Doctorow's 27-pixel-square tattoo is based on the Sad Mac screen icon that is displayed when old all-in-one Macs have catastrophic hardware problems. The Sad Mac is a perversion of the happy, smiling Mac shown when a Mac boots up. Instead of a smiley face, the Sad Mac has a pout and crosses for eyes.Link Discuss
It's the same icon Doctorow confronted one day 12 years ago when he tried to boot up his Mac SE/30.
The dead Mac stored all his e-mail from several years, all the fiction and nonfiction he'd ever written, a lot of painstakingly collected software, a bunch of BBS numbers and all the HyperCard stacks he'd authored. In other words, "a lot of important stuff was on that box ... and not backed up, natch."
Doctorow embarked on a painful, painstaking endeavor to recover the data.
"This was about seven days' worth of miserable, round-the-clock trog-labor, locked up in my room with parts scattered all around me and notes with hex offsets scrawled on hundreds of scraps of paper piled ... in the Sisyphean stable," Doctorow wrote. "I hardly bathed or ate, and smoked hundreds, if not thousands, of cigarettes. When I emerged, triumphant and exhausted, I felt reborn.... I was a new man, and needed to commemorate the event."
Doctorow proceeded to collect a printout of the Sad Mac, which he took to his local tattoo parlor.
"Took about 3 minutes, stung only a little, and has been with me ever since," he wrote.