Daniel Mai

Buying Software

Some people buy a lot of clothes. They buy clothes, clothes, and more clothes. They fill their closet—maybe even multiple closets, or even places all around the house—and end up only wearing a select few items, disregarding the rest.

In the same way, some people buy a lot of shoes. Or go out to eat a lot. Or coffee.

I’m not into those things. Instead, I’m more interested in computers and programs. I buy software.1

If I’m going to be (not saying I’ve decided, but it’s a possible route) a software developer and want to make it a living, then I’m going to need to be able to “sell” software. One of my friends says this all the time. “If you’re downloading things illegally without paying, you’re ruining my future career.”

I don’t buy a lot of it. I don’t buy something on a daily basis, like people’s need to drink coffee on a daily basis, or go shopping weekly. But I’m sure that I purchase more software than anybody I know, if they buy any at all. I intend to use what I’m paying for.

Buying software isn’t something new to me. I’ve been buying video games for a long time. But I guess that’s different. I’m starting to pay for application software, though, or do things myself (which means paying effort and time). I pay for this domain. I pay for this site. I pay for applications like Alfred and 1Password, for productivity, security, and ease-of-use.

Maybe at first it seems crazy. Why pay for something that’s intangible? That’s inevitably buggy (maybe not broken, but buggy). You already bought the expensive physical machine, why pay any more?

But the other aforementioned things are crazy too. We don’t need fancy clothes to survive. Fashion always changes. Same thing with shoes, which wear down from constant use. Food and drinks are temporary. They may satisfy your tastebuds for the next couple of hours, or affect you for the rest of the day (yay caffeine), or maybe even worse, for the next week (yay food poisoning). But, save for the worse case, those are fairly temporary.

Using applications is an investment. Usually, you can’t “resell” it once you’re done using it; there isn’t a used market for these things. They usually don’t do anything in the physical world because it’s just information, bits in memory and pixels on the screen. But it’s information. Information that shapes our identities, real and virtual alike. Information that is our documents, photos, other files.

They are probably going to be used for the indefinite future. Even if that’s only going to be used for the next several months, that’s much longer than the time food is going to last for the body. And unlike clothes, they don’t wear out over time or get dirty (at least, they shouldn’t).

And we can get more money. We can’t get more time, though. If I can trade some money to increase my productivity and save myself time in the process, then that’s a good deal. And I get to support all the man-hours and brain-power that the people behind the software put in to make the product what it is.

Even though there is “free” software out there, nothing is free. Everything has a cost. And, like most things, you get what you pay for.

  1. Actually, software licenses. Even better, right?