Wacky Anti-Piracy Methods of Yore

Software piracy ain't anything new (before there was the Internet and all these fancy P2P piracy, there was the old school Sneakernet kind).

Royal Pingdom blog has a very interesting, blast-from-the-past article about fighting piracy through various copy protection methods, including code wheels, dongles, and feelies. For example:


Dongles started appearing in the early 80’s and were used both for games and commercial software of other kinds. The dongle would need to be plugged in to the computer somehow, often through the serial or parallel port. Without the device plugged in, the software wouldn’t run.

The very first program to use a dongle was Wordcraft on the Commodore PET in 1980. Its dongle (the inventor named it so for lack of a better word) connected to the computer’s external cassette port and was two cubic inches large (32 cubic centimeters). We were unfortunately unable to find a picture of it.

These days some software uses USB dongles for copy protection, so we’re not rid of them yet. Dongles are pretty unpopular among users (it’s arguably one of the most hated software protection methods ever), so usually only more specialized and expensive software get away with using them.

Link - via GeekPress (Photo: GamesRadar)

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I agree dongles are hated by users but they offer best protection method as compared to other. I also doubt that if a dongle is added to popular application it will be able to offer some protection, dongle protection works because the application using it are very specific and not for everyone.

I invite everyone to visit our website and see how we are helping small-medium software companies in anti-piracy efforts.
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Centurion: Defender of Rome asked you questions relating to the geography of ancient Rome. What did I use to crack that baby? The Bible.

I certainly see the irony there, now...
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The Federal Government, and their contractors will still use dongles on "training" laptop computers in their classes to protect from copying the programs. The problem is that usually, by the time that the computer gets to you, so many students have used the laptop, and contaminated/corrupted the program that there is not one clean/protected copy of the program left on the computer, making understanding and learning the new software difficult in many cases.
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I still have my code wheel for Bard's Tale III from about 1988. I had a hacked version of Ultima IV where I had to open the 5 1/4" (!) drive at ome point during the loading process, until the screen border started turning a rainbow of colors, in order to avoid the copy protection. Still one of my all-time favorite games.
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@edselpdx I remember the Sim City red code too. And Pirates you needed obscure information from the manual. Which we solved with a photocopied copy of the manual.

I think fairy tail adventures was another one you could get around by memorizing.

(I grew up on Amigas, is it showing?)
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