The Urge to “Save”

The Save button is a relatively new thing. All of us over a certain age remember typing our term papers into a word processor – for me it was WordPerfect on our family’s Apple II Classic – and having total freakout moment when the computer screen just froze. “Oh My God! I forgot to save it!”

The Save impulse is not a natural thing. Before computers, we wrote things down. You don’t have to “Save” your thoughts when you write with pen or pencil on paper. You may have to “Erase,” however; so the default on paper is Save, while the default on computers is Erase.

It took me years to remember to save my work. Even if I do forget to save, the auto save feature rescues me. But even so, there is that impulse, that fear that drives me to hit CTRL-S (or Apple-S) repeatedly, lest I loose my thoughts. I have developed an impulse, a basic urge, to save. It is a true Pavlovian response developed through negative reinforcement (If I don’t do this, bad things will happen). Now imagine that virtually everyone on the planet has this urge – it’s the fear of loss obsessively magnified.


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