We covered the EULA (End User License Agreement) in part one, and touched on a few other possibilities towards the end. In part two, we’ll finish up the computer stuff and delve into some of the home entertainment issues that confront us.
Towards the end of this article, I want to get into why we consumers seem to be willing to let these things happen to us in the first place. How come big companies like Microsoft and AT&T have been allowed to stomp us into the ground with so little as a peep from us? Does our own complacency doom us to a future of domination by these big guys? Are we really that spineless???
More Computer Craziness
For many, many years now, we have had some form of copy protection on PC’s to prevent people from stealing software from the hardworking people who produce it. And for just as many years, we have had innovative people finding ways around those forms of copy protection.
I remember back in the day, Central Point Software started out with a program called Copy 2 PC. This nifty gem allowed businesses and consumers to make working backup copies of their expensive software so that in case the master floppy disks went nuts (which happened all the time in the days of 360k disks), you could use these nice, fresh backups. The program usually did not strip the copy protection off, it simply allowed you to backup the whole thing, warts and all, so that you had a functioning duplicate.
When companies like Lotus became more advanced in their copy protection methods, Central Point came out with a very slick piece of hardware, the Copy 2 PC ISA Board. This board plugged into an ISA slot and was wired in between the floppy drive and the floppy connector so that every bit of data traveled through it. This way, the board and software were able to intercept the data at the hardware level and ensure a clean, complete copy. Again, the key was that it did not necessarily strip away the copy protection, it simply made a copy of the entire setup, bit by bit. It was a rather elegant solution for such an early time, and it bailed us out over and over again, because in those days, floppies failed all the time, and each program cost our company $400-$500 each.
About that same time, there was a product called AutoCAD. It was very expensive, but soon became all the rage with Engineers all over the country. When it first was introduced to us where I worked, it had no copy protection on it whatsoever. The goal was to get it in the hands of as many people as possible to help make the product a success. However, once the market was saturated, a funny thing happened. Just when we became heavily dependent on it, AutoDesk, the company that produced the product, introduced a copy protection device called the Hardware Lock. It plugged into one of your data ports, Serial if I remember, and gave the “ok” code to the software once it was properly detected.
Customers were pretty miffed. They paid thousands for a program only to be told that they had to be “baby sat” by an electronic monitor? The sad thing is, AutoDesk probably would have gotten away with it if it had not been for a simple problem of the unit not being reliable. PC’s were not all that reliable back then to begin with, but throw a device into the mix that gets in the way of your Serial port? You had trouble with plotters, digitizers, the works. The outcry was not over copy protection really, but over the fact that their copy protection scheme wreaked havoc on their existing hardware, and a production oriented business just can’t stand for something like that. If it costs them money, by golly, they will yell, but not if it is “only” about principle.