HomeThe Golden Age of Shareware CDs

The Golden Age of Shareware CDs

Internet Archive / Benj AdWords

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, you could buy CD-ROM discs containing thousands of shareware apps, games, photos, and more. These CDs were the door to many hours of cheap entertainment. A look at their originality and effects.

Thousands of free apps on CD.

Imagine buying a CD for یا 10 or ہوں 20 with thousands of games or apps and not committing theft or piracy. It was the promise of a shareware CD, a software distribution platform that flourished in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Shareware CDs were easy because you could access multiple programs at once.

Two shareware CDs.
Internet Archive / Benj AdWords

Shareware CDs became popular when CD-ROMs became popular on home PCs in the mid-1990s. Shareware CD-ROMs remained well-established until the 2000s, available at targets such as Office Supply Stores, Game Retailers, Computer Stores, and General Commercial Stores.

A brief update on shareware.

In the 1980s and 1990s, enterprise software developers decided to sell their programs directly to people using the concept of shareware, allowing users to freely run demo apps and games for a trial period. ۔ If they like the software, they can send money to the developer of the program and either get permission to continue using the app or access new features like new game episodes.

In addition, shareware developers encouraged ordinary computer users to freely share copies of these programs with others (hence the name shareware). Unlike other forms of commercial software, distributing free shareware was not considered piracy. They were often distributed on dial-up bulletin board systems (BBSes) at the time.

Although many shareware apps were available through BBS in the 1990s, it can take hours to download a single large file. And some apps (like the big games of the mid-1990s) wouldn’t fit on a floppy disk, so it was easy to install them from a single CD instead of multiple floppy disks – and try to download the file Faster than a BBS

Compact disc magic.

Originally launched in the mid-1980s, CD-ROM (compact disc read-only memory) disks represented a major leap forward in cheap, mass-produced data storage. Each disk can typically store 650 megabytes of data, representing a huge leap from floppy disks to typically contain 0.36 to 1.44 megabytes of data. Between 1985 and 1995, typical PC hard drives ranged in size from about 20 MB to 500 MB.

On a single CD, publishers can store enough data to fill hundreds of floppy disks or multiple hard drives. Meanwhile, when produced in large batches, a typical CD costs only 10-15 cents worth of raw material (and 30 cents for a printed label and jewel case).

"Best class" Shareware CD Collection.
This ten CD shareware collection sounds impressive, but it was mostly shown: all the data on ten discs can actually fit on one CD. Phone touring.

The sharing element of shareware made it possible to combine shareware programs on disc and CD. With lower manufacturing costs per unit, publishing on CD can support shareware’s low-cost print runs (typically retailing anywhere between $ 1 and $ 100 per disc), which is often for publishers. Nothing costs. Publishers such as Knight Owl Corporation usually download a collection of files available on BBSes for free. Some, such as Walnut Creek CDROM, distribute shareware collections from online sources such as Smittel Archives.

Companies sold and distributed shareware on floppy disks before (and during) the Shareware CD era. But the limited size of floppies usually means that only one program (or a handful of simple programs) is sent to each disk. In contrast, CD-ROM capacity can store all data in one place that cannot be matched to floppy disks.

And because of the miraculous ability of CD-ROMs, some shareware CDs were pre-formatted to be used as BBS file sections. Cisps (those who run BBSs) can simply insert the CD into the CD-ROM drive attached to their BBS machine and let the caller download the files from the CD itself.

Related: Remember BBSes? Here’s how you can look today.

What Happens to Shareware CDs?

Shareware CDs can host a wide variety of content, but often include large collections of games, applications, or utilities. Disks shipped to many different computer platforms, including IBM PC, Macintosh, Atari ST, and Amiga in particular. Some discs focused on a specific topic (such as Linux or Windows apps), while others were user-generated level combinations for games. Torment And Earthquake. If it was available for free on the Internet or somewhere on the BBC in the 1990s, it is likely to reach the CD-ROM somewhere.

On many shareware game CDs, you can find the biggest shareware classics of PC gaming, such as ID software games. Commander Ken. Series , Torment, Wolfenstein 3D., Like Apogee games. Duke Nokim., Like the classics of epic games. Forest fire, Apex Pinball., Or Jazz Jackbert., And much more.

Shareware CDs often contain a large collection of shareware games.

Also, you can often find discs full of digital or hand-drawn graphics images in GIF or JPEG format, mostly downloaded from BBSes. Popular articles for GIFs were distributed including cars, army, women and men swimming suits, computers, digital cartoon strips and many more.

Related: From Cane to Dome: The founders of ID Software talk about 30 years of gaming history.

Were shareware CDs legal?

Shareware CD sellers operate in a legal gray area. Apparently, they only collected fees that covered the cost of producing, printing and distributing discs or CDs. But let’s be honest: the shareware CD business was not a charity. Very few people would do this if it weren’t for the profits of selling free software discs.

Whether or not the app developer tolerates resale on CD is largely up to the developer himself. According to the shareware historian. Richard Moss In an interview with How to Geek, some developers saw discs as a means of free distribution, gaining more exposure for their programs so that they could sell more copies. Others saw the distribution of unauthorized shareware on CDs as a form of infringement. “Most shareware authors set out terms in their shareware notes that specify where, how, or through whom the software may be redistributed.

House of Games Shareware CD Core
The cover of the “House of Games” CD, which had a hefty retail price of 79 79.95.

The Ethical Shareware Collection contacted authors individually for permission to add their programs. Others give calls to shareware authors who will then submit to add apps. But probably those were the exception rather than the rule.

Moss says some developers, such as MVP Software, have often sued companies that make shareware CDs with its games, claiming it’s bad for their business. “He was far from alone, and I have seen many shareware authors complain in forums, message boards, magazines, newsletters and newspapers until the 1980s that he believed his work had been illegally distributed. ۔

Other developers accepted the inevitable fact that someone would sell their program somewhere without the developer’s explicit permission. On the title screen. TormentID software, for example, wrote, “Free via the provided ID. Recommended retail price $ 9.00.

Twilight of the Shareware CD – and how to find them today.

Eventually, as high-speed broadband Internet plans expanded in the 2000s, the physical distribution of shareware became less necessary. Instead, people can quickly download the same shareware apps from the web, and today people download games faster through the App Stores. The rise of broadband and the decline of optical discs have largely wiped out shareware CDs (although there may be some exceptions).

But fortunately for us, Fearless Digital Archivists retrieved disc images from earlier Shareware CDs so we could study them today. If you want to see the latest archive of shareware CDs, the Internet archive has you covered, thanks to the hard work of Jason Scott, who actually created many of them on his cd.textfiles.com web. Saved for the site. . For most disks, there is a catch: they are usually in ISO format, which will require you to mount, extract, or burn the files before viewing them.

Even then, you’ll usually need either a real vintage computer or an emulator, such as DOSbox to run the program itself. Be aware that there are some CDs with adult (NSFW) content in the Internet archive, so viewers’ discretion is advised. Have fun exploring the past!

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