The splendours and miseries (well, mostly the latter) of external storage devices
Many years ago, I made the unfortunate decision of buying a Syquest EZFlyer 230 MB external drive. At the time the choice was between this and Iomega's ZIP drive, and I chose the Syquest because its cartridges had a capacity of 230 MB while Iomega's had only slightly more than 100 MB at the time. The problem is that eventually Iomega's drives became much more widespread than SyQuest's. A few years after I had bought the drive, Syquest went out of business, and some time after that my Syquest drive went out of business as well. The cartridge ejection mechanism somehow got stuck in such a way that whenever you try inserting a cartridge into the drive, it gets ejected immediately. Even if I try somehow holding the cartridge in the "inserted" position, the drive is not happy and doesn't see the cartridge. Perhaps if I had immediately started nagging the local Syquest distributor, I might have gotten my drive fixed somehow, but I'm just not the right sort of person for that. (A year or two afterwards the local Syquest distributor went out of business as well. I guess I would have been next, if I had a business myself, which I of course don't.) Instead I decided to ignore the whole thing; I wasn't really dependent on the Syquest anyway, as far as backups are concerned I just relied on the fact that my hard disks just don't crash and my computers just don't get infected by viruses (touch wood), and although there were some things stored on my cartridges that I didn't have anywhere else, there was nothing really very important. I figured the problem may eventually sort itself out somehow anyway.
Finally, a month or so ago I remembered the old Syquest drive and decided to see if I could buy another one on eBay. Sure enough, I found not one auction but two, one of which shipped to the USA only, so I bid on the other one and got my new secondhand Syquest drive for the princely sum of $2.42 (I wonder how they chose this particular starting price -- why not 2.41 or 2.43, etc.?). Of course shipping cost way more, $44.75 in fact, but oh well, I figured it's worth trying anyway. Well, the drive arrived today, and it looks identical to mine, but since it came from the U.S. market it naturally had a cable meant to plug into U.S. electricity sockets. I tried to find the cable of my old Syquest drive which I could plug into our sockets, but couldn't find it, so I decided to try with the U.S. cable anyway, plugging it into one of those little socket-conversion thingies where you take the cable meant for one kind of sockets, plug it into the thingy and then plug the thingy into a different kind of socket. Apparently not all devices appreciate being tricked in this way :-). The little box-like part of the cable (behold my gross ignorance of, and indifference to, everything having to do with electricity) made a humming sound for a few seconds and then died ignobly amidst a small wisp of smoke and plenty of that weird and none too pleasant smell that usually accompanies burning electrical devices. A fuse went out as well. Fortunately the cable was not plugged into anything else, and my computer was off at the time, so no harm occurred to any other equipment. Looking at the little box-like part of the cable I noticed it mentions 120 V, and I guess the poor thing was simply overwhelmed by the 220 V it was getting from our sockets :-). I guess I'll never understand why the Americans, so megalomaniacal in all other respects, content themselves with the puny measly 110-V power system. Anyway, at least I have a new Syquest drive now, and if I manage to find the proper cable from the old drive (I don't have much hope for that, though, having already looked unsuccessfully over all the usual places where I thought it reasonable to expect to find it) I can plug it in and see if the new one works any better than the old one. Until then, it's just another new piece of worthless junk on my desk, but then it's been full of junk already and another piece is welcome enough as far as I'm concerned.
To end this posting on a more positive note, another thing that arrived today is Arthur Symons's Silhoutettes, the 1896 expanded edition, published by none other than Leonard Smithers. I got it on eBay for a very affordable sum, approx. a quarter of the price currently asked for the only copy on ABE. Here is my first tangible link with the 1890s and what was perhaps England's most notorious publisher of that period. I'm quite delighted with the book, which has at least two of the hallmarks of the period -- the absurdly wide margins, and the uncut fore and bottom edges. I'm not sure if I will be as delighted with the contents, for the little of Symons that I have read so far (in Beckson's anthology) I found rather boring than not. But we'll see. I'm excited anyway.