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Musings on Washing Machines and CompactFlash cards

If you have read any of my previous articles, you will already know that as a writer I tend to ramble, and that I am a photographer and computer geek. I like cameras more than computers, but use both every day.

One personality trait I have not shared in the past is my hang-up about things working… I like objects to work the way I want, when I want, every time. Yes, I will spend more money on an object if I believe that it will perform the way I want over a lower priced version of the same object. I spent more money on a clothes washer about two years ago than I really wanted to… I got a nicer front loader that had some features I wanted, and uses far less water than top loaders. Dirty clothes are a fact of life for my family. With three teenagers, my wife and me, there are times when it can be difficult to get the clothes washed and dried that we need… of course, the teenage boys wait until everything they own is dirty before deciding that any intervention is needed. All in all, it is a real pain when the washing machine starts making funny noises and stops working. So, you may assume that this is what happened… the washer quit. Funny noise, not draining the water, drum not spinning… I needed to do laundry, so did everyone in the house. My daughter was leaving on a ten-day trip the next day and was not amused at having to hand-wash a few clothes. For an 18-year-old girl, this was positively Stone Age. I have had a previous service call on this washing machine – the teenage boys almost never empty their pockets completely, and the resulting debris in the washer clogged the pump. Yesterday, when the repair technician came to the house to inspect the offending device, you guessed it… it was the same guy. He patiently took off the front cover and gained access to the pump… and started pulling junk out. There were three pennies, three nickels, six quarters, a house key……….. and a SanDisk 2.0 GB CompactFlash card. Now, I have a lot of CompactFlash cards, probably around eight in the 2.0 GB size, and at least four of this exact SanDisk model with identical cosmetics. This one obviously didn’t come out of the pocket of the teenage boys, or from my wife or daughter being careless. I own this laundry screw-up. It was, ultimately, what totally stopped up the pump. I don’t know how long the card was in the washing machine… the back of the card is water stained rust brown and the back label is faded. I tossed it on the counter with the other offending items from the pump and helped the technician put the machine back in place. I stood the card so that the contact holes were down, resting on paper towel to help wick out the moisture. I had no idea what was on this card, and I was quite curious if it would read after drying out. I left it to sit for a little over 24 hours. Just now, I put it in my computer, and to my total delight it read. I immediately copied the two folders onto my desktop to see what images were there. Here is the mysterious part… the images were dated 14 months ago. The first folder was a job I didn’t even remember shooting, an award ceremony that nobody even remembers just 14 months later. The other folder was from my converted Nikon D100 camera, and it had infrared images from the same month. Where was this card for 14 months, and how did it end up in the washing machine pump? The images from the awards ceremony had long since been downloaded and sent to the client. I think the infrared images had been downloaded as well. I normally put cards back in a hard case after use (you know, one of those nice watertight sealed cases?), but this one obviously got stuck in my pocket instead. I guess the part that is really the most amazing, is that the card actually read. I am dumbfounded at the reliability implied by a totally soaked CompactFlash card. It wasn’t just splashed or dropped in a puddle; it was in the pump getting gallons of water pushed around it, for no telling how long. Less than 14 months is all I know for certain. It is hard for this short article to not become a gratuitous advertisement for SanDisk. I am not planning any further trials or tests of other brands of CompactFlash cards, actually, I generally prefer to avoid doing really stupid things like this. But on the scale of objects working when I want, how I want and under any adverse condition I can conceive, SanDisk now holds a tremendous amount of respect for me.