A version of this post originally appeared on Tedium, a twice-weekly newsletter that hunts for the end of the long tail.
Before software, purchases generally worked like this: You walked into a store, you bought a physical object, and that object was yours until it became damaged or outdated, and you threw it out.
But software, being much smaller in physical space than any commercial object that came before it, wasn’t limited by these rules. Data came in bits and bytes, and could be dripped out or distributed in any number of ways.
And that data was getting smaller by the day. Floppy disks begat smaller floppy disks, which begat hard drives, which begat CD-ROMs. If you had a modem, you didn’t even need another disk!
It makes sense that shareware came out of this floppy-copyin’ state of affairs, because we needed a business model that encouraged copying.