It happened slowly, though perhaps not very subtlety, the shift to a proprietary way of life. No immediate ultimatums were issued to tip off the unobservant that each choice was crucial.  No manifestos were declared to clearly define the goals of the Tetrad. Just a deepening of the divide already obvious in blogs and chat rooms the world wide web over. You see as the evermore ubiquitous internet grew the freedom it represented shrank. Technological advancements once delivered as scientific insights become boastful dares. Each one egging the others farther down the path to outright war, but very few realized what it meant.

I mean, I doubt anyone would have guessed that cell phones could be the downfall of our society, but they were.

I can even do it one better and say it started with the smart phone. The Tetrad would never have come into existence if that pocket sized miracle had never happened. Or at the very least it wouldn’t have happened so quickly. You see…

Once upon a time a magical box was created. This box allowed people to access all kinds of knowledge from every corner of the world. Many tried to replicate and perfect the box but only one was successful. Portal. Portal became the gateway through which people accessed the power of the magical box, and all was good. The world was granted a second miraculous box. This box connected us to the first box by way of paged alerts. Our ability to stay connected grew as Drupelets’ PDA took hold. Yet another box was bestowed upon the world even smaller than the last and filled with the heavenly sound of song. Pome was the apple of every music lovers eye, still all remained in balance. The tension grew, but as each company still had its own original bit of magic the peace held. It wasn’t till the day a fourth box arrived that the competition truly began. For this box, you see, could combine the others and with it came the Automata.

Thus the Tetrad was formed, Portal, Druplets, Pome, and Automata, because we humans are creatures of habit. The Tetrad banked on this making each interface different enough that that people began to develop preferences. As we bickered amongst ourselves which way was best They moved to the next step. Pome refused to make file formats that could be viewed or opened by Portal, and Automata purposefully rejected anything Pome.

And the first line was drawn in the sand.

Business made choices to go all Portal or all Pome in an attempt to make data sharing more efficient. People bought digital material through only Pome, Drupelets, or Automata in order to ensure the best quality experience. We calmly continued on this path like sheep lead to slaughter, happily oblivious that each fine tuned upgrade was efficiently widening the technological gaps into true divisions.

The final line was drawn not in sand but black and white with the Proprietary Decree. In which the Tetrad decided, for the benefit of humankind, that communication of all knowledge, ideas, and digital objects would be interface specific.

The ramifications were immediate and severe. Emails sent by an Automata could only be opened by an Automata, documents created by a Portal could only be viewed on a Portal, music uploaded to a Pome could only be heard on a Pome. Society fissured and broke, but if civil unrest existed it was short lived.

To keep your job you switched to what the company you worked for had chosen.

To continue to communicate with distant family you conformed.

Circles of friends and relationships reformed.

As a collective we chose to let this happen, and we the people have paid the price. Isolation! Well no more. Much to your surprise, I’m sure, this has been simultaneously streaming via each proprietary interface. That’s right. We are the compatible, and we are not standing idly by anymore.

The threat hung in the air as every screen in the house faded to black followed by one soft click, which suggested the wifi had reset. Tess made a sound from the couch which could have been interpreted as shock or a whine, but my raised hand stopped her from saying anything else. My mind was racing. Had that been Yaz’s voice? Could Caleb finally have figured it out? God it had been years, decades actually, since we last met up to discuss his pet theory which Yasmin had teasingly called “the digital downfall”. Looking back I had always thought how oddly prophetic Caleb had been, but this… this was damn near a deceleration of war. I stopped pointlessly rubbing my brow and focused on the now blue TV screen. I needed the news. I needed to see what They were saying about this. Then I heard it, a soft trilling sound barely audible, I turned and ran.

“What the hell dad,” Tess asked my back as I bolted. I didn’t bother to answer her, but I was sure it was the right question. The trilling grew louder and more instant as I neared the fallout shelter I had insisted upon, much to Sara’s chagrin, and the landline. The landline which had seemed like an absurd amount of trouble when it was put in, but now… What the hell I thought to myself as I reached for it.