And so, despite everything, I stayed with AOL for its e-mail. And there I stay today.
OK, that's the long, suspect version. Here's the short, truthful one. I'm lazy. I have never changed my e-mail account because it is too much trouble to switch all my records, notify everyone on my mailing list, and learn a new password.
More than that, even though I am utterly dependent on e-mail, I don't want to have to think about it ever again. Getting my e-mail from AOL is now so automatic, so embedded in my subconscious and my fingertips, that I merely have to think about my mail and somehow I find myself there. And I like that.
Now, as you may have read, AOL is bleeding customers and is about to institute -- five years too late -- free e-mail and other services. The press has made much of the fact that AOL lost nearly 1 million subscribers in the last quarter alone.
Here's what I say: There is no sane reason why us 18 million AOL subscribers still remain -- except for stupidity and inertia. I plead guilty to both.
Who would have thought that the first great Web application would prove to be the stickiest of them all?
And now, starting tomorrow, AOL is going to give me my e-mail for free. Great. Now I can return to my happy intellectual slumber and not have to think about AOL again for another decade.
Tad's Tab: The latest from the teen tech trenches from my 15-year-old son, Tad Malone.
Despite the occasional concerns about accuracy, I love Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia created by users themselves. I can sit for hours looking up topics ranging from number theory to Tony Sinclair (the foppish British club guy in the Tanqueray ads who turns out to be a Philadelphia actor named Rodney Mason). But what most people don't realize is that you can download Wikipedia onto your iPod and create the ultimate portable reference library. Note, however, this works only on the cheaper iPods -- iPod Photo and under -- giving you something to be smug about with your richer, Video iPod-owning friends.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Michael S. Malone, once called the Boswell of Silicon Valley, is one of the nation's best-known technology writers. He has covered Silicon Valley and high-tech for more than 25 years, beginning with the San Jose Mercury News, as the nation's first daily high-tech reporter. His articles and editorials have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, the Economist and Fortune, and for two years he was a columnist for The New York Times. He was editor of Forbes ASAP, the world's largest-circulation business-tech magazine, at the height of the dot-com boom. Malone is best-known as the author or co-author of a dozen books, notably the best-selling "Virtual Corporation." Malone has also hosted three public-television interview series, and most recently co-produced the celebrated PBS miniseries on social entrepreneurs, "The New Heroes." He has been the ABCNEWS.com "Silicon Insider" columnist since 2000.