How shareware really works and an explanation of piracy

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How shareware really works and an explanation of piracy

Yes, folks, you heard it hear first… I like software pirates.

Boys and Girls, let me take you back to a day before most of you were born. You were just a sparkle in mum’s and dad’s eyes. The days before the internet and world wide web was even invented.

Before the internet there were Universities in the UK and USA and great big military and government departments. NASA was sending men and women to the moon.

These were the glory days of the personal computer and modems. Computers were huge minicomputers and mainframes, and NASA needed a personal computer to fit on board it’s space rockets. These computers were networked together on board the space ships and the ground control stations could use radios to transmit signals to them to send signals to the computers to control different processors.

These different processors ran on different operating systems with similar program software but written differently. This is the engineering principle of redundancy; if one system fails then hopefully another one will have a similar program which can take over and do the same job. That’s the real reason why so many different computer programming languages have been invented.

Anyway, back around 1977, I had a Commodore Personal Electronic Transactor (PET) 4016 with 16 x 1024 bytes of RAM expandable to 32 x 1024 bytes RAM.

The computer I am using now has 3 GigaBytes of RAM. That’s 3 x 10^12 bytes of RAM. My first computer had 16 x 10^3 bytes RAM.

page 01 - Front Cover of the one and only PET USER GROUP ACT Newsletter

page 01 - Front Cover of the one and only PET USER GROUP ACT Newsletter

Click here to read this document >>> P.E.T. User Group A.C.T. Inc. – Newsletter Scanned & OCR’ed (where possible) from the original newsletter, circa 1981

Interesting reading & did you know that there is still a worldwide community of Commodore Computer Enthusiasts?!?


Yes, sometimes we (our family) would run out of RAM. The operating system was Commodore Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC) 4.0 written by Microsoft and owned by a young Bill Gates.

BASIC 4.0 had many bugs and was hard coded inside the ROMs of my PET 4016. Even though there were bugs in the ROM, all that needed to be done to fix this was to do what is called a hardware reset. This means switching off the computer and waiting about a minute or 2 then switching it back on again. The OS was then reset and it was fine again.

As you can imagine, this meant that if there were any nasty computer viruses invented then the system was fairly safe unless they could write to a floppy disc or hard disc. Floppies could be write protected with a small piece of tape.

Those were the days of 300 baud modems. Baud is simply a technical term meaning bits per second. If you read this to your mum then you would be speaking at about 300 baud.

There were also 1200/75 baud modems. Receive at 1200 baud and send at 75 baud. The logic of this was simply that most Bulletin Board Services gave one a menu and waited you to press a key. So, normally you only needed to send a few keypresses e.g. F file file menu, d for download, pick a protocol say Z modem then enter a number for the file, like say a NASA image of the moon.

These were the days when the companies who wrote your software said, here that’ll be $20 or $40 or $100 for the program. If you were interested then you could type LIST and see the BASIC source code and RUN to start it.

It was not long before people started to modify the programs and send emails back to the programmers with bug reports and suggestions for new features. Some people would also email programmers details of patches to their software.

Shareware had not been invented yet. College students and mums and dads and bachelors and bachelorettes would right software. Many were still learning how; especially including those teachers.

Then someone said “How much do you want for your software?” and the other said “About $20 as I spent a lot of time writing the software.” So money changed hands.

Then the person who bought the software gave a copy to his friend and the friend asks the same question and the process repeats.

Can you see the problem with this system? It is an honour system. What happens if Joe Familyman or Jenny Housewife does not want to pay for it. Exactly nothing happens… if Joe or Jenny does not want to pay then it is not worth it to them.

Now, our friend the software programmer does not like Joe and Jenny using his software without paying $20. So he has added otherwise useless code which checks the system date and watches to see if a 30 day trial period has expired and refuses to make the program work if it is past the trial period.

Now, correctly programming is called Information Technology because it is all about the exchange of information. If I can figure out some way to make your program work without you telling me that magic bullshit code then I have used the power of information to my advantage. Is there anything illegal about that? I don’t think so and I have lots of friends who agree with me.

If your legal buddies called me a pirate, then colour me pink and purple and put a talking parrot on my shoulder.

Oh and by the by… yes I downloaded this copy of Windows 7 Ultimate from a torrent on the internet and installed it myself. Nothing illegal about that. My brother happens to be a Business Enterprise Architect who analyses computer systems and he has offered me 1 of 10 licenses to any of the tens of thousands of software which Microsoft has. So as a matter of fact, my Windows 7 Ultimate system is legal.

Eat my dust Microsoft.

Best Regards


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About patientxmarksthespot

Patient X is a nice guy. Religious and church goer. Not a big Bible reader. Owner of a beautiful cat. Currently single and looking to find a woman as a partner to marry within a few years. Active on one particular internet dating website with over 160 women 'buddies' and chatting via emails on that site to a few of those women. Published poet with three books printed; being collections of my poems. Also collaborated to compile anthology of other poets works. I have been previously published as Patient X with 6 mini-short stories and some poems to my credit. These stories have appeared, at various times online on the www. These were horror/humour and mostly non-fiction and faction. Pat Ientx X
This entry was posted in Before Internet, Best Mates, Don't Panic, Family, Free software and freedom, Microsoft, Modems, Old computers, Pirates, Shareware, Short Story, Software. Bookmark the permalink.

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