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|By Tom Nadeau © January 2002|
Where do you want to go today? Funny you should ask. The same hardware and software,
with minor adjustments, work fine for me just as they did back in 1997 when I assembled
this PC from leftovers. The only significant upgrades have been a CD burner, Netscape
4.61, and Lotus Smartsuite 1.6.
It's funny, but since I got out of the PC business a few years ago, I don't
miss the upgrade treadmill. Sure, my "learning" PC runs eComStation,
but my Web-access PC is still cranking along fine on Warp 4, FP12. I've never seen
the need to change, and the hardware is essentially the same. It's also funny how
many people I've met in the past 4 years have had to change their PCs several times
due to software crashes and burned motherboards. I just keep on cranking along
with my OS/2 machine, and it has that elegant quality of the Energizer Bunny --
it just keeps going, and going, and going....
Okay, so someday I'll have to replace this PC. But thanks to IBM's common-sense
software license, I won't have to buy another copy of Warp. I can just format the
old drive or throw it in the can, and load the Warp CD onto a new PC. Until HP
and Compaq can find a way to corner the motherboard market by leveraging their planned
70% market share, I should be okay. I'll just go down to the local computer shoppe
and buy a generic motherboard & AMD CPU. Plenty of bang for the buck; with
OS/2 I don't have to fight the bloat of Windoze, so I don't need to buy an electricity
hog from Intel.
This has always been the big problem with great products. There are a lot of
ten- to fifteen-year-old Toyotas still on the road. There are a lot of well-made
pieces of furniture from twenty or thirty years ago that still grace people's homes.
And most of all, there are 100 million lines of Cobol code still doing their job,
day after day, year after year, in major corporations all over the world.
The problem with commercial society is not what the Malthusians feared. Their
economic theory claimed that mankind could not produce enough food or other necessities
to feed and clothe us all. Eventually, we would all be doomed as society collapsed
from lack of production. Instead, the opposite has proved true: during a long
period of relative peace, there has developed a gross overproduction of goods, as
well as the technology to make things long-lasting.... Provided the manufacturers
choose to do so, of course!!
And so the same economic paradox that threatens a profit-driven society today,
also threatens the economic viability of OS/2. If everybody has plenty of what
they need, then why would they keep shopping? IBM's solution is to simply stop
selling to individuals, since they have no need to buy more than a few copies of
any software program. Microsoft's solution is more crude: simply declare a product
obsolete, and introduce change for the sake of change, thereby forcing people to
buy something "new" just to maintain the capabilities of the thing called
"old." This is the Mr. Hyde of supply-side economics: control the price
of products by writing their obituaries. Create artificial scarcity to artificially
raise the price of products that otherwise would become zero-cost. This is the
hocus-pocus that was exposed by the Open Source revolution. Software only costs
money because of intentional scarcity, not because of inability to produce enough
So OS/2 is scarce because IBM chooses not to sell it. Each version of Windows
becomes successively scarce because Microsoft chooses not to sell it (and sells
something called "new" in its place). Either way, the availability of
a product is determined on the supply side, not the demand side.
The point is this: whether you choose OS/2 or Windows, the availability of
what you want is limited on the supply side. And if you choose Linux, the risk
is the fact that the supplier is not able to artificially raise prices by creating
intentional scarcity, thereby bringing the commercial viability of the supplier
into question. I don't want to have to change suppliers, or to become a supplier.
What a paradox!
Given that I am unlikely to gain a significant advantage from either of the two alternative paths mentioned above, I might as well preserve my investment and keep using OS/2. This shoe fits -- I'll just keep wearing it.
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