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free storage for grads?


In the 1984 novel Neuromancer, in which William Gibson invented
the term "cyberspace", he had a thriller plot that depended on
the maguffin (Hitchcock's word) being kept away from the bad guys
because it was so valuable and so powerful. Conventional enough,
but it kind of spoils for you when you read it now because in
this case the object of such immense value and power set
centuries in the future was a memory chip for a computer that

I thought of this when I read your post about the UNC school
offering lifetime mass storage for its graduates. It's a device
to get them to stay connected with their old school, get their
online professional continuing ed there, send their kids, etc.,
etc. Somebody's probably figured out it wouldn't cost that much
and what the heck, it could create real brand loyalty. 

Reminds me of a dean 15 years ago who wanted his dental school to
offer a lifetime warranty on the degree -- come back and top it
up whenever you need to was the idea. The only way we'll know
this is a good idea is if it works -- but the odd downside risk
is that it's a waste of time. What if oodles of gigabytes of
storage turns out to be the cheapest commodity service, built in
to the electrical grid or suchlike, too cheap to price? (Think
what's happened to flash pens and how quickly they went from
being black magic to, now, pocket clutter that makes it hard to
find a quarter when you need one and who remembers what's on that
one anyway?)

On the other hand, if it turns out to have real value, then it
has real cost. That's the way the risk on this works: either
you're wasting your time or you're committing substantial future
value for uncertain outcome. If I knew any senior academic
administrators, I think I'd tell them to give this one a medium
hello at best.

Jim O'Donnell
Georgetown U.