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My foot stumbled against the faceplate of my desktop for the forty-leventh time, knocking it akilter. (Merlin sits on the floor beside my desk, because I don’t have the desk space for him.) I winced as always at the clatter. “Last day, fella.” According to all sources, his replacement, to be named “Gaia,” because it’s Earth Day, will arrive sometime today. I’m excited, scared, and a little sad.

Excited is easy: New toy! More memory! Zippier graphics! Sad stems from my tendency to anthropomorphize the world–Merlin is a person to me, sorta. Or at least a kind of critter. I feel bad that he’s down on the floor, sitting there like an obedient pet. Sometimes I wonder if that (and all the inadvertent kicking) is why he’s cranky, but inside I must admit: It’s old age, which these days means five or six. Little things, like him refusing a soft restart. (That means I have to push his power switch to reboot, which takes longer. The next step from this would be having to pull his power cord, sigh. And then will come the day where he won’t immediately restart. Been here, done this.)

All that said, I’m building Gaia a little platform, to be composed of part of our stash of a local library’s discarded Encyclopedia Britannica. Moving on:

A good bit of the Essential Me lives on Merlin for much of the day, which is why I was dismayed to learn that Gaia has no slot for his hard drive, which brings us to scared. “Get creative,” our local geek advised.

According to the interwebs, this often involves that structural component known as doublesided tape. I opted for Plan B: Cloning Merlin’s hard drive onto an external. (For the curious: These days you can get 1T for fifty bucks. Sweet!)

Well, my patient daughter fetched me the external drive, Micro Center being an essential business right now. Holding it in my hand, I experienced a whole terabyte of space weighing less than a cheeseburger. (I spent my salad days sharing bunk space with my husband’s pet PDP-8, fittingly named “Goliath.”) I downloaded a free program that people seemed to think well of, and hit “backup” from C: to E:. Et voila, I awoke to the deed being done, having taken at least three hours.

This will be the version I will plug into Gaia upon her setup, and if all goes according to plan, my apps, etc., will still be available. Being an Old Person (see “PDP-8,” above) I am taking this on the best assurances of my kids and the interwebs. So let’s assume that this is all well and good and will work the way I want it to. (I am convinced that it won’t, because Old People who grew up in the Hollerith card era know the Nature of the Beast.)

This means that from now on, any data I put onto Merlin today has either got to be backed up on the cloud (easy enough for writing, etc.–I’m backing a bunch of stuff up onto the cloud anyway because of that canny Old Person thing) or it will VANISH like footprints in heavy snow: Tomorrow I will open a window and they will be gone.

I spend far too much of my quarantine time playing my collection of casual games, and today that won’t be an attractive option, because those levels, that time–however poorly spent–that experience, won’t be available tomorrow. So that leaves me with writing (hi!) and things that happen online (hi again!).

And then there’s the real world, which has these great redundancies called Time and Space and whatnot. Too bad right now it’s mostly confined to a three-bedroom apartment in Cambridge, #firstworldproblems, heh.

My personal takeaway here is the assignment to figure out why it matters so much to me that my game-playing (and other) efforts count. Why isn’t the journey itself worth the trip? Why must my data footprints all be tracked across wet cement?