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Prince had a legendary love/hate relationship with technology

As the world mourns the purple Prince of Funk, who was found dead in his home on Thursday, some may be moved to recall his sometimes-rocky relationship with the Internet — and surmise that he never really got it, or much of technology at all.

They would be wrong.

Granted, Prince outright hated what the Internet had done to the music industry. In a 2010 interview with The Daily Mirror, the artist declared the Internet “completely over.”

It was Prince, then 52, as his most curmudgeonly.

Two years later, Prince’s music could be found on exactly zero streaming services.

Some may have thought that the prolific artist, who put out roughly an album a year since 1978, was simply seeking attention. Certainly not every Prince release produced a hit on the level of "When Doves Cry" or "1999." And the more you say you’re not going to give people what they want, they more they want it, right?

But that wasn’t really it. Prince has always been about protecting his music and, to a certain extent, the Prince mystique. If technology could be used to enhance one or both, he’d dive in head first.

The clues are there, but you have to go back a few decades to find them.

Back in 1994, Prince felt trapped by his Warner Music recording contract. So he changed his name to a symbol. Since no one could pronounce the name of the symbol, everyone took to calling him “the Artist formerly known as Prince.” (He eventually switched back in 2002.)

That very same year, Prince released a CD-ROM. No, not a music album, but something different — super conceptual and very much on the cutting edge. At the time, I managed a massive Top 100 CD-ROMs annual feature story for PC Magazine. Prince’s CD-ROM, which was called [His Symbol] Interactive, made the cut.

It was so unusual as to be indescribable. We couldn't figure it out — was it a musical experience, or an aural puzzle?

In fact, it was a crafty melding of music and imagery that effectively used the nascent multimedia PC platform to showcase the Artist and his music in the best possible light. In addition to a quirky game that involved searching the CD-ROM contents for puzzle pieces to recreate his symbol, or what we called “the Glyph,” there were embedded music videos and interviews with Prince’s contemporaries.

It was rare, unusual and a signal for the rest of the music industry.

But by the time CD-ripping and free music sharing eviscerated that industry in the early 2000s, CD-ROMs were dead — and it seems Prince had soured on using technology and the Internet to propel his message.

Prince steered clear of iTunes and, later, streaming music services for the better part of a decade. He eventually allowed some music on streaming services, only to pull it from all but Tidal. As of today, you can only find one Prince album, Hit n Run Phase 2, on Apple Music.

Similarly, Prince showed little interest in promoting his music on social media. He finally joined Twitter in 2013, but didn’t get verified until 2015. Interestingly, his first tweet on the official Prince account pointed followers to a Soundcloud track. It’s since been removed.

Over the next year or so, Prince, with his grand total of 740 tweets, proved as interesting a character on social media as he did in life. He was an ALL CAPS GUY...

 ...who could be charmingly mundane...

Even so, he couldn’t quite embrace the Internet and social media.

In January of this year, Prince gave a solo concert at his Paisley Park complex in Chanhassen, Minnesota. No phones were allowed, which meant no one could share a single video or image from the concert. No one, that is, except Prince (who had also finally joined Instagram).

When it was time to give a Facebook Q+A in 2015, Prince made his fans wait for hours — then answered one question. The question was about a music tuning frequency, 432 Hz, that some believe transmits healing energy — which only proves that Prince was an oddball who loved technology, in his own way.

Even as Prince was emerging from a self-imposed cocoon to enjoy a late-in-life career resurgence, he was still keeping the Internet at arms length.

This may not have been because he hated the Internet, or because, as some believed, he didn’t get it. It seems more likely that he felt the Internet never truly got him.

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