Digital Lifeboat

Having dumped ninety percent of my packing onto Gwen I tackled the hardest ten percent: my business records and files.
Writers are pack rats, mostly, whereas professional military learn to travel light, again mostly. This dichotomy could have made me schizoid were it not for the most wonderful invention for writers since the eraser on the end of a pencil: electronic files.
I use Sony Megawafers, each good for half a million words, each two centimeters wide, three millimeters thick, with information packed so densely that it doesn’t bear thinking about. I sat down at the terminal, took off my prosthesis (peg leg, if you prefer), opened its top. Then I removed all my memory wafers from the terminal’s selector, fed them into the cylinder that is the «shinbone» of my prosthesis, closed it and put it back on.
I now had all the files necessary to my business: contracts, business letters, file copies of my copyrighted works, general correspondence, address files, notes for stories to be written, tax records, et cetera, and so forth, ad nauseam. Before the days of electronic filing these records would have been a tonne and a half of paper in half a tonne of steel, all occupying several cubic meters. Now they massed only a few grams and occupied space no larger than my middle finger-twenty million words of file storage. The wafers were totally encased in that «bone» and thereby safe from theft, loss, and damage. Who steals another man’s prosthesis? How can a cripple forget his artificial foot? He may take it off at night but it is the first thing he reaches for in getting out of bed.
Even a holdup man pays no attention to a prosthesis. In my case most people never know that I am wearing one. Just once have I been separated from it: An associate (not a friend) took mine away from me in locking me up overnight — we had had a difference of opinion over a business matter. But I managed to escape, hopping on one foot. Then I parted his hair with his fireplace poker and took my other foot, some papers, and my departure. The writing business, basically sedentary, does have its brisk moments.
«The Cat Who Walks Through Walls» by Robert A. Heinlein

I love “what if” games, even if they are … rather dark. What if there was a fire in the building I live in? Not only “what if I return home and it was all gone”, but also “what if I wake up, being carried out of the building, because I fell unconscious due to smoke”?

It would be insane luck, but also, given that most of my really valuable possession are digital — a consequence of working digitally and digitizing one’s library (and spending a crazy amount of money on books) — what would I still have?

And yeah, there is insurance. I can replace books, but what about the things I did create — or am still working on? My notes, my ideas, the things I spend ages in capturing and collecting?

That’s why I’m — among others — interested in digital lifeboats. Ways to keep digital information, even if the worst happens. And one — possible — solution is a data necklace. Something you carry with you all the time. Nothing else would work in the really dark absolutely worst-case scenario. For example, I don’t wear my smart watch in the shower (it’s recharging during that time), I might have some USB sticks in my wallet, but I don’t carry it while sleeping — you get the picture.

A while ago I thought about wearing an USB stick as a necklace (a former partner did so, she carried a rugged USB stick this way), but, in my opinion, there are better solutions.

By looking at necklaces that carry information that absolutely has to survive: Medical necklaces.

The first product I did try out did what it was supposed to do rather well — you can put in some tiny notes about yourself and whom to contact and what your allergies are. I think the design has some major flaws, e.g., putting the bulk of the weight above the storage area, but still — for what it was designed for, it works:

A medical necklace. It does what it’s supposed to do, but is rather badly designed.

But it did not work for me. Because to be viable as a data storage, it has to fit a microSDXC card. And it does not. Despite its size — seriously, WTF!?!?! You have this rather large necklace, and you provide only a tiny amount of storage?!!??!!? Dafug!!!!!! I’d say the money was wasted, but the chain (see next picture) was really useful. The right length to carry a medical necklace high around the neck.

And that brings me to the next medical necklace. And SOS Talisman.

Man, does that bring me back to my youth. I did actually have one of those as a child. Not sure when I got it, or when I stopped wearing it, but yeah, I remember those. And I really detest the SOS side of the necklace. It just looks … unaesthetic. But you gotta hand it to the vendors — they know what they are doing. On an info page there was this paragraph:

Ebenso passt zusätzlich eine Micro-SD Karte hinein. Hier können Sie Zugangsdaten oder andere wichtige Unterlagen speichern. Diese Daten sind so unabhängig von verlorenen, defekten oder gestohlenen Endgeräten wie Handy oder PC.

(translated via DeepL)

A Micro-SD card also fits into it. Here you can store access data or other important documents. These data are thus independent of lost, defective or stolen end devices such as cell phones or PCs.

So, this was a strong contender for a digital lifeboat and … well, it did pan out. I did go for a “star sign” version (still better than the stupid SOS cover, which is still on the back, meh). And it does fit a micro SD(XC) card. Yeah.

SOS Talisman. Smaller than the first medical necklace, but this one actually does fit a micro-SD(XC) card.

So, that’s something you can carry all the time. Something that will not get in the way, even during … strenuous activity. Something that was designed and optimized to be absolutely waterproof. Something you might carry even if the (immediate) world goes to shit — or up in flames.

256 GB sounds like an insane amount of data (if you grew up with the C64, an 8088 IBM-compatible PC, and the like). But today, yeah, makes sense.

And something that additionally carries the data of the person who should be informed if something bad happens. Whether to be at your side when you wake up, or pull the plug when it’s likely that you don’t.


(In quotation marks, because this is something I hope to never rely on, but which I will need, if I have to rely on it.)


BTW, a personal comment here. I thought about no publishing this posting. There is this rather … YMMV concept of “security through obscurity”. But one additional issue here … yeah, I carry my data with me, but it is also highly encrypted. Well, most of it is. That’s the other side of the issue. If you have it available even if the worst happen, so might other people if they make the worst happen to you.

Just sayin’