What is the Price of “Free”?

In April of the year 2000, I stood tall in the computer department of the Irving, TX CompUSA, getting ready to buy our families 1st high-powered home PC.  As I stood there with my full head of hair blowing in the high-powered air conditioning (I can dream, can’t I), I was optimistic that my $2,500.00 purchase of a 1.5 GHZ processor with a whopping 20 GB hard drive and a maximum 512KB of RAM could never be stopped but boy was I wrong.  But wait … did I forget to mention that they threw in a “FREE” $25 ink jet printer that only lasted 18 prints and then got thrown into my apartment dumpster?  The sad part of that story is that the “FREE printer” is what made me drive to Irving instead of driving to Best Buy for the same computer without the printer for the same price.

We were asked to read 3 articles this week that all hovered over the same topic …how do we handle the future of our internet?  Stuart Moulthrop‘s article was rather long-winded and directed to the computer experts of the world but I couldn’t help but laugh every time I saw the word Xanadu. Every time that word popped up on the screen I thought of Olivia Newton-John’s movie from the 80’s and had to refocus after doing my Grease mega mix dance off but I was glad when the article was over.

The 2nd article was offered up by Howard Rheingold. His article, Attention Literacy, spoke volumes to me as a student that has taken his fair share of auditorium classes and have been distracted by people on their laptops surfing the web.  It’s bad enough that most kids today “suffer” from ADD and that teachers have to fight for the attention of their own classrooms but it was rather refreshing to see him trying to stay involved with his students.  With the quick pop up screens, ads flying by and the need to stay “connected” to a social media site is just not making classes easy anymore (like that was really happening).

Now to get back on track with a little help from Malcolm Gladwell.  Gladwell’s article, Priced to Sellwas simply put as an article of supply and demand.  He mentions the price of transistors in the 60s that averaged $10 a pop but now a single transistor can be purchased for 6 ten thousands of a cent.  Now if that doesn’t get you running to your piggy bank to stock up for Christmas gifts, then I don’t know what will.

Now why is this important?

In the year 2000, a fully loaded computer ran about $2,500.00 but now you can get a cellphone that is far more powerful for about $300.  It’s amazing how quick prices will drop on technology.  Less than 5 years ago a blue ray DVD player would sell for $200 but now you can walk into Fry’s electronics and pick one up for around $70.  The technology is just moving so fast it’s hard for everyone to keep up.

Before too long we’ll be able to watch streaming movies on their release day in our own home, instead of going to a theater and that will be glorious.


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