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"No Stupid Questions: Ones and Zeroes"

jacoby profile image Dave Jacoby ・2 min read

I saw this, first by myself and then pointed out by @SwiftOnSecurity. It's this Dilbert cartoon

<br>
*PHB:* I have a dumb question.<br>
*Dilbert:* There are no dumb questions.<br>
*PHB:* When you delete software, where do all the ones and zeroes go?<br>
*Dilbert:* I stand corrected.<br>

Thing is, it isn't. It can be an important thing.

Because they don't go anywhere.

The ones and zeroes are stored on a storage medium, which, for the remainder of this conversation, is a whiteboard. The different programs write on the whiteboard, and when they need to write more, they erase a portion.

There's control; you don't want to write over what someone else has written. I'm thinking of the corner of classroom chalkboards saying French Club meets Tuesday 6pm in Rm 220 -SAVE- when I was a student. The rest is done when the class is done, and the next teacher in the next class can erase it and go forward.

Just as the whiteboard notes don't go anywhere at the end of class, the ones and zeroes don't go anywhere just because they're deleted. They're on the whiteboard, devoid of context, until more writing goes over the top. The file or program sit similarly on the storage device until written over.

This means that there are tools that can undelete files and programs after you've hit delete, which can be good if, in a pique of frustration, you destroyed your dissertation notes and need to get them back, but can be bad if you're giving away an old computer and don't want other people going through your photos, or worse.

There are also the whiteboard erasers, which write every bit in storage with ones and zeroes in order to ensure that nothing is left, which will hamper the above tools, but not, it is theorized, a very determined person with access to an electron microscope. In some areas of computing, they therefore don't treat a hard drive as safely handled without physical destruction, with a crusher or thermite.

So, not only is that not a stupid question, it leads to videos of things destroyed with thermite. How good is that?

Originally published on my GithubPages

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Dave Jacoby

@jacoby

Long time computer user. Long time programmer.

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Great explanation. I'm always a fan of articles that encourage people to learn.