From the files: where in the world?

by Michael Bérubé on November 23, 2009

I was cleaning out the files the other day — not the files in my office file cabinets (I did that in August for the first time in years, and let me tell you, it was so much fun I kept it up for days), but the files in my trusty little laptop, the very device on which I write these words today.  I have three five-drawer file cabinets in my office, full to bursting with the records of class preparations, former graduate students, essays assigned in faculty reading groups, tenure and promotion reviews, offprints and copies of old essays, book contracts, and so forth.  Cleaning out files is, of course, the least rewarding kind of office- and life-maintenance, because when you’re done everything looks pretty much the way it did when you started — which is why you dumped all that extraneous crap in your file cabinets in the first place, to get it out of sight.  The only interesting thing I learned, in the course of winnowing through (or wallowing in) all that paper was that my course records start to go paperless somewhere around 1995.  I always kept my students’ grades (and my responses to their papers) on Ye Olde Computers, all the way back to 1986 when I was TAing the History of English Literature course at the University of Virginia and working on a Leading Edge knockoff with the floppy disks.  But beginning in the mid-90s, almost <i>all</i> my course materials disappear from the file cabinets and appear instead on … well, a series of hard drives leading to the very device on which I write these words today.  So I realized, diligent recordkeeper that I am, that I should have a look at those files as well, particularly the one called “miscellaneous,” which now holds something like five hundred documents.

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