The Real Cost Of Online Tech Toys

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - July 20, 2011
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Great. Just got an email from Netflix. It’s raising rates, basically charging now for the streaming service it was providing for “free.” This was an easy decision to make bye-bye, streaming. Don’t need it, don’t want it. But especially don’t wanna pay for it.

I’m having to make a lot of these kinds of decisions lately. I recently shelled out money in order to have unlimited access to my favorite online newspaper, The New York Times. That one didn’t bother me so much, maybe because the Times has been warning its readers for awhile that it was going to start charging its most avid online readers. I get a lot of pleasure from the site and don’t mind paying for quality. If the NYT weren’t available online, I’d have to buy a hard copy subscription anyway.

But still, there’s that little tug of regret, a yearning for the good old days when the Internet was a big, open playground and all the toys were free.

No more. As technology gives us a dizzying array of choices, businesses are finding ways to wring cash out of our tight little fists. And you know, I can’t begrudge them that. It is capitalism, after all.

And a lot of people are willing to pay. We’re so used to having everything at our fingertips it’s almost jarring when we realize it’s actually smarter to weed some of these things out of our lives. Think of cable TV. We love having all those channels. We’re so lucky! So many choices! But how many channels do we actually watch?

What it boils down to is this: We really have to be smart about what we choose, otherwise our money dribbles away until it’s all gone. Technology makes us happy with lots and lots of cool new toys, until the sticker shock gives us an old-fashioned kick in the behind.

Some choices are more difficult than others. Here’s my latest dilemma: to keep or not to keep our home phone. You know, the trusty old landline. Let’s face it; we’ve all got cell phones now. And they’re not just phones, they’re SMART! They contain powerful little computers! They do tricks!

The arguments for getting rid of the landline are pretty persuasive expense and redundancy. No one calls us anymore on the home phone, with the exception of solicitors and charities. It’s just there, taking up space on the kitchen counter. I know a lot of families that decided their old telephones were obsolete and chucked them a long time ago. But I also know a lot of folks who cling to them, stubbornly (and smartly) resisting the seductive, time-sucking convenience of cell phones.

The biggest argument for keeping a landline is pretty compelling, at least to me. Some experts tell us conventional corded phones not the cordless, electricity-powered radio versions are more reliable during emergencies such as power failures. When cell signals fail, a hard line may end up being your only working mode of communication. I guess that’s why I’m still clinging. It makes me feel secure. I want to be prepared for any emergency. Plus, the landline is like a reliable old friend and you don’t abandon your friends, right?

Hmmm. I said that about my electric typewriter, too. Wonder what happened to that old thing?

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