I Copied a File


Mon, Sep 23rd, 2002 02:00 by Jester ARTICLE

I am so proud of myself. I copied a file.

I can't tell you what a sense of accomplishment I feel. I took a file from the hard drive, and copied it to a 3.5 inch diskette. When I checked the disk to see that file was there and saw that it was, I was ecstatic, in a nearly lost-my-virginity fashion.

And don't mock me. I'll bet there's a lot of people who could not have copied that file, at least the way I did. Let me explain.

I have a laptop. Or possibly, had. The hard drive has developed bad sectors, sectors occupied by Windows 98. Well, since I ran scandisk to fix the bad sectors, who knows where Windows 98 is now? Win98 certainly doesn't. When I boot up, it flat out refused to load.

And I needed to get a file off that machine.

Not even Safe Mode would bring up my operating system. However, there was one thing that still worked. The command prompt.

It has been a very long time since I've worked with DOS. Even in the days when it was the only way to play, I wasn't particularly good with DOS, being a non-technical sort. As much as I mock Microsoft and Windows, I do have to admit that they came up with a good solution for people like me (although Windows 3.1 was, is, and always shall be, an affront to computing).

Since Windows 95, I've become a Microsoft cripple. I am too used to dragging and dropping things. I am too used to graphical user interfaces, not text driven ones. Recently, my work's administrator showed me PuTTY, which uses the command prompt style, and my brain began to whine like a puppy being dragged towards the vet who neutered him the week before.

So looking at that blinking command prompt, I thought there was no way I was going to figure this out. But I needed that file.

So I searched my brain, and tried recall all my lessons.

I began to type.


Okay, getting a directory was simple enough. If not for the fact that half of it flashed by before I could read it. Anyone ever think that the developers of DOS put in little secret messages there like "You bugger sheep!" or "Buy Microsoft" in the middle of long directories since the odds of spotting them are nil? Maybe I'm just paranoid.

Ok, now how was it done again? Oh yeah.

C:\>dir /p

The contents of my hard drive came up in little, digestible chunks. That's better. As I recall, I'd stashed the file under My Documents, shortened to MYDOCU~1 in DOS. Time to change directories. That I remembered too.

C:\>cd MYDOCU~1

There we go.

C:/My Documents>

But it wasn't listing the files. That's right, I remembered. Jumping to a directory doesn't make it last contents right away. One of the many ways in which Windows spoils you.

C:/My Documents>cd /p

"Invalid switch - /P," it said. What the? Oh yeah. Wrong command.

C:/My Documents>dir /p

That's better. And there's my file.

Now for the tricky part.

I searched my brain for the instructions on how to copy a file. How easy it is to drag and drop in Windows, or to right click on a file, and highlight Send To and the A drive!

Okay, concentrate. I believe it was:
C:/My Documents>copy a:fps.doc

I typed that, and I heard my A drive grunt. My heart leapt. But then, heartache followed.

"File not found - a:fps.doc"

Okay, why wasn't that working? The file was there, I spelled the whole thing out down to its file extension. What was the problem?

I searched the foggiest corner of my memories. It was trying to find the file, because it actually accessed the A drive. Then it hit me. That command told the computer the A: drive was the source, not the target. It needed to be told where the file was, even though we were sitting in the directory. How did that command go? I think it was--

C:/My Documents>copy c:fps.doc a:

A slight pause.

"1 file(s) copied."

YES! Success! I transferred the disk to another computer where Windows actually worked. There was my file, rescued!

And the point of all this?

Well, one, I did it by myself. I had access to another computer with an Internet connection, I could have easily looked up the information. But I didn't.

And two, now I have a greater appreciation for my old skills. There was a time when DOS ruled computing. There was a time when the average DOS user could understand what every last file did on his or her system. Now, with Windows, there are programmers and guys who build computer networks who can look at a file and wonder what the fuck it does. Under DOS, you'd know what it was and whether or not you could delete it. But as anyone who works under Windows knows, if you don't know what it does, best treat it like an underfed Pit Bull with a bad rash and leave it the hell alone. So, you've got megabytes and megabytes of files that you don't understand the function of.

And think of how many other things in your life are like that. I can drive a car, but if one breaks down, I am fucked. I have never even changed a tire. I could probably do it, but I would be nervous as hell. I know people who understand how their cars work, basically. So they can look under a hood and maybe spot some trouble. They aren't mechanics, but they know enough to fix basic things. And they drive more confidentially as a result.

This is why you need to learn math without a calculator, how to send a letter by regular post. It prevents us from being a child culture, spoiled and dependent. Maybe we need to get drafted into another world war to teach us some self-reliance. Manual things work when the slick technological way is broken down, which these days seems to be the case more often that not.

I have learned a valuable lesson about self-reliance today. And I'm going to keep on learning. Tomorrow, I'm going to go out and kill my own breakfast.



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