Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 1 / FALL 1979 / PAGE 82

Dear Len,

I just finished reading the latest Gazette. You're getting better each time, and this one continues the trend. It brings up many points I'd like to discuss; as usual, you are free to publish any or all of this note.

First, on the subject of program protection, I agree with one of your correspondents in not promoting that protection. Recognize that I say that as one who has software on the market and hopes to make some money from it. But in the personal computer business, the general case of games and the like should not be to make a living at programming. First, any program produced on cassette can be duplicated; audio techniques will always work, and piracy is therefore always possible. More generally, if you had a perfect protection technique, you could not make the duplicates to distribute to exploit it! Thus, one depends on the honesty of the buyer and on reasonable pricing. That is, if someone makes a product which is worth the money (e.g., Microchess 2.0), the user will be willing to pay for it. On the other hand, if one is ripped off for $20 for software not worth $5, one gets mad. Therefore, it is necessary that the programs be priced in accordance with their worth. I have reviewed a lot of PET software recently, and have found none to be underpriced. I have found a lot to be overpriced, and would expect it to be stolen.

In reviewing the programs, I have come across several ‘protected’ against copying. Of course, they aren't safe from duplication, but they are difficult to change. So, when they are close to being right, or to being marketable, they are not worth the effort to fix. Better just reject them, and pass on the comments if you care to bother. But the main reason for not protecting code is to make it accessible to the user. The best computer game I've ever played is Thousand Miles by Frank Covitz. (It's for sale by Programma, but this is not a plug!) Even that program needed a few fixes (initialize the random number seed, poke 59468, improve the human interface) before it was put on the market. If he had protected the program, that would have been impractical. And, on my big PET, I want to add some graphics, improve the machine algorithm, etc. That exercise should be encouraged, not suppressed. For example, some of my simple games give the user directions for changes which may personalize the product. That matters to me, primarily to persuade the game player that he/she can be a game maker. My philosophy is known to you from HUNT, and I'm glad to say that the people at Programma have been happy to cooperate with me; none of my software will be guarded against user modification. Recognizing that that means possible loss of income to a young, struggling company, I am very appreciative of their attitude.

On to the disc question. Commodore seems to have solved the hardware problems; my discs are doing fine. File handling is excellent, although a bit tedious. The essence of the DOS isn't really here yet, although the version I have would be a good start if it didn't have a significant bug. I assume that the bug is either out by now or will be soon, and the new version should be workable. I am working on a very sophisticated library system now, which looks as though it will hold all of my 10,000 or so classical recordings on a single disc, with access by soloist, conductor, etc. So far so good, and I have all but one of the major software elements completed. (That one, to merge files, should be done this week.) They are trying at Commodore now, although they still aren't succeeding in supporting the customers very well. Surprise? Oh, come on now!

Mike Richter