Saturday, April 14, 2012

Texting is just like faxing

It doesn't seem like texting (SMS) has much to do with fax machines. Perhaps not technically, but I will argue that the two technologies are very similar in the way we use them. At first I just wanted to compare the two tools of communication and how similar they seem. However, what I really want to say is that both of these tools are absolutely useless, and if you have either one, you are just giving your money away for something that is already free.

The most important thing that they have in common is that both technologies are obsolete, yet are still widely used. Worse, these technologies have free alternatives, but many many people are still paying large monthly fees to keep the service running. A lot of money is spent to keep us backwards compatible for those that only have these ancient forms of communication and refuse to use something better. The short answer is that internet access has replaced these tools, yet many still are clinging to that old familiar fax or text.

 Alternatives to Faxing

It might be obvious that faxing technology is dying out, however it's still widely used in business and is combined into a lot of personal printers. The best alternative to using that old fax machine is having a soft copy of the file, and emailing it. There are a lot of lame arguments why this can't be done, but none of them hold water. I think most excuses boil down to collective laziness and refusal to learn something different. I've also heard that emailing is less secure than faxing, however the opposite is true if you password protect your documents or encrypt your email. There are also many different drop-box style websites that can be used to upload large files and send the link to the recipient. Newer multi-function printers have the ability to send and receive faxes. These can be used as a transitional tool to communicate with those that simply refuse to join the 21st century. Please find a better solution.

Alternatives to Texting

Before listing the alternatives, I'll assume that you want to send a quick message from your phone, anywhere that you have coverage. Perfect, any new phone that isn't built for your grandma has the ability to get the internet. Chances are, you probably already have 3G or 4G on your smart phone, in addition to your texting service. Instead of paying $20 for unlimited texting, why don't you pay $20 for unlimited internet and get the benefits of both? You probably already know that per character, text messaging is the most expensive form of communication.

As far as alternatives, e-mail is an obvious one if you want to send pictures or other files, however this can also be done with whatever your favorite social media site. Oh, you are just sending a quick message? The email app on your phone is probably as simple as the texting app. Also, ever heard of instant messaging? If your phone can have apps, then there is an app for that.

I think the real problem is that text messaging has reached critical mass, where everyone is using it, and it's hard not to have when everyone assumes they can message your number. I don't want to be the only guy that doesn't have texting; And I can't change everyone else's behavior just by refusing to use that form of communication. Just like it took a while for the idea of having a telephone in your home, it's going to take a while to kill some things that are no longer needed. The good news is that there are some free transitional technologies, similar to e-fax, that will allow you to send and receive free text messages. My personal favorite is Google voice, Apple has iMessages (although only iPhone to iPhone), and I know there are a lot of other alternatives out there. The point is that even if you must have the ability to text, it's a free service in a lot of forms. You can even send text messages from Google chat.

So why am I writing all of this, when the alternatives are obvious? Simply, it bugs me that so many people are using and paying for old technologies when they don't have to, and I am forced to accommodate their outdated and expensive forms of communication. It seems like it's only obvious to me, but maybe it isn't so obvious to everyone. Some people think that I am strange for refusing to pay for text messaging. To be honest, I think we're almost at the point of questioning why we pay for any communication service (phone, cable TV, etc) except for internet (but that's another discussion). I don't expect to be able to send a telegraph to you, so please cancel your texting plan and get rid of that fax line.