We didn’t have these problems when I was your age, before you stepped on my lawn

Want to know why everyone over a certain age gets mad when they have to buy your software?

When I was 13 I bought software (mostly games and the occasional writing application) from a stand at the farmer’s market, on 3 1/2 inch floppy disks wrapped in shrink wrap. It ran on my dad’s Tandy HX 1000, which by the way, didn’t have a hard drive.

When I was in my late teens I either bought my software at CompUSA on a CD or downloaded shareware via a 56k modem onto the Performa 5200 CD I bought with a personal loan so I could go to college… a year before cat 5 wiring came to our dorms, and the same year that the Mozilla Navigator browser started showing pictures. We were students, so Mozilla was free.

I paid for most of that shareware, by the way, on this brand new thing call the Internet that started taking credit cards about halfway through my undergrad degree.

I remember when the IT industry got rid of the floppy disk. I remember when we adopted the Zip Disk, and then got rid of it. I remember when we adopted first the CD drive, then the DVD drive, then the Blu-Ray drive, and abandoned them all.

Back in the day, I could register my software if I wanted to, but I didn’t have to. It was enough that I bought it, had the registration code on a sticker on the back of a CD case on the bookshelf in my folks’ basement. Could I get cracks? Sure if I felt like spending a gazillion years surfing scary looking websites from the campus library (the only connection fast enough) but I was poor and my computer couldn’t hold most of the really good software anyway because I couldn’t afford a decent sized hard drive.

Back in the day, when I bought a software license, it was good literally until my operating system couldn’t run the application anymore, and then I could upgrade it for another piece of software that also lasted until the OS was no good.

All this to tell you what I needed to do to buy Microsoft Home 365 tonight because Microsoft 2008 (my current version) has been struggling a bit lately and I thought an upgrade might fix my problems:

  1. Register for Microsoft Live, which required my name and birth date, and which I didn’t want to join. I am not a joiner. I do not want to be in your fancy Microsoft Club. I didn’t even sign up for Nintendo Power when I was a kid and I was certainly in the right age group.
  2. Provide my Paypal account info for billing.
  3. Provide my mailing address even though I’m not getting a physical product, nor do I intend to get shit in the mail from Microsoft, and the whole reason to use Paypal is to not have to give my address out to companies who don’t need to know where I am.
  4. Uncheck numerous offers from Microsoft to sign up for the marketing I don’t want because god almighty Microsoft just let me get to the damn software already.
  5. Confirm my account registration through a two-factor authentication text message to my cell phone which means the assholes now have my cell phone number even though if they ever call me and text me I will blister their ears with my response. There was absolutely no way around this and if they hadn’t already gotten my PayPal info I would’ve likely told them where to go stick themselves right at that moment.
  6. Download a 1.57GB package (which, by the way is 1,570 times the size of my first 1mb hard drive) over my cable modem (which is a gazillion times faster than dial-up) so that I could install the software.
  7. Run the installer, which I am glad to say, has always taken seconds for the first 99% of the installer and another 5 minutes for the last 1%. At least Microsoft is consistent.
  8. Finally launch the app.
  9. Sign in to Microsoft Live, which did I mention I didn’t intend to join? And what if I don’t have an Internet connection? Or block Office from surfing the web? Is this shit even usable if it can’t phone home?
  10. Finally launch the app.

That’s too much like goddamned work especially when you already picked my pocket for the software license.

Here’s the thing, wanna-be-software-developers-and-marketers: I don’t want to engage, I want to download the damned software I just bought. I don’t want to sign up for a yearly license so I always have the most up-t0-date version, I want to buy the software that will run until the computer dies. I don’t want to join your network, I want to get my shit done.

You don’t need my name, you don’t need my address unless you’re running my credit card, and you sure as fuck don’t need my birthdate or my cell number. You don’t need to know my username and password unless I want to give you a goddamned username and password.

And don’t lecture me about people pirating Microsoft Office. There’s so many goddamned free software apps that do the same thing Office does in the same file format that the only reason I bought the damn app in the first place instead of using Open Office was because I’m still a little grateful Microsoft funded Apple back in 1997.

I don’t use Gmail or most Google apps, I avoid using Facebook as much as I can, and I’ve cut the number of people I follow on Twitter by something like 75% because I believe that if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product. They’re not building that software out of the goodness of their hearts, and more often than not they’re figuring out how to monetize my eyeballs, my wallet, or my personal information for their gain.

I haven’t upgraded to the Adobe Suite or Microsoft Office 365 for similar reasons – if I only launch a product once every few weeks, why should I pay every month for something I don’t need to upgrade on a regular basis?

The dollar cost average of my let’s-call-it $250 license for Microsoft Office 2008 is about $2.40 a month since I bought it almost 10 years ago.

I only launch Word when the fiction sites I intend to submit to require a .docx file so $2.50 a month seems like a pretty good deal for what is essentially in my life as a file converter. I only launch Excel if someone sends me a .csv so I can convert it to something useful. I don’t launch the rest of the Office apps at all. Half the time I do launch Word 2008 I get told that it needs a security update (Adobe’s track record is roughly the same because apparently PDFs are a goddamned sieve) and the other half of the time I have to beat on it to create the files in a reasonable file size.

Now Microsoft has my name, address, phone number, the fact that it’s a text-enabled cell phone, my email address, birthday (if they believe it’s accurate) and not a goddamned thing explained what they intend to do with it.

But oh I’m sure we’re totally secure and comfortable with that especially what with the Equifax data breach and all.

Get off my goddamned lawn, take your shitty marketing ploys and desperate attempts to cash in on my identity with you. I’ll continue buying until-the-computer-craps-out licenses for cheaper software from your competitors from here out.

Author: Anne Gibson

anne gibson is a Senior Staff Product Designer and General Troublemaker working on design systems from outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She's an editor and writer at The Interconnected. She is also published at A List Apart and The Pastry Box, and publishes short fiction when she's not persuading the terriers to stop wrecking things. (The terriers are winning.)