How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

reminisce about bbc micro & electron games like chuckie egg, repton, elite & exileRelated forum: adventures


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Rich Talbot-Watkins
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How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Rich Talbot-Watkins » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:05 pm

In the other thread talking about Daredevil Denis, I got to thinking about how I 'acquired' a large amount of my games collection.

Back then, I remember that, for every game I ever bought, I'd probably obtain a further 10 by copying friends' compilation discs stuffed full of games. Or I'd borrow an original and hone my hacking skills in stripping off the protection and making myself an unprotected version on disc. Others would use a disc copying program like Vector II to the same end, but the point was that it was something that seemed very much in the culture of the community - to share what you had with others - a weird kind of community-endorsed casual piracy.

Of course that wouldn't happen any more :roll: ...but that's not what this thread is all about.

The Beeb community seems to have always passed around copies of software from one person to the next, but what I was wondering is how far away these things ever got from their original source. These days we internet-enabled lot can effortlessly get a copy of a file from the USA in a matter of seconds, but back then the only way these things could propagate and spread out was by physically being in the same place as someone with the source disc, and preferably a dual disc drive. You'd expect that this must've placed limits on the spread of games and hacks. So did it?

I'm sure things like the Lunar Jetman disc hack originated from only one single person (owing to the immense complexity of the protection), and then propagated slowly outwards to other parts of the country. Where did it start and how far did it get? The classic tune "Cold Tea" seemed to be everywhere, but I remember having a version where someone had changed the title to "Clod Eat", and added "Given by: <his name>" underneath. Did anyone else ever see this? Where I grew up in the London / Surrey area, this version was quite prevalent, so I can only presume it originated around there.

Did certain tape-to-disc hacks stay in only some parts of the country and not others, or did they eventually make it nationwide (by virtue of people actually travelling with their discs and giving copies to their friends hundreds of miles away)?

I find these questions fascinating (although probably nearly impossible to answer), but I'll just end with a few questions.

Did anyone ever find one of their own hacks come back to them via a completely unlikely source?

Or did anyone ever find discs on the STH archive which they thought were so unlikely to ever turn up because they seemed like something your mate had done and would never reach the populace at large? (An example of this for me would be the Citadel Zap cheat which did the rounds in the school computer room... I never expected to see this collected in an internet archive).

Or did anyone find anything on the STH archive that they'd never seen until that moment? (An example of this for me would be the Crazy Balloon hoax, something I'd love to know where it came from and what the story behind it is).

What about in other countries? What about ...New Zealand?! Were the same things circulating amongst Beeb owners there? How did they get there?

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Pernod » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:31 pm

Well, BITD I was based up north and had sharing contacts that covered a wide area from Skipton/Keighley, Leeds, Bradford, York (Yorkshire Boys) so much of my stuff circulated well around that area. The Bradford contact was a reasonable hacker that accomplished titles such as Wizadore, and most if not all of the Ultimate titles, though I didn't appreciate his cheating method of dumping all memory and finding a suitable execution address.

I also had a contact at Watford Electronics that would show up every couple of weeks with the latest titles to transfer/deprotect so everything I had was surely circulated around Herts too.

When I recently joined this site was the first time that I'd uploaded my disc compilations anywhere, which included many of my own transfers/deprotections. Though if you Google search 'barnsy winter olympiad' you'll find that some of my stuff has been out there for quite some time!

I haven't checked all the discs at STH yet but I'd be surprised if there aren't a couple of mine in there. They won't be easy to find though as I didn't alter any title screens or code but did usually leave a short message in any spare bytes I could find in the loaders along the lines of 'Deprotected by Barnsy. Hi to ...'.
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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by PitfallJones » Fri Oct 05, 2012 2:17 pm

Here's a string scan of all the ssd/dsd images:



"x:\games\bbc\BBC-more\_8bs\beebdisc16.dsd",
[00036940] winter olympiad '88 was deprotected by barnsy on 23:01:88. hello to westy, rik, spam, captain pugwash and anyone who knows me.

"x:\games\bbc\BBC-more\_8bs\beebdisc35.dsd",
[0005C970] indoor sports was deprotected by barnsy in a couple of hours. hello to westy, captain pugwash, rik, and a pirate in bradford.

"x:\games\bbc\Compilation\GAME65.dsd",
[00035B70] indoor sports was deprotected by barnsy in a couple of hours. hello to westy, captain pugwash, rik, and a pirate in bradford.

"x:\games\bbc\Compilation\Phanton.dsd",
[00052740] winter olympiad '88 was deprotected by barnsy on 23:01:88. hello to westy, rik, spam, captain pugwash and anyone who knows me.


"x:\games\bbc\Compilation\WinterGames.dsd",
[00052740] winter olympiad '88 was deprotected by barnsy on 23:01:88. hello to westy, rik, spam, captain pugwash and anyone who knows me.


"x:\games\bbc\Tynesoft\TYNES2.dsd",
[00052740] winter olympiad '88 was deprotected by barnsy on 23:01:88. hello to westy, rik, spam, captain pugwash and anyone who knows me.

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Pernod » Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:00 pm

Seems my Tynesoft sports games travelled well :D

BTW the reference to spam is actually Matthew Atkinson (Repton 3, UIM, Tempest, etc.).
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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by CMcDougall » Fri Oct 05, 2012 4:35 pm

mine got out due to adverts in TMU/AU and Solinet disc mag. Had a few 'pen'/disc friends on there, as they needed games hacked to work on Solidisk 8271/1770 and Watford 1770 64files discs. Was good for me, as got new games for the price of a stamp to send them back!

Also swapping tapes at school, and me putting them on disc, even for the teachers!

The only one in the archive here is ArcPinball. But i sent it in :P
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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by sweh » Fri Oct 05, 2012 6:59 pm

(heh, none of my disks had "barnsy" in them).

I've been trying to remember where I got my stuff, as well. I know that some were games bought from the local market stall, copied, returned (they stopped allowing that). Some came from the local video store (they'd rent out games; I'd copy them). Some came from friends at school. Some came from my cousin in Peterborough area. Some I even bought :-) Heh, a local store had Manic Miner on tape but someone had stolen the protection decoder sheet, so a saleman loaned me the tape for a week and I worked out the protection (just hacked in a JMP at the right place) and transferred it to floppy.

But that can't account for all the games I had... can it?
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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by CMcDougall » Fri Oct 05, 2012 7:03 pm

forgot the local library, and also in other villages near by! =D> :D
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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by richardtoohey » Sat Oct 06, 2012 2:58 am

Rich Talbot-Watkins wrote:What about in other countries? What about ...New Zealand?! Were the same things circulating amongst Beeb owners there? How did they get there?
Can't speak about NZ - BITD I lived in Surrey, too.

Most of my games were bought with a friend, and I did my best (not always that successfully!) to crack the protection (so we each had a copy) and to get tape games onto disc. Otherwise there was stuff going around school. Acquired a lot more copied stuff at Bristol Poly, but don't think I really played any of them that much at all - by 1987 I'd moved onto Atari ST (Archimedes just too expensive, ditto Amigas.) Maybe I'm odd (no comments, please!) but most of my stuff was bought.

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by mjforbes » Sat Oct 06, 2012 6:03 am

Interesting thread!

Most of my stuff BITD came from friends at school - the after hours 'computer club' on Mon, Wed and Thu afternoon/evenings were never used for working on GCSE work, more copying games from each other. As a result, a lot of the stuff that I had was sourced locally (south Hants), but two of my cousins had beebs, so packages were regularly being sent between me, Glasgow and Middlesbrough, so there's a fair chance that I could have picked up copies/hacks from a good proportion of the country, as I know my cousins were doing the same things ...!

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by tautology » Sat Oct 06, 2012 8:41 am

Copying disks between friends. Me and one other mate were good at removing copy protection on the Arc, I think the only one I didn't defeat was Repton 3, mainly because I had other ways of copying the disk.

As I used to buy and sell 3.5" disks to provide extra cash through my A-levels (£28 for 100 disks, about 90 format with no problems, sell at £1 each, free replace on disk failure, undercut the school's official price == profit) I had loads of free disks, so each time I met an Archimedes owner we'd have a copyfest!

Later at Uni, it was using the postal system to send a couple of disks. At one point the same Jiffy bag was sent through the postal system 13 times :-)

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Michael Brown » Sat Oct 06, 2012 11:51 am

I managed to get a load of games like Defender and Killer Gorilla on copied 40 track disks at school just before I left in 1984. I got a BBC B for my 16th birthday in the March and quickly got around 15 disks full of varuius titles.

I was on a YTS from 1984 to 1985 so money was tight so I used to buy the odd game from various shops in Beeston and Nottingham and then hack them onto a new disk and then swap these disks with friends to aquire loads more software.

Sometimes shop owners would allow me to come and play a title and make a copy without purchase so long as I left them a copy and promised not to distribute the game for around a month so they could sell their stock.

When I finally got a full time job in 1985, I was able to get another BBC and also a twin 40-80 drive and then re-do all my disks in both 40 and 80 track.

I met more and more people who had BBC's by being in the shop when they came in to buy games and I would tell them I could hack them for free and swap titles and almost all of them took up my offer.

At one point in the later part of the 1980s I would send the games I could not hack by post to a friend down south who had a BBC that would save all memory to a disk so all we had to do was look for an execution address. Games like Boulderdash and Bounty Bob Strikes Back were done this way.

In the early 1990s after the software had dried up in the shops, I used to run a free advert in the local admag selling my tapes to see who still had a beeb and then get some more games from them.

Also I used buy some games from a place called Computer Cavern in north London and copy them and then sell them on (sometimes making a few quid).

Sadly, none of the games that I hacked have appeared on the net or anywhere else. Luckily, I still have these disks and some of them still work.

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by mjforbes » Sun Oct 07, 2012 6:35 am

Michael Brown wrote:Sometimes shop owners would allow me to come and play a title and make a copy without purchase so long as I left them a copy and promised not to distribute the game for around a month so they could sell their stock.
Seriously Mike? Surely that'd be buying a one-way ticket to the bankruptcy courts!

Given the price of hardware back then, I'd have thought that software (and fan-fold paper, ribbons, disks) sales would have been the bread & butter for many of the 'little' shops that were around in the 1980-1990 period - especially on the BBC/Electron range, where the cheaper (Mastertronic et al) titles didn't come until later (and when they did they were often utterly atrocious - I'd rather spend £2 on a pack of B&H than one of those tapes!)

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Michael Brown » Sun Oct 07, 2012 9:52 am

The guy was called Tony and the shop was called Castle Computers on the High Road in Beeston. It is long gone. Tony had various machines on dispaly but loved the BBC and wanted a collection of games for himself. He had no idea how to hack the games himself so he relied on people like me to do it for him (for a price!) and then he would swap those games for other games from other people and so on.
He did eventually go out of business but I don't think pirating BBC stock alone caused that.

There were several other shop owners who did this but Tony was the most helpful for me.
Some however did not take kindly to pirates and even banned people from the shop if they thought they were going to rip the games off and told me that pirating would lead to the software houses stopping production.
That did happen but wasn't this mainly due to advances in better and cheaper computers.

My aim was always to obtain as many games as possible, but without coming in to loads of money, that was never going to be achieved through legit purchases.

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Pernod » Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:29 am

I first saw the F**k version of Frak being played by some lads (maybe staff) in WHSmiths in Bradford. Hastily bought a box of overpriced floppies and had them give us a copy (for a couple of quid).
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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Michael Brown » Sun Oct 07, 2012 12:19 pm

Back in May 1984 a floopy disc cost £2.60 or £26.00 for a box of 10 IIRC which was quite expensive at the time as I was just leaving school and this was the same as my YTS weekly payment.

They did come down in price but not for a while.

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Benjy » Sun Oct 07, 2012 1:22 pm

I remember playing the F**k version of Frak! It was on the school computers in the early 1990s when we still had BBCs. I did wonder how games became parody titles like that.

This reminds me actually - on the Retroclinic CD (that came with a Datacentre that I bought in late 2010), one of the images had a game called Sex Invaders. Instead of aliens, you had to shoot at naked women. You can imagine what shape your spaceship was!! Was this an example of a hacked game?

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Pernod » Sun Oct 07, 2012 4:17 pm

Benjy wrote:This reminds me actually - on the Retroclinic CD (that came with a Datacentre that I bought in late 2010), one of the images had a game called Sex Invaders. Instead of aliens, you had to shoot at naked women. You can imagine what shape your spaceship was!! Was this an example of a hacked game?
I have that on a floppy here, along with similar themed animations/games. No idea when I'll get it transferred but will be posted here when it's done.
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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by nbelbin » Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:07 pm

When it comes to the BBC Micro days , I had a friend with a twin tape deck and another who had an EPROM programmer as most of us couldn't afford a floppy drive :(
The most "interesting" items in the game collection from memory were the sideways rom/ram version of Frak and the one level of Killer Priscilla :)

After the beeb/spectrum days I was mainly on the Commodore Amiga which was a matter of disks by post or downloads from BBS systems. I had an contact in Wales who set up a little group of contacts and was naming the group The Assasins. I remember there being a pile of demo code on a cover disk which had a wireframe rotating or spinning floppy dik which I added some text for the group and shoved on a disk which was the first demo to mention the group. At the time people were saying great demo etc etc but I had to say I isn't even code it LOL
I believe they eventually became quite a big coding/cracking/demo group eventually ..
I moved on to the PC jin the 386/486 days as I reasoned it would be more useful to have skills that were useful in business. I even dabbled a little with Slackware linux in the command prompt days :)
As for Internet I went from BBS systems and a fido net node on to a BBS which had access to email (Span BBS) and then on to dial up Internet with usenet access using weird hacked about packet radio software ... Aah the delights of the 9600 and 14.4k modems compared to the old v22bis Amstrad Sm2400 :)
The well rehearsed patience of waiting for downloads to complete on a 14k line have long been forgotten, let alone the early days of home highway and the rather expensive blistering speeds of two bonded 64k lines :)

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by mjforbes » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:00 am

Anyone remember *PIG ? We had that on one of the Beebs at school .... ;)
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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by s1paulr » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:56 am

The "sweary rude" version of Frak was particularly easy to do as the name is actually held as ASCII, so you could change Frak to any four characters. As it was so easy, I am sure it was not just me that changed it, although I know that my version was copied many times in the London area :D

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Footie » Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:07 am

What about in other countries? What about ...New Zealand?! Were the same things circulating amongst Beeb owners there? How did they get there?
I wasn't a big BBC user in New Zealand so can't say how things generally happened other than what I did. I got my software through "BBC friends" and also though those at school who brought in discs to copy around. Usually I would meet up with others every now and then to see what new software they had and to swap etc. I know there were user groups and also some of the shops that sold BBC stuff had PD libraries that you could get copies of. There were also software libraries for renting titles. I assume people had contacts in the U.K. and that discs got posted back and forth. We got the magazines and could order directly from the U.K. too but I also remember seeing most of titles that were advertised in the magazines available here anyway. Most of the non-standard items mentioned (rude Frak etc.) also appeared here.

With the Archimedes scene, I got software from various places. Because the price of games etc. was so high, a group of us would go in together and buy a title every now and then. It would go between us over time and some people would make copies if they could. People in the local user group had contacts overseas and would send and receive discs at regular intervals. These got shared around quite quickly. Again, the software titles could be bought here fairly soon after they came out and there were also software libraries for renting titles. BBS's were also starting up and they had software available also.

So, even though I was on the other side of the world, I believe we had most of what was circulating in the general scene. The only difference is that it would take a little longer to get here. Of course, there were quite a number of good coders here and so we had our own local scene and I'm sure some of that work got back to the U.K. for you all to look at and share around.

Cheers,

Mike.

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Room5 » Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:18 am

Rich Talbot-Watkins wrote:The classic tune "Cold Tea" seemed to be everywhere, but I remember having a version where someone had changed the title to "Clod Eat"
I can confirm that the 'Clod Eat' variant propagated at least at as far as the Swindon area. I can't recall whether I had any part in that, but I'd always return from visiting relatives in London with a box of floppies stuffed with new goodies.

Simon.

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by Samwise » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:27 pm

The Micro User Volume 2, Number 3: May 1984 - News
SOFTWARE PIRATES ON THE AIR

SOFTWARE pirates, always ingenious in thwarting the protection attempts of manufacturers, have begun to use the radio waves to distribute their illicit copies.

Radio hams have started to use their sets to transfer software directly to each other.

The whole operation is beginning to become highly organised.

Ringleaders frequently broadcast catalogues of hundreds of programs from which other hams can take their pick.

Estimates of the amount of software pirated this way range from £5 million to more than £20 million.

The practice came to light when Rochdale-based A&F Software began to monitor transmissions.

Said managing director Mike FitzGerald: "We were amazed at the scale of the operation. It's not just games - the other night they were talking about sending Acorn-soft's View over the air.

"Rest assured that we will take action against anyone pirating our programs in this way.

"We've already got a list of call signs, and if the offenders don't stop they'll have injunctions served on them to close down their stations".

Contacted by The Micro User, the Radio Society of Great Britain said it had no knowledge of any of its members being involved in piracy.

"We know that some of our people are programmers and send their programs over the air -which is quite legitimate", said David Evans, the society's secretary.

"But obviously we would not expect amateurs to broadcast any material where copyright law exists".

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by johnha » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:49 pm

Does that qualify as wifi?

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Re: How code travelled in ye olde Pre-Internet days

Post by CMcDougall » Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:34 pm

^^ :shock: good spot Samwise =D>

so tune in at 8pm tonight on 100FM for Alien8 by Ultimate, dont tell anyone 8-[ lol
(and pray nobody talks from airplanes for 6mins!)

my local commercial radio station did play stuff out sometimes BITD, but no Acorn stuff. Probably just an advert screen and a little jingle :?

the pirate started in Edinburgh in April'93, but only good white labels/promos/dubplate vinyl tunes and mixing \:D/ (& no adverts or news :P )
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