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Friday, August 12, 2016

Comic Cuts - 12 August 2016

Most of my week has been accompanied by the whirring of hard drives as I transfer 27 years of computer files onto four external drives. I bought my first computer in March 1989 at a cost of £700. It was a second-hand PC bought from a friend of a friend. I was living in Chelmsford and we took a terrifying (and freezing cold) trip on the back of a motorbike to Ipswich, where this guy lived. My pal, who knew about computers said it was a good machine, had some useful programmes like WordStar 4 already installed and would suit my needs perfectly.

Tuesday, 9am (11 hours after starting)
As a compiler of lists, I was dreaming of the day when I wouldn't have to type and retype the same information every time I wanted to update a checklist or index; just pop in the addition or correction – you only ever need to type it in once and it will be there forever. The guy selling the machine said: "It has a 35 megabyte hard drive. It'll take you a lifetime to fill that!"

Nowadays, I deal with single pictures bigger than the whole of that original hard drive! It's often said that the modern smartphone has vastly more computing power than NASA had when it sent men to the moon; it's amazing to think that the computers used for monitoring the spacecraft environment and the astronauts were the size of cars and had about 5MB of memory. Each one of the IBM System/360 Moden 75s computers cost $3.5 million. Which makes my original PC an incredible bargain as far as storage is concerned. I don't know how fast the processor is on my computer but an iPhone 6 is over 32,000 times faster than the best of NASA's Apollo era computers.

Not that I'm planning to launch my own space programme – there's the little matter of the billions it would cost to build a rocket, getting planning permission for building a flight control centre in the back garden, housing and training astronauts in a two-bedroom semi and keep my blog going... I think not. All I'm saying is that hopefully my memory storage problems are going to be over for a bit.

Tuesday evening, 7pm (21 hours after starting)
The reason I'm tackling all this copying and backing up now is that my original order of hard drives didn't turn up. Having waiting most of July for them, the lengthy delivery time finally passed and I tried contacting the seller – a third party via Amazon – only to be told by Amazon that the third party was no longer at the party. He'd vanished, leaving some very pissed off partygoers in his wake.

Apart from a few days that Amazon give as a grace period before you can file a claim, I found Amazon to be incredibly easy to deal with when it came to recovering my money. Whatever your thoughts are on the company, their returns and refund policies are second to none: the refund was confirmed in less than a minute of me making my claim and dispatched to my account only three hours later.

I then re-ordered the two drives, this time from Amazon itself at a cost of over £50 more than what I had hoped to pay. But it meant next day delivery at no extra cost, and I could throw in another little piece of kit that I was after on the same order. I've had some problems with my laptop, which I use primarily for watching DVDs when I'm out of range of the TV. However, the DVD player has become increasingly cranky over the past year or so, sometimes working and sometimes telling me that the same disc I'd been watching yesterday was now "not formatted"; on other days the drive would grind a couple of times and power down.

Wednesday morning, 7am (33 hours after starting)
Well, I could stand it no more. So I bought an external DVD player that plugs into the USB port. For the princely sum of under twenty quid, I can now play my DVDs whenever I choose. Take that, laptop!

I'm expecting to catch up on a few things while the Olympics is on... We've watched a couple of episodes of the delightful, Eighties-kids' movie-inspired Stranger Things and we're still working our way through Penny Dreadful season 2 and the recent final season of The Musketeers from the BBC. So lots of history and horror. Next up should be Powers season two. That's the plan, anyway.

FINISHED! Wednesday morning, 8am (and it only took 34 hours!)
While I've been waiting for one of the new hard drives to copy everything from the others, a process that is taking days (34 hours to copy 2 1/2TB from one disc to another... so maybe my computer isn't so fast after all!) I haven't been able to do much in the way of research and I'm just about to enter the busy period on Hotel Business, which is a shame because I should be celebrating. It's 10 years since I started Bear Alley - 15th August 2006 was the first post. I'll have to think of a way to celebrate.

While I think, the machines have been whirring almost non-stop... and, as of Thursday night (it's 10:30 pm as I write this), I have cleared three drives, have one set of files to remove from a fourth, and have backed up all the documents on my main computer—for the first time in 18 months, I notice... I really need to do it more often. I still have a few other old drives and a stack of old CDs and DVDs that I need to check out, so I'm not finished yet. At the end of the day—that day hopefully arriving shortly—I should have everything boiled down to four drives and plenty of space on them, to be slowly filled over the next couple of years.

Henny Groenewoud, who sent me some additional Michael Codd pics from the pages of Mayfair back in April, has turned up another, so I'm using it to lead off today's random scans. And as I feel like I've been up for a couple of nights without a lot of sleep, I've dug out five colourful covers with 'night' in the title. I think I'll take that as a cue to push off and have an early night.


  1. Do you know about louis turgis and lithographs?

  2. Do you know about louis turgis and lithographs?

  3. Can't say I do. A quick Google search reveals he's a 19th century French lithographer, which isn't my area. Sorry.