Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Pirate's Toolbox

Piracy was a major issue in the early days of home computer gaming -- various schemes were concocted to prevent illegal copying, and a lively underground thrived on the challenge of "cracking" these mechanisms.  There were legitimate reasons for consumers to do this sort of thing -- purchasers of commercial software had a legitimate interest in backing up the media, as insurance against the vagaries of early magnetic floppy disk storage.

But the Gardner Computing Company seems to be crossing the line just a tad with its offerings in this ad, aimed at lazy non-hackers who wanted to steal games without actually doing any work.  Products purported to help developers design and implement copy protection are advertised right alongside piracy tools, thinly disguised as download and backup utilities:

THE BOOK WITH SOFTWARE and THE HACKER'S TREASURE CHEST both claim to cover copy protection techniques for the benefit of software developers.  But the adjacent ads for THE DOWNLOADER ("But Best of All you will be able to download games from bulletin boards with our software and the 835 modem") and the availability of utilities with names like Cartridge Copy, The Unprotector, and Bootape Maker send a decidedly mixed message.  Cartridges, at least, seem to be functioning pretty reliably decades after the commercial life of these early computers ended.  And where, pray tell, is The Protector?

We specialize in Backup Hardware and Software, the ad proclaims.

Cap'n Gardner and his scurvy crew seem to be dissembling a bit.

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