This article was received anonymously together
with two double sided disks of 'unavailable' software and is
completely genuine. It is published to highlight many of the problems
that have caused ATARI to have so little software support in this
country and in the hope that a few owners will think twice if they are
offered illegally copied software. ATARI now has the greatest chance
it has ever had to make an impact in the U.K. Will you help or hinder?
Piracy must be eliminated now, or more companies
will go down, programming talent will be lost and fewer people will
want to enter the software industry if it cannot provide worthwhile
employment. Piracy can be stopped, or at least diminished, and in this
article I hope to point everyone concerned in the right direction for
the long-term good of the industry.
I am a software pirate myself so why am I revealing
all this? Well, I am as keen an Atari enthusiast as all of you and I
now want Atari to be number one, where it deserves to be. However the
parasitic nature of software piracy will never allow our favourite
machines to achieve pole position, unless it is destroyed at source. I
could just give the names of all the definite pirates I know of (about
twenty - some in respectable positions in computer firms) but I won't
- I'd be risking more than losing my hardware! If Atari and the
software companies want piracy to end then they must do the work after
all, they were the main cause.
More than five years ago, when the 400 and 800 were
still in their infancy, Atari were charging about £30 or more for
rubbish like Asteroids. With the lure of advertising most owners were
'stung' by the extortionate prices, whilst the people at Atari smirked
as they reaped in millions. The average Atari owner had only a few
programs. Then the battles started with Commodore, Texas Instruments,
etc. - they reduced their software prices to below £15 but Atari did
nothing, they continued at £30 per game. Many owners became fed up
with this. A great many moved to other machines and found they could
afford three times as much software. Others discovered they could
easily copy their friends' tapes and disks since at that time software
protection hardly existed. Atari, and other companies, should have
supported their customers and sorted out the problems years ago, but
they didn't and deserved to go down, losing customers to Commodore on
the way. I am sure the new Atari will have learned something from that
More money was spent on protection techniques but
all the while the pirates became more proficient at breaking
protection and were now able to copy any software easily. If Atari and
the software producers wanted to attract customers to buy their
software then they needed to reduce prices of ALL software to below
£15, or else justify how they can expect users to pay out half the
price of a television licence, but it didn't happen until quite late.
The effect of the Atari con-trick was that very few national magazines
even mention Atari products, many people prefer inferior machines
because they are better supported and small companies go into
liquidation. Piracy is just the ordinary man's logical reaction to the
greediness of the short-sighted software manufacturers.
O.K. WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Firstly, let's see how a pirate obtains software.
There are basically three different types of pirate.
(a) There are those who just receive software for
their own use - mainly cassette users - and don't have the technical
ability to copy software.
(b) Those who provide software to their friends
(myself included). We select software that we or our friends want and
then get it from a type (c) pirate. We stock no rubbish - disk space
is too valuable, so we have only about 200 programs each. We also have
many utilities for copying disks, tapes and ROMs and are all disk
drive owners primarily responsible for supplying class (a) pirates.
(c) The copiers and suppliers who distribute to (a)
and (b): They all have Archiver chips (or similar) fitted to their
drives, enabling them to copy any software. They have every utility
available for copying. They have most of the games available for the
Atari, not just 200 games, more like 200 disks with up to eight games
per side. If they don't have your requested game in their vast disk
library then they can get it within a week. The copiers gather at each
others' homes (or user group meetings) for massive games transfers.
Pirates can get games that will never be released to the public or
games two or three months before official release. All of the
following were available about three months before the official U S.
release date: Donkey Kong Junior, Millipede, Track and Field,
Vanguard, Dimension X, Blue Max 2001, New York City, Quasimodo, Alley
Cat, Decathlon, Pitfall II, Zenji, Ballblaster, Rescue at Fractalus,
BC's Quest for Tires, Bruce Lee, Spyhunter, Flight Simulator II,
Wargames, Frogger II, Stealth, Dropzone, Asylum, Archon II,
Ghostbusters, Electrician. Some of the foregoing and many of the
following games will probably never be released or have disappeared
from the market or turned up for Commodore 64 machines primarily
because they have become so widely distributed that the manufacturers
do not consider an Atari release worthwhile. You may never see:
Pastfinder, Designer's Pencil, Zone Ranger, Last Starfighter,
Centipede 16K, Final Legacy, Mario Bros, Atari Soccer, Crystal
Castles, Air Support, Mr Do's Castle, Juno First, Up 'n' Down,
Adventurewriter, Whistler's Brother. All of these are excellent games
and many were obtained from inside Atari and Activision.
If nothing positive is done to combat piracy then it
will inevitably continue until no software companies support Atari
machines. Then everybody loses. So what can be done? If the software
companies really don't know, here are some possible means of bringing
the pirates to justice:
The larger companies must together strive for
harsher punishments for those who copy and distribute software, e.g
removal of all hardware and software with bankrupting penalties.
Private investigators should be employed who can
track down pirates all over the country. The best places to look are
at many user group meetings, where all sorts of leads can be obtained.
Take a look at ads in national magazines which read 'Atari games
swap/sell'. From these you can obtain large lists of software -
obviously all copies and all at ridiculous prices. Incidentally the
magazines themselves must take a great deal of the blame here for
providing one of the major outlets for piracy.
Finally take a look at some of the software hire
clubs and at certain of the retail shops in nationally known hi-fi
To prevent piracy in the future, the cost of all
software must be reduced to justifiable and affordable prices. The
moles inside Atari and Activision must be dug out and prosecuted.
Atari games must become more widely available than just through mail
order - department stores in my area only stock one or two Atari
titles and these are never demonstrated by the computer-ignorant
staff. Atari should hold user shows of its own to attract people to
buy the new software and advertise effectively to get the message
across that ATARI IS BEST!
It will take a lot of teamwork and muscle to beat
the pirates. Most importantly, Atari and other producers must try to
analyse and understand the needs of the paying public - or they will
feel cheated and retaliate by means already experienced by the
My reason for writing is that I can now see hope
with the new Atari of a future where Atari is number one. That is if
that is what you and I - and ATARI - want. LONG LIVE ATARI!