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Terry Pratchett's Hard Drive Destroyed By Steamroller (nytimes.com) 161

WheezyJoe writes: In accordance with his wishes, a hard drive formerly belonging to author Terry Pratchett has been crushed by steamroller. According to friend and fellow author Neil Gaiman, Pratchett (who died at 66 in 2015) wanted "whatever he was working on at the time of his death to be taken out along with his computers, to be put in the middle of a road and for a steamroller to steamroll over them all."

According to the article, on August 25, two years after the author's passing, Mr. Pratchett's estate manager and close friend, Rob Wilkins, posted a picture of a hard drive and a steamroller on an official Twitter account they shared. The pictures posted suggest the steamroller was one powered by actual steam.

Minutes later they tweeted a photo of the crushed hard drive -- which will soon be displayed at the Salisbury Museum in England as part of their new exhibit on the life and work of Terry Pratchett.
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Terry Pratchett's Hard Drive Destroyed By Steamroller

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 02, 2017 @05:08PM (#55129881)

    The NSA will have a backup copy.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Also, isn't it possible to recover its datas with those disk recovery companies?

      • by stooo ( 2202012 )

        On physically bent and torn apart disks, a partial recovery would be very very prohibitive, but theoretically possible.

        • On platters made of glass, lets see you bend that!

          (I know - without heating it above the Curie temperature of the magnetic medium. Or decomposition of the binder holding the medium in place.)

    • by stooo ( 2202012 ) on Sunday September 03, 2017 @02:41AM (#55131109)

      Don't need no stinkin' steamroller.
      Use full disk encryption.
      May the passphrase be gone when you pass out.
      And yes, you can call it the "pass out phrase"

      • Given Pterry's memory and ... thingumy .. problems, that's not really funny
  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Saturday September 02, 2017 @05:10PM (#55129893)
    If he was American, he would have put a bullet through the hard drive.
    • by Alwin Henseler ( 640539 ) on Saturday September 02, 2017 @05:36PM (#55129993)

      If he was American, he would have put a bullet through the hard drive.

      Pen testing physical security, eh?

      Guess he just wanted to see how the drive would perform under heavy load. That, or try a heavy duty tool to remove his Windows 10 spyw^H^H^H install (or was it systemd? Who knows).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In America, no one has to die before we put a bullet through a hard drive.

      Now, someone might die while we're putting bullets through hard drives, but that's just what we call "Saturday night"

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If he was American, he would have put a bullet through the hard drive.

      Let me correct that for you: "If he was a Texan ...."

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If he was American, he would have put a bullet through the hard drive.

        Let me correct that for you: "If he was a Texan ...."

        I picture a hard drive, riddled with bullet-holes, adorned with a sticker that says "do not shoot at this hard drive."

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Let me correct that for you: "If he was a Texan ...."

        Let me correct that for you: "If he were a Texan..."

        He had the hat, if not the belt buckle.

        • by ET3D ( 1169851 )
          Isn't "if he was a Texan" is the correct form?
          • He dead now. So use the past subjunctive "If he had been a Texan"

            This grammatical offering provided by someone who doesn't really care how good the grammar is in comments threads.

          • by arth1 ( 260657 )

            Isn't "if he was a Texan" is the correct form?

            No, it's a subjunctive, meaning it's speculative or hypothetical, not factual.
            You would say "If I were you", implying "but I'm not" by using "were" instead of "was". Likewise, saying "If Pratchett were a Texan", you signal that you know he was not. "If Pratchett was a Texan" implies that you don't know whether this is the case.

            • by arth1 ( 260657 )

              Likewise, saying "If Pratchett were a Texan", you signal that you know he was not. "If Pratchett was a Texan "implies that you don't know whether this is the case.

              Sorry, I should have said "... whether this be the case.

            • Isn't "if he was a Texan" is the correct form?

              No, it's a subjunctive, meaning it's speculative or hypothetical, not factual. You would say "If I were you", implying "but I'm not" by using "were" instead of "was". Likewise, saying "If Pratchett were a Texan", you signal that you know he was not. "If Pratchett was a Texan" implies that you don't know whether this is the case.

              Both are correct forms.

              The subjunctive is dying out in English. The circumstances of its use vary between dialects, and a heck of a lot of people do not use it at all. I do not use it at all. It is not an "error", and it's damn rude to a hell of a lot of people to say it is.

              ...not to mention off-topic.

              • ...not to mention off-topic.

                I find a discussion on the use of the English language surprisingly on-topic in comments discussing an author ;-)

    • But he wasn't American, and was very glad of it.
  • Wow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by kaizendojo ( 956951 ) on Saturday September 02, 2017 @05:16PM (#55129921)
    What kinda porn was *he* trying to hide???
  • by ToTheStars ( 4807725 ) on Saturday September 02, 2017 @05:19PM (#55129923)

    I can understand him not wanting his world to be weighed down with posthumous publications (looking at you, Dune), and some of his later books were slipping a little compared to his peak (still all worth reading). Nevertheless, I would have liked to know what he was working on.

    Going forward, the Watch were some of my favorite characters (and the books where they starred were some of my favorites), so I hope the TV series is successfully completed!

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

      (looking at you, Dune

      Nothing "posthumous" about THAT. Merely a son bad at writing trying to fill his father's shoes and failing miserably.

    • by MarkTina ( 611072 ) on Saturday September 02, 2017 @05:45PM (#55130027)

      He wasn't 100% there towards the end and apparently had concerns his work was crap and didn't want anyone digging it up and publishing it when he was gone .. fair enough :-)

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
        His last couple books were crap, and I say that as a fan who has bought/read them all. But considering what he was facing it's understandable and I didn't hold it against him.
    • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday September 02, 2017 @06:10PM (#55130105) Homepage Journal
      If you don't want publishers to scrap every penny from whatever dregs you left behind, the only thing to do is destroy the work. Some writers like Heinlein were probably ok with work being published posthumously. He was well known to believe that he wrote for a paycheck, and everything he wrote was to published. He supposedly said the day that his publisher rejected a work was the day he would walk across the street to another publisher.

      For those who are more selective, destruction is the best option.

      • by thomst ( 1640045 ) on Sunday September 03, 2017 @02:54AM (#55131119) Homepage

        fermion stated:,/p>

        Some writers like Heinlein were probably ok with work being published posthumously. He was well known to believe that he wrote for a paycheck, and everything he wrote was to published. He supposedly said the day that his publisher rejected a work was the day he would walk across the street to another publisher.

        For those who are more selective, destruction is the best option.

        Actually, the day his publisher rejected a book WAS the day he "walked across the street" to another publisher, never to return.

        In 1959, Charles Scribner's Sons rejected Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers as "too mature and too controversial" for their juvenile imprint. Heinlein immediately ended his exclusive contract with the firm and his agent was quickly able to strike a deal with Putnam's to publish the book, instead. Starship Troopers marked the beginning of his polemical middle period as a novelist, a trend which I tend to think was at least in part due to his "liberation" from the stuffy confines of Scribner's editorial policies.

        I've always been grateful that I got to meet the man in person at Octocon II in Santa Rosa in 1977. He'd been a hero of mine since I was 7 years old - and, in person, he did not disappoint. It just so happened that I was assigned to work security at the door, while RAH and Theodore Sturgeon spent all day signing autographs at a table in the back of the bloodmobile that he (or, more likely, his wife Virginia) had talked the 'con's organizers into welcoming. Despite the long hours and the repetitive nature of his self-assigned task, he was unfailingly courteous to the stream of blood doners who waited with sometimes-voluminous stacks of books in hand for their chance at his signature.

        The only exception was a hippie type who wandered into the coach after the blood collection was done for the day and, practically wagging his non-existent tail, requested an autograph. When the author asked him if he'd donated blood, he said "No.". Heinlein then inquired, "I take it they wouldn't allow you to donate?" The guy shook his head and replied, "Nah. I don't believe in that stuff." The great man tossed his unsigned book back across the table, looked him dead in the eye, and said, in a voice as cold as liquid helium, "You, sir, are unwelcome here. Leave. Now."

        Which he did, figurative tail between his legs.

        That was my only personal experience with Heinlein, but it sure left a lasting impression ...

        • Nice anecdote. Sounds very Heinlein.
          • by thomst ( 1640045 )

            RockDoctor observed:

            Nice anecdote. Sounds very Heinlein.

            Yeah, it seemed perfectly in character to me, too.

            BTW - when it was my turn to ask for his autograph, I felt obligated to inform him that I had borrowed three of his characters for a novel I was writing.

            His response?

            "Just make sure you file the serial numbers off ..."

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I can understand him not wanting his world ...

      His creations, and his ending of the same on his terms. Good for him.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        His creations, and his ending of the same on his terms. Good for him.

        He wouldn't know. On account of being, well, dead.

        • All the more reason for his friends, colleagues and fans to welcome this fulfilment of his wishes.
    • Nevertheless, I would have liked to know what he was working on.

      That may well still be on Rob's hard drive.

      Quite likely, for things that were in the planning stages there were some discussions about [project name] with his publisher, collaborator, PA (Rob). Which are already covered by NDAs.

    • Lovecraft might be a better example. August Derleth got hold of his notes, and would take a random paragraph Lovecraft had discarded and write a story including it, then call it a collaboration. Derleth took something of a cosmic nihilism and made it into good vs. evil, confusing people about what Lovecraft meant for some time.

  • When clearing your browser history just isn't enough, there's a steamroller.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      Hillary Clinton is furiously taking notes. For when hammers just won't do.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Whereas Donald Trump is trying to figure out which end of the pointy thing they gave him produces ink. And that's the just the start of his problems.
    • When clearing your browser history just isn't enough, there's a steamroller.

      I think running over a harddrive with a steamroller is going to damage the road more than the drive. The drive might not be plug and play anymore, but the data is probably unharmed for forensic recovery.

  • IDE drive? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CharlesAKAChuck ( 1157011 ) on Saturday September 02, 2017 @06:57PM (#55130269)
    Seriously, is that an PATA IDE drive? I believe it is. I thought Terry Pratchett was really into computers...and that leaves me with two questions: What the hell kind of computer was he using that had an IDE drive, and considering how slow IDE drives are, what the hell is GRR Martin using-chisels and stone tablets?
    • by beckett ( 27524 )
      There was a time on /. this comment would have been modded 5: insightful
    • Re:IDE drive? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Saturday September 02, 2017 @07:29PM (#55130351)
      Writers can be a bit weird when it comes to their equipment. It may well be that he still used an ancient machine to actually write his novels that he had been using for some time. If all you're doing is some simple word processing, you could probably get by with using something from the 80's. Probably not a bad idea if you don't want the possibility of distraction.
      • He used Dragon Dictate and Talking Point on his last few novels, as his Alzheimer's had embuggered his typing skills. Not necessarily something you'd use on a older machine.

        THE LATE SIR TERRY PRATCHETT TALKS TALKINGPOINT [uk.com]

        • And yet I remember using Dragon NaturallySpeaking on at least a Pentium. There was DragonDictate before that, which ran on DOS.
      • It may well be that he still used an ancient machine to actually write his novels that he had been using for some time. If all you're doing is some simple word processing, you could probably get by with using something from the 80's. Probably not a bad idea if you don't want the possibility of distraction.

        Hate to break that lovely idea, but Terry Pratchett was the opposite. He was a big advocate of complicated Word processors, used MS Word to write his novels, and did so with all the wonderful distraction of a computer with 6 monitors.
        Here's a picture of his writing workdesk from an older BBC interview: https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/image... [bbci.co.uk]

        He often quoted as never being without a computer and frequently moved between laptop and the many computers he had in his house.

        Not to mention that his last few novels he was

        • Judging by the size of the text on his screen I have to wonder if he had vision problems and the multiple screens were to get some lost screen real estate back. It's hard to tell but it also looks like he had multiple computers running. That was also likely to get sufficient screen real estate. I do that too, I have multiple computers side by side so I can look things up on the web on one computer while typing into another. I'm not writing a novel, just doing programming homework and writing up assignme

        • Quite an old picture that. The text on the screen is a scene from "Dodger", published in 2012, dating this to 2011 at the latest.
    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      Yes, it's an old HD, and I am fairly certain that pterry said he had gotten a new computer back in 2007 or so, at which point SATA had taken over. So I am not totally convinced that this was "the" HD, even though I have no doubts that it came from one of his computers.

      • So I am not totally convinced that this was "the" HD

        There's respecting a dead man's wishes, and there's donating a million dollars to childhood cancer research. Everything is a compromise.

    • We had an article about GRR a while ago. I believe his computer is DOS with a floppy drive.

      So yes, basically.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      Harlan Ellison still used a manual typewriter just a few years ago, and if memory serves me right, he has lamented the difficulties in obtaining ribbons. Which could be why Dangerous Visions 3 is somewhat delayed...

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

      what the hell is GRR Martin using-chisels and stone tablets?

      Which would explain why his last book(s) are taking so long.

    • You know at least 90%+ people wouldn't even notice the difference in the normal use of their machine, right?

    • I thought Terry Pratchett was really into computers

      Pratchett was a professional writer, having started as a journalist with ink, paper and shorthand, and worked his way through a gamut of technologies including using a nuclear power station to power his typewriter (CEGB, Hinckley point IIRC). He'd have used what worked well enough, and maybe had a different rig for computer games ("Only You Can Save Mankind") out of the office.

      I suspect you're conflating Douglas Adams or Stephen Fry with Pterry. DNA and Fr

  • He clearly didn't want anyone seeing his browser history, or porn stash ... respect.
  • Our Heroes Leave. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 02, 2017 @07:31PM (#55130359)

    I met him at a games conference in 1990/1991? in Dublin.

    Wonderful man. Got drunk with us. Laughed his ass off.

    The books started off as whimsical, then turned profound, without pomposity.

    When I think of the death of Granny Weatherwax, and the ribbon tied to the tree, as guide to where she should be buried,
    written by a man who knew his time grew close ...

    These things we choose. Frost to flame.

    Adieu, Terry.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

      Wonderful man. Got drunk with us. Laughed his ass off.

      Only because he wasn't sure if you were related or not... too soon?

  • Did he actually stipulate that nobody could copy anything off of the hard drive BEFORE it would be crushed by a steam roller?

  • I hope they looked over the data and backed up anything important first.

  • by billybob2001 ( 234675 ) on Saturday September 02, 2017 @08:32PM (#55130531)

    Title: Disc-whirrled
    Sub-title: Erasing Steam(roller)

  • How is steamrolling a hard-drive (even if it is the proper original one, which I don't doubt) evidence of destruction of data at all?

    There could be copies.

    If, as an author or anyone else, want some data to be inaccessible after your death, just strongly encrypt it with a long password you don't write down anywhere. No need to put instructions into wills and trust poeple or anything like that.

    • If, as an author or anyone else, want some data to be inaccessible after your death, just strongly encrypt it with a long password you don't write down anywhere.

      There might have been a few technical problems with this strategy.

      (As his Alzheimer's disease had progressed, Terry was complaining of not being able to type).

  • DELIVERY RECEIVED (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Sunday September 03, 2017 @04:51AM (#55131331) Homepage

    MY FRIEND SIR TERRY CAN NOW WORK IN PEACE AT MY HOUSE and complete his books. You may read them when you join us.

    This was first written entirely in caps ... but a soulless slashdot filter complained that that was shouting :-(

    • MY FRIEND SIR TERRY CAN NOW WORK IN PEACE AT MY HOUSE and complete his books. You may read them when you join us.

      This was first written entirely in caps ... but a soulless slashdot filter complained that that was shouting :-(

      Doesn't matter I still read it with Sir Ian Richardson's voice (Played Death in the Hogfather) playing in my head

  • "the steamroller was one powered by actual steam." They always are. The clue is in the name.
  • They'll get it =p

  • That's the hard drive he was using two years ago?

    How long has it been since you could even buy a hard drive with an IDE interface?

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