So, it started out as a freebee. The way I looked at it, I paid enough for my computer to justify some free software. We had Quicken on our desktop for years before we started to use it. Then came the notice that it would no longer work on our system (which upgrades apparently every nano-second). If we didn’t want to lose our financial data we would, the note cheerily said, have to upgrade. You have to buy what once was in the land of the free. We consulted about it—I still have an objection to paying for something made strictly of electrons; when I pull the blanket off the bed this time of year I get a healthy jolt of electrons without having to pay for them. We caved. Then the notice came again. Upgrade time! Only you can’t buy Quicken, you can rent it. The one-time fee for buying software is now an annual fee. Isn’t everyone happier now?
I don’t mean to pick on Quicken, although that is the most insidious offender since you can’t very easily transfer all that data back to paper. Services withdrawn. Welcome to the internet of thieves. Bakeries worldwide know that a free cookie leads to sales often enough that it’s worth the small loss in profits. But electrons are free all the time. Shuffle your feet across the carpet in you stocking feet and test it. Amazon for a while sent the Washington Post headlines daily, for free. Now, Amazon ought to know me by name since I’m a book addict. Then, just at the midterm elections, they announced this freebee was over. I don’t know what in the world has been happening since. I do hope someone will tell me when our currency converts to rubles.
Humans are susceptible to the myth of permanence. Although change is constant and time never ceases to flow, we tend to think things will stay where we put them. Technological change, however, has become so swift that we now pay for the privilege. Unlike that cookie which lasts a moment and the choice of buying more is up to you, the internet has swept up our lives and you can no longer opt out. We pay our bills online because letter carriers drop things. We communicate online because who has the time to pick up and dial an actual landline phone? The fact that the signal cuts out now and again isn’t a problem, even when we lose valuable information. It’s only electrons, after all.