Thursday, July 22, 2010

Technology: Naming Hard Drives

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Thanks to my ongoing computer problems, I've been spending a lot of time looking at backup files from previous computers, and seeing the names of computers and hard drives that I haven't used in years. Different people in my life have different systems for naming their computer hard drives. While quite a few just use a default name or their own name, I have encountered some interesting ones. One friend names them after favorite novels. Another uses the name of Greek gods or other ancient figures appropriate for the computer's use. Then, of course, there are MIT Athena computers, which are famously named for hacks that took place on campus--I'll never forget logging in to "scrubbingbubbles" or "cathedral7".

The first time I ever had the opportunity to name a computer was when my parents purchased me my first Macintosh, an SE/30. I decided that an appropriate name for that computer might be "Seattle Terminal," after the Burlington Northern Seattle Terminal Dispatcher that controlled most of the mainline railroads within Seattle that I spent a lot of time listening in high school on a radio scanner. I thought it was a nice subtle pun, since "terminal" could refer to a computer.

When I went off to college, I purchased a Mac Centris 650, and since I didn't know the railroad dispatchers in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time, I didn't continue the tradition and simply named that hard drive "LCG Railroad". In retrospect, it probably should have been named "Centralia South" after the Burlington Northern dispatcher district in Washington state that was one of many on the Amtrak trip between Seattle and San Jose that I would take a number of times, and indicated my geography--I would be spending most of my time south of Centralia.

My next computer was a Macintosh Powerbook 5300cs purchased with my summer earnings. Well-ensconced in the Bay Area, I named it after the Amtrak-employed dispatcher on the line that ran past Stanford University--"San Jose Control". A number of railfans in the Central Coast Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society that noticed me with that computer were terribly amused by that name, and most other people just thought it was a little strange.

When I switched jobs in 2000, I rewarded myself with a new iBook. Living in Boston, I named that one after my favorite dispatcher in the area, who by that time worked for CSX (before 1999, it had been Conrail) but still was known as the "Boston Line" dispatcher. A few years later, "Boston Line" morphed into the shorter but much more obscure "NA", so my hard drive effectively became a tribute to fallen flag of Conrail and how it ran run its railroad.

At some point, I purchased a firewire backup drive, and still living in Boston, I named that one after the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad's dispatcher that controlled the line that passed where I worked, "Boston West". When I purchased a new iBook in 2005, I was expecting to be transferred to a position in Europe, so I named that hard drive "Boston East" after another Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad dispatching desk, with the geographic significance fully intended.

Of course, I ultimately moved to Toronto instead of Europe, so now Canadian "Rail Traffic Controller" (or RTC; there are no "dispatchers" here) names dominate my hard drives. A backup drive that I purchased became the "CN YB RTC" after the Canadian National RTC that controls their main freight line through Toronto, and when I had to buy my current MacBook in 2008, it was named "Cherry Street Tower" after my favorite of the Toronto Terminals Railway towers that control the Union Station Rail Corridor.

It looks like that hard drive is dying and will need to be replaced; its replacement will likely be called "Scott Street Tower" after the next tower to west in the Union Station Rail Corridor, and I suppose if it ever needs to be replaced, I'll move on to "John Street Tower". That still leaves a lot of local RTC names to use; I haven't even touched any of the Canadian Pacific desks, to say nothing of more CN desks. Likely, by the time I run out of those, GO Transit will start dispatching its owned territories, and there will be new names to use.

In any event, it looks like it's going to be a long time before I have to come up with a new system for naming my computer hard drives.

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