The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

Are You Digital or Traditional?

While at my parents’ house a few weeks ago, I noticed something vaguely familiar on the kitchen counter: a floppy disc; It’s faded green label, holding the scribble of my childhood signature. My best guess puts this artifact near 25 years old, I would have been six, and so it probably contains my earliest writings. Unfortunately, it won’t work on my PC disc drive at work, and I don’t have an Apple II anymore, or an apple that can run a disc drive, so I have no way – at least not yet – to know what treasures it contains.

In my home office I have every notebook, scrap of paper, metacog-log, written-in novel or textbook, and printed copies of the majority of my middle school, high school, and college papers. While some of them may now be crumpled and faded, un-filed, and in no particular order, they are at least readily available. The pieces on that disk, are not.

Over the last ten years, I’ve transitioned from notebooks and scrap paper, to computers and cell phones. I can’t remember the last time I picked up a pen to write in a journal. Instead, I type, hit save, close the application, and assume that everything will still be there when I return. Sometimes I bank it up to a thumb drive. Sometimes I store it in “the cloud,” but most of the time, I simply leave it on a device that could crash at any point, and lose my hard work. In fact, I’m currently thumbing out this piece on my iPhone, while sitting in a plane heading back to Portland. How does this new found technology not scare me? How am I, like the majority of writers, now leaving things to chance, or the hope that someone at the Apple Genius Bar will be able to recover my files?

What happens to this generation’s version of the floppy disc, when next generation’s i-whatever comes along? Time to hit print on those thousands of pages, file them away, and hope there’s never a fire, flood, or magic shredder looking for your valuable words.

The Poetry Question of the Day: Traditionalist or modernist?

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

2 comments on “Are You Digital or Traditional?

  1. Kathryn
    April 28, 2013

    Hello mate, I feel you. I can happily tell you you don’t need to go to any “Mac professional” to get your stuff off of Mac-formatted drives. There’s software that can do it for free. I’ll tell you my story…

    As a writer myself I have a similar problem: lots of irreplaceable writings and notes on either paper (which is disorganized and cluttering my space) or on old disks that I can’t read anymore. One fire, or break-in, or flood, and everything is gone. Besides the need to protect my stuff, I felt the need to de-clutter my life! I’m really happy to say I’ve just found the solution to both problems!

    I had old Syquest disks (the pre-cursor to Zip drives) and floppy disks: both formatted for Mac. Cluttering up the shelf. I had forgotten what was even on them! I plugged in my Syquest drive (using an IDE slot in my computer) and fed in the disk. Windows 7 installed the drivers automatically! (That blew my mind, seeing as Syquest drives are from 1996, and were made for Win 95!) Next I tried out the program MacDrive, by Media Four software. Just as my friend said it would, the software allowed me to see all the files and copy them to my Windows hard drive.

    I did the same thing with the floppy: bought an old floppy drive, plugged it into my Windows 7 machine, and inserted the disks. The MacDrive software allowed me to read them. I then took the floppies to be recycled at my local dump, which has an e-recycling service.

    I then scoured the internet for advice about the stacks of paper and files I had. I found a Lifehacker article “How I Went Completely Paperless in Two Days” by Adam Dachis. After gaining hope from it, I purchased a Doxie Go document scanner and signed up for Evernote. For the past few days I’ve been happily feeding in sheet after sheet, saving it as *searchable text* PDF files and tagging them in Evernote so I can find what I’ve saved. Evernote is cloud-storage, so I really don’t worry about “losing” my stuff anymore. (Just to be safe, I burned it all onto a Blu-Ray disc and uploaded the stuff to Gdrive just in case!) I have access to anything I’ve ever written, from virtually any phone or computer now. And I have shelf space and room on my desk now for the first time in a decade! The Doxie Go is not the world’s best scanner, but it’s portable, and cheaper than “industrial” use models. If you have the money, I’d say get a scanner with a sheet-feeder. But I’m happy with the results I get for what it is.

    Next I’m going to tackle my VHS tapes and digitize them with a video-converter. But one thing at a time. 🙂

  2. Kathryn
    April 28, 2013


    I write in leather-bound blank notebooks frequently. I use the Cam Scanner App to snap a photo of my pages, then upload it to Evernote. I place my bound journal in my bookshelf when it’s filled up. It looks great on the shelf…romantic and sophisticated. No more file cabinets. File cabinets are for offices and corporations. I’m not traditional, or digital. I’m a sophisticated hybrid.

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