Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Do computers remember?

I’ve talked about memory and memory tricks on this blog before. Put the word ‘memory’ in the search box at the top of this page and a very random number of posts will turn up. But I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the joys of computer memory.
As an aside, I have this theory that computers don’t really back up anything at all. They pretend to. After all, the only time we try and get back what we’ve lost is when we’ve lost it, and then we find that for some inexplicable reason the computer can’t find it either – even on its backup. And it always has excuses: like we backed it up to the wrong drive, etc.
This used to happen not infrequently to us in the shop, before we went over to a zip drive. You’d back everything up like a good boy, and then come to use a file the next day – and it would be unaccountably empty. You’d go to the back up disk – and guess what? It either wouldn’t restore – or couldn’t. My suspicion is that it couldn’t, because it never really backed anything up in the first place. I could have proved it by checking the other files that we still had copies of, but of course no one checks the ones they don’t want, only the one they want. See what I mean? It’s a conspiracy.
Anyway, all that aside. I started to talk about memory, not backing up.
Computers and memory. There’s never enough. It’s another conspiracy, because just when you think you’ve bought or added all the memory any computer person in the entire world would ever need, along comes a program that warns you: your computer may not have enough memory to run all the features of this program.
That’s why a place like is helpful. Although it asks a rather existential question when you go to its home page. “Know your memory?” it inquires. (This is something we older people probably need to make sure we do know – though can one ever know one’s memory?)

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