Composing, Decomposing, Recomposing.

I was walking the cuttledog this evening when a refrain passed through what passes for my consciousness. I instantly recognized it—it was something I wrote maybe ten or fifteen (maybe 20!) years ago, part of an unfinished song.

At one point, I had written maybe 8-10 verses to this song (it’s kind of a ballad, but not in traditional ballad format; it’s a story of a relationship that goes from romantic to tragic to worse), and was actually quite proud of it (“happy” with it is not the right word for the subject matter of this song).

And then, something happened on the technological front that had ramifications I had not considered. Computers stopped using disks (I was going to say “floppy disks”, but they hadn’t really been “floppy” for quite some time). With everyone else, I made the migration over to bigger hard drives, to zip drive backups (remember those?), to CD-R backups, and all that jazz. And at some point (if I knew which point, it wouldn’t be a problem), this song stayed on a disk and did not make it to a hard drive. (Not the worst loss—I had a sound file of my then-infant daughter’s laugh I used as an alert; it was lost in the move to my first laptop, and I would gladly give a kidney if anyone could get it back.)

So I still have this song. Somewhere. On a disk. Among the hundreds of disks in my office, probably, or at my home, less probably. Mind you, I have no disk reader. Nor would that disk have been labeled in such a manner that would let me know it was the one. So, really, I don’t have this song anywhere.

And I don’t remember it. Hadn’t really even thought about it in at least a couple of years, to tell the truth. But really, it would be worth finishing—so I am embarking on a bit of an experimental journey. I composed this song, and it has since decomposed. And now, I am trying to recompose it. I am not the person I was ten or fifteen years ago—hell, I’m not the same person I was when I started this post—so I honestly don’t know if what I end up with (assuming I end up with something) will be anything close to what I would have written back then. But I am going to try to keep track of my progress, and attempt (who knows how successfully) to distinguish between what I remember from back then and what I come up with afresh this time.

And frankly, I will be disappointed if it comes out “meh.” Back then, I really thought this was good.

So… what have *you* lost in the great march of technology? Could you get it back? Will you try?

PS the working title of mine was always “only her eyes were blue”. So if you see that come up in the next few weeks, months, or years, that will be it.


  1. John Morales says

    So… what have *you* lost in the great march of technology? Could you get it back? Will you try?

    Nothing worth caring about; no; no.

  2. katkinkate says

    Stories – half-done novels and short stories. Only one I thought worth keeping though so not too worried about it. I enjoy writing occasionally but I’m not particularly talented.

  3. Cuttlefish says


    What with impostor syndrome and all that, I wonder what absolute gems have been lost to literature because an incredible talent felt “not particularly talented.”

    The funny thing is, this blog’s origins are, in part, a means by which to put my writing out there whether it is finished or not, because I otherwise would probably keep all of it hidden as not nearly good enough for public consumption.

    Of course, I have also seen the most unforgivable dreck posted proudly, which leads me to wonder if any of us ought to be the judges of our own writing’s worth. Those with standards never meet those standards, and those without are happy to share. As a metaphor… my sister loves to sing in public, in part because she has a tin ear and cannot float a tune in a barge. She cannot hear the insults she inflicts upon songs. Me, I am cursed with a fairly decent voice and a concertmaster’s ear (I had my hearing tested; I wouldn’t make such a claim idly), so I never live up to my own standards. Do I sing better than my sister? By any reasonable standard, yes. By my standard, we both fall short (ok, yeah, she is off by more than I am); by her standard, we are equally good (she also likes country music).

    In short…. I wonder how good the stories are that you don’t think are worth recovering. We probably will never know.

  4. Randomfactor says

    There’s a story about NASA data tapes which were only preserved because some librarian refused to scrap tape-readers and kept them in her garage.

    In a similar vein, I have in my office a computer with both 3.5 and 5.25-inch (REAL floppy) drives. It runs on DOS and had a DOS-based diskfix utility.

    Yeah, I’m offering. At the least, I’d be happy to ship you a USB-capable 3.5-inch drive.

    As to what I lost due to technology, I’m afraid I have no backup copies at all of her aside from a hair sample. Only her eyes were green. :(

  5. Cuttlefish says

    Randomfactor… I actually still have an 8-inch floppy disk, predating the 5.25 floppies. Mind you, very little is on it, and nothing of worth.

    I suspect my department has access to a 3.5 reader, but if not, I absolutely will take you up on your too-kind offer. In part, out of guilt. You see… I have green eyes.

    I am so sorry.

  6. Randomfactor says

    I worked with the 8-inch floppies, years ago. Hell, i worked with paper tape running Baudot code…

  7. Cuttlefish says

    Paper tape? Ok, i bow to you. I remember magtape (I do not think I could recall the commands sent to actual people to “mount X tape”, but I did use those, once upon a time), but not paper tape, nor cards. (Ok, I remember cards, but never programmed with them.)

    There are too many ways to lose things that are precious.

  8. Randomfactor says

    Should you need to contact me, I’m the same handle at the free mail service which is not cold, nor even warm, but actually very, very warm.

  9. Kevin Boyce says

    I have done a pretty good job of copying the entire contents of every previous disk to a small corner of the next generation. I no longer have things like the source code for my dissertation, but the bound copy is fine. Really, all I’ve lost is things that were not mine, that I never really had.


    I was about to mention a short poem (using the term loosely) I remembered from a poster or calendar in my youth, of which I could remember the first verse but no more. At one point I tried looking it up and found nothing, and tried to recreate some additional verses myself. I may have actually done so. But. Now the internets have swallowed up a lot more stuff, and this poem is easy to find.

    I have no idea why I liked it enough to remember it.

    The Spangled Pandemonium

    The spangled pandemonium
    Is missing form the zoo.
    He bent the bars the barest bit,
    And slithered glibly through.

    He crawled across the moated wall,
    He climbed the mango tree,
    And the the keeper scrambled up,
    He nipped him in the knee.

    To all of you a warning
    Not to wander after dark,
    Or if you must, make very sure
    You stay out of the park.

    For the spangled pandemonium
    Is missing from the zoo,
    And since he nipped his keeper,
    He would just as soon nip you!

    — Palmer Brown

  10. grumpyoldfart says

    I saw a TV show about the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the curator showed a cupboard full of stuff that looked like sheets of plastic about two feet long and a foot wide. He said they contained data from the 1960s but nobody could remember anything about the machine that produced them, nor even how to read them. The data is there, but it will remain forever hidden.


    Back in the 1980s I was recording songs from the radio onto tape. By the 1990s I had hundreds of tapes (anything from 30 minutes to two hours). Then CDs took over and my tapes were consigned to a huge bag (probably half a cubic yard). After years of neglect I noticed that the paper labels had started to peel off – so now I was in trouble. In order to find out what was on the tape, I had to play it all the way through – both sides!

    There was one song I really, really wanted to find. I don’t know who sang it and I’m not sure when they sang it, but they had a strong English accent (working class, not upper class) and it started like this, with a slight pause after each line:

    I was flying….
    I was flying in…
    I was flying in my…
    I was flying in my aeroplane

    And hundreds of other songs as well. I left them in the bag for another ten years, always promising that one day I would actually do some searching – but I never did. And last year I dumped the whole bag into a garbage bin and watched the council workers throw it into the compactor.

  11. says

    Actually, I am reminded by grumpyoldfart of something that was also kinda lost to technology…

    In a high school English class (which is a foreign language here of course) our teacher played us a song from cassette. It’s actually not that long ago, maybe 10-12 years, and at that time cassettes were already a relic from a distant past… He had the lyrics of that song on paper printed or copied with one of this old-school things which printed everything in violet, and we had to share sheets because he didn’t have enough copies for the whole class. (It’s not like we were a third-world school or anything. But that teacher was a very strange fellow.)

    Anyway, I remembered the song a year or two ago, and actually still had a few lyric snippets in mind, but the thing can’t be found anywhere online. (And I will never, ever go back to that teacher and ask him.)

    The title was “The Plan” and the song was a protest song of some environmentalists(?) against the plans to remodel Piccadilly Circus in London, and from the late 60s. Now, I’ve lost even more of the lyrics that I remembered, but it definitely mentioned the Eros statue and it had a lot to say against concrete :)

    Hm, I might ask Reddit for help :)

  12. The Ridger says

    Actually I bought a disk drive – they’re really cheap – so I didn’t lose any of my writing. Looking at it, some of it I wish I had!

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