sun 22 years ago not after watching the news or a show about Technology, but rather a TV Show about Women – specifically Bravo’s Sex and the City.

It came about on a warm Saturday evening in the Summer of 2001. After absorbing 90 minutes of Comedian George Carlin with my spouse Elaine, I walked away from the tube. Elaine, insisted I watch this upcoming show about four friends; all thirty-something New York City single women constantly searching for true love and happiness, because it featured an Apple Macintosh. She knew what the episode was about as the same episode had aired the night before. I knew nothing much about the main character Carrie Bradshaw, sex columnist for the New York Star other than she was portrayed by actor Sarah Jessica Parker whose computer of choice is a grey Apple 1998 Macintosh PowerBook G3. 

While I had simply expected yet another excuse for product placement, the episode rolled-out into am incredibly entertaining and for some a truly educational story. At the time, I was sorry I hadn’t “taped” it so I had difficulty remembering the all the dialogue. Of course, now everything lives on on-line forever. 

The Crash

While there was, of course, a lot of drama between the ladies’ quartet, the main storyline begins as our heroine’s computer goes awry while working diligently on her article. It’s the infamous cherry bomb- a system crash. If memory serves me correctly, her boyfriend Aidan (John Corbett), came to her rescue and hit CTRL+ALT+DEL to reboot the machine. Instantly, the chimes of death sounded as a sad Mac, in this case- a snarly Mac, appeared. For Windows folks, it’s like that dreaded blue screen of death.

Suddenly, Carrie enters into panic mode, realising that her whole life- all her work, including her latest composition were trapped on that computer. The scene moves to a phone call where Carrie explains and as usual expects sympathy from one of her girlfriends Miranda. The word “Backup” comes out, to which Carrie, angered and immediately insisted that she had never heard her friend use that term before and adding that they never discussed backups. Apparently the four friends always discuss just about every intimate detail- about everything. Elaine laughed nodded her head at me in total agreeance saying how true that is and that women talk about many things, but computers, especially backups, just isn’t one of them. 

What happens next

Admittedly, I was hooked. I just had to see what happened next. After repeated meltdowns Carrie took her mac to the repair shop TekServe where she was served by number- just like at the bakery. Typing away frantically, the customer service agent, a typical hot shot geek a la Big Bang Theory, asked the usual questions – including nonchalantly when she last did a backup. “I don’t do that,” she exclaimed. Of course, she had no documentation or manuals having gone totally feng shui and had thrown them away. 

After expressing deeply that her life was residing on the hard drive, the service agent Dmitri played by Aasif Mandvi, without any reassurance said they’ll see what they could do. Digging deeper Dmitri asked what had transpired. 

She told him about the Sad Mac.  Aidan advised him about the three fingered salute to reboot (CTRL-Alt-Del). Since this was obviously a Mac shop – the Dmitri blurted out. “That only works on PCs. You a PC user? You’re not compatible,”  almost questioning the status of the couple’s relationship – but that’s another part of the story. 

Subsequently, Carrie’s knight in shining armour made a feeble attempt to comfort her by buying her a new shiny grape Mac iBook – the one that resembles a clam shell. Frustrated and stressed in a self-absorbed moment, she declared that she already had a computer giving it, not him, a hug. 

We later find out that she has also has thrown away her warranty card and ended up forking out for a new motherboard and buying a zip drive. 

Her data was not recoverable.

Meaningful message and lesson learned 

Carrie Bradshaw learnt a valuable life lesson about relationships and her computer. Backups are important and it isn’t just a guy thing.

The episode was appropriately titled: My Motherboard, My Self (Season 4 Episode 8). 

While most shows of this nature provide a high level of entertainment, they sometimes do convey a useful message. Back then, when computers were introduced into the mix, they were often used, as props or for product advertising. 

We know today with the advent of smartphones, tablets and a plethora of other gadgets the stories are a little different.

In 2001, the Apple notebook formed part of the story line. It illustrated how we as a society have become very reliant on computers, and like humans, are not totally infallible. However, unlike a human who suffers a brain injury or perhaps just forgets, computers do have an advantage. Their memories, or data- can be preserved, by creating an exact duplicate or backup copy of the information. 

Back then, backups were usually done on a medium independent from the main computer, like a floppy disk, a CDR or a Zip drive or even by e-mailing to another location. Today we have USB thumb Drives, automated high-speed wireless transmission and cloud storage and backups like Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive and more.

You all likely have a plethora of data tucked away on your laptops, smartphones and tablets. It’s not just documents. It’s now also photos, audio and video. And of you don’t want to someday lose it all as Carrie did, methods to preserve it should not be taken lightly. 

So do your part, take a pledge and take action on #WORLDBACKUPDAY. You can also visit WorldBackupDay.com for more info.

Listen to the Podcast version of this episode below.

The syndicated edition of the article appears at Troy Media and 32 affiliated syndicated sites. Podcasts also appear at either Toastcaster.com or Toastmasters Podcast.com.

Greg Gazin, also known as the Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg, is a syndicated veteran tech columnist, communication, leadership and technology speaker, facilitator, blogger, podcaster and author. Reach him @gadgetgreg or at GadgetGuy.ca.

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