The year was 1982. I was a Computer Science student by day and a baker by night (well, early morning). My boss Al at the Tiffany’s Bakery in the Staten Island Mall had asked me to help him figure out how much each of his products actually cost him, so he could understand which were the most profitable.
With my TRS-80 Model II computer and its 8-inch floppy hard drive, I got to work developing a program to provide the information Al needed.
It was a pretty cool program—the user would enter all the suppliers and the prices for the ingredients they supply, and the program would calculate an average price for a pound of flour, etc., across all suppliers.
The user would also enter the recipe and the yield for all products; i.e., how much sugar, flour, etc. went into the cake recipe and how many cakes the recipe yielded.
Out would pop the cost of each cake, Danish, cupcake and donut that the bakery sold.
It was a great little program built (I think) in Pascal. This was before database management systems like Oracle or SQL Server, even before DBASE and RBASE, so I built my own database into the application.
I was so proud of my creation. Then the day came for me to demonstrate the product to the boss. I still remember vividly how the night before I was working feverishly in my mother’s basement on a few last-minute touchups, getting everything ready for the big reveal.
I accidentally pressed Delete instead of Save. Sheer panic! That moment is seared into my memory.
I had no backup. I don’t even know if backup was “a thing” at the time. I didn’t even have an old copy of the software named something different on the floppy drive anywhere. My program was gone, the whole thing! Weeks, maybe months of hard work disappeared in an instant.
Worse yet, I had already missed the first, and maybe even the second deadline. Al had been very patient but I had promised him it was really done this time, and now I had nothing to give him!
A wise friend once told me that nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. That was true of this disaster. Al was very understanding and though it took many more hours of my time than I would have liked, I was able to rebuild the application, probably better than it was before. And it turned out to be very valuable to the bakery.
But I would not wish that feeling of dread on anyone. Ever since then, it has been my passion to make sure that everyone is protected against losing the applications or the data they spent their precious time creating.
So backup your work, double-check your backups, and test them on a regular basis.
Then go have a cup of coffee and a donut and think of this story with a smile knowing you are safe.