Darkness on the edge of town

Dave Wilson discusses how changes in technology can make winners out of us all – as long as we have the right attitude.

<b>”Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.” – Alexander Graham Bell.</b>

When the folks that owned the local stables heard about the new fangled motor car that the mayor was driving through the town, they dismissed the idea. For about ten years anyway. Until it seemed everyone in town had bought one of the things and the demand for horses and hay started to dry up.

But did they hide their heads in the sand and cry? The heck they did. They turned the stables into a gas station instead, and for decades it’s been a busy business.

And so it was with the guys that owned the local phone company. For years, they had made their money by providing folks with free local and rather more expensive long distance calls.

But when they heard about how the new fangled Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technique would allow their customers to communicate for free over long distances using broadband Internet, they didn’t bury their head in the sand either.

Just the opposite, in fact. They introduced their very own high-speed broadband service and sold it to everyone in town, together with a healthy yearly contract. As for the old long distance telephony system, well, they put a premium charge on that service for those still foolhardy enough to use it.

And it was the same story down at the local record store too. When sales started to plummet due the impact of folks’ downloading songs for free over the Internet, the owner also decided to do something about it.

First off, he tried to convince the town council to create some legislation that would prevent the townsfolk from hopping onto peer-to-peer networks at home and obtaining their favourite music without charge.

But that didn’t work. The town council were powerless. Because the owners of the computers that were doing the song swapping lived in Tonga, the town council had no jurisdiction over them. And they couldn’t prohibit folks from communicating with one another either because it would have interfered with their rights to free speech.

But our record company owner did not give up hope. As the record sales in the shop plummeted, he was on the phone to Bloodgasm, to Castrum, to Dying Fetus, and even the chaps from the Solstice of Suffering, inviting them to take part in a large ‘music’ festival just on the outskirts of town.

And what a success it was. Music aficionados came in their droves. Forming long lines as they waited to fill their SUVs up at the little gas station. Making very lengthy long distances calls to the folks back home on the expensive premium rate numbers set up by the phone company.

Despite the fact that he doesn’t sell records any more, the record store owner is making much more money than he ever was before. He’s even picked up a couple of big sponsors for the forthcoming festival this year. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist like me to tell you who they are.