The year is 1837 and a farmer was all giddy about the new John Deere steel plough he just bought. It was a lot lighter than his old piece of crap iron plough. Since his back was starting to hurt as he was getting older, he was happy that the lightweight steel plough would take less effort and a lot less room to store in his barn.
And just as after he signed all the paperwork for the finance plan, the replacement insurance and the optional Telflon* undercoating, the salesman turned to him and said, “You know, you’ll still need a horse to make that plough work.”
I just got back from a conference where I packed a really thin laptop and iPad. And the power brick. And the iPad/iPhone synch cable. And the earbuds. And the MiFi and its charger. By the time I had my “thinnest notebook ever” in my briefcase, all the crap I needed to make and keep it running, connected to the Internet weighed more than the MacBook Pro.
That got me thinking about other “dongles” in our lives. The baggage fees at the airport are dongles to ticket prices. So are rebates on wireless phones at Verizon. The fees and rebates allow the sellers to keep advertised prices low, but still get the full fare eventually.
Buying a house has dongles; lots of dongles. Sellers calculate the mortgage for you and say, “You can afford that!” Yet they fail to mention the cost of power, upkeep, taxes and insurance will easily outpace the mortgage in ten years or less.
And “free” web-based services — especially social media ones — are a lot like that. The initial cost is nothing, but the crushing cost of updating, synching etc. will quickly overpower you, especially when you have multiple sites to maintain like twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, Tumblr, Posterous, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc, etc, etc.
And don’t get me started on the endless dongles that relationships create. Maybe that’s why lots of us are leery about making friends.
Do you have any other dongles in your life? You probably do. What are they? Love to hear about them.
*I made that part up