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10 months ago

#121 Shareware with Richard Moss

We interview the author of "Shareware Heroes: The renegades who redefined gaming at the dawn of the internet."

Transcript
David Kopec

Today we're going to be talking about Shareware, a major distribution model for software from the 1980s through to the sometimes still used to this day. We're privileged to be joined on the show by Richard Moss, the author of Shareware Heroes, the renegades who redefine gaming at the dawn of the Internet. Some of the most popular PC utilities and games of the were distributed largely through the Shareware model, including Pkzip and Doom. But before we get into Shareware, let me tell you a little bit about Richard. Richard Moss is a journalist and tech historian. He is the producer and co writer of the upcoming film FPS First Person Shooter documentary. He has written articles for many of the top publications in tech and gaming, including Ars Technica and Polygon. Richard is the author of two books, the Secret History of Mac Gaming and the aforementioned Shareware Heroes. He is also the creator of the podcast the Life and Times of video games. You can find more about Richard and his many projects in the show notes of today's episode. And I just want to add that I've read both of Richard's books. I've read a lot of his articles over the years. It's really an honor to have him here. So, Richard, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Richard Moss

Hey, no problem. It's good to be here.

David Kopec

All right, so, Richard, before we get into Shareware, let's go back a bit just for some context. Tell our listeners about how you first got into journalism and how specifically you got into tech and video game journalism.

Richard Moss

Okay, so it started sort of by accident. If we go back to about 2010, I'd been in university for a while. I was like four years or five years into university. And I'd been thinking, what am I going to do after I graduate? And I'd been feeling like I'd like to get into the games business doing game design. And as part of that process, besides learning more programming and game design stuff, I was trying to pick apart some of the games I was playing, and I was writing diaries and journals to analyze my play and try and learn more about game design. And then I started to publish some of this stuff online, turn it into actual articles. And that sort of rekindled a passion for writing that I'd always had. And I'd always been quite a good writer, so my teachers told me. And so I was doing that. And then at the same time, there was an emulation community I was part of called Maxine that had just rebooted and they needed someone to take over doing news. And so I volunteered to do that. And being an old school Mac gamer who'd grown up playing Mac games and never thought they got the attention that they deserved, I thought, let's write a history of mech gaming just as an article thing and publish that. And it did quite well. It got put on this site called Bitmap, which is where community meets the press. It was like you submit articles and there are some professional editors who will edit things and put it on the front page if it's good. And so that got a bit of traction and I just sort of kept going from there. By the end of 2010, I was writing professionally on the side as I was finishing university, doing some work for Ours Technica, and it kind of all grew and evolved from there. I started doing a lot of games journalism, usually features, occasionally reviews, doing a bit of tech journalism with the science stuff because I had a science background as well. And it all just kept going and going. And eventually I decided to do a book on Mac gaming that sort of brought it full circle, which was cool.

David Kopec

Yeah. And I really enjoyed the book on Mac gaming, and maybe we'll talk a little bit about it later on, but I want to go to Shareware Heroes now. So tell us about how the idea for Shareware Heroes came about and how you got started on the book.

Richard Moss

Okay. The earliest incarnation of the idea came from the Mac gaming book where there was a chapter called Shareware Heroes where I was digging into some of the stories of Shareware games on the Mac for people who don't know. Because there was so little commercial attention for Mac games in the 1980s and 90s. Amateur developers would come along and make their own games. And some of those developers turned into proper, fully fledged companies like Ambrosia Software and Freeverse. And they got their own chapters in the book, but there were others who they just did a couple of games. And I had a chapter for talking about their work and the whole concept of Shareware. And when I finished the book, I thought, there's really something to this Shareware thing that hasn't been explored sufficiently elsewhere. Because Shareware is how Doom was able to change the games industry. Shareware is how we ended up with everyone making demos of their games for a long time. Shareware is arguably the origin of the whole free to play mobile world that we have now, which does bring in other elements of some gambling and coin op arcade stuff. But I felt that Shareware was really an underserviced part of games and technology history, and I wanted to explore that story and see what I could find.

David Kopec

And for our listeners who are too young or they just weren't into PCs at the time, I know this is really basic, but can you give our audience a general definition of Shareware?

Richard Moss

Okay, so Shareware has many different variants and each has its own definition. But the basic idea is that someone releases this bit of software. Maybe it's a game and it's completely free, but if you like it, they ask that you send them some money that you pay. It's sort of like the Patreon model today, where you have creators who are doing their thing and they're putting it out either entirely free or they're holding back a bit of bonus content. Only for the subscribers, for the people who are paying them money. Shareware worked the same way and there were all these different variants, like the Aperture model came along for games where you'd publish the first episode free as shareware, but then you had to pay to get the rest of the game, the other episodes. And people tried doing all these other different things like charity wear where you give the money to charity instead of the author.

David Kopec

So let's go to the very early days. It seems like in the book, the very early days of Shareware were kind of a Wild West and nobody exactly knew what exact incentive was going to work. And my understanding from the book is that a lot of the early kinds of shareware were just here's the program, here's the fully functional version. Please give me money. And it almost felt like pleading, almost a bit. There was no kind of stick. It was a lot more just I hope you're a good person, so please pay. How did people kind of first come up with this idea for Shareware? And was it really such a Wild West or was there some earlier model that it was built on?

Richard Moss

I think it really evolved out of the way software was before personal computers. So to explain that, if you go back to the era of mainframes and of mini computers, which are sort of like personal computers, but they're bigger, they're like almost a halfway point between mainframes and personal computers. Computers in those days, this is like the 1960s and 70s, were extraordinarily expensive. And so you'd only find them at universities and banks and other corporate places. You didn't really have them at home. And so the people who were making the software weren't making money for making the software. They were typically academics or working professionals and anything that they wrote as software was free for other people. They would usually make things just for the joy of making it and sharing it with their friends or with people around the world. And they're all trying to push what could be done with computers, what computers were capable of. And then when we came into the 1980s, we had personal computers and people started to come up with this idea that software could cost money because computers now weren't so expensive. And there was an audience that might be willing to spend money when they're spending, say, $2,000 on a computer instead of a million dollars on a computer. And just after that started in the early 1980s, you had a couple of people, or three people to be precise, come up with this idea almost at the same time that maybe payment could be voluntary, that we would release the thing and as an experiment, we'd say, if you like it, please send me some money. You're not under any compulsion to do it. This is a fully functioning program, but if you want to get updates, manual and phone support, then give me some money. And that worked really, really well for these guys and for anyone else who was doing commercial grade productivity software. Because of course, productivity software is used in business. Productivity software is important for getting things done and people will pay money to other people to help them get things done more effectively.

David Kopec

But I guess the implication is it didn't work well for all kinds of software. It worked well for utility software that was high quality, but not necessarily, I guess for games, at least initially. This just give them the whole thing idea, right?

Richard Moss

Yeah. So you had very early on this perception begin of Shareware being sort of a joke. Shareware doesn't work. Nobody pays for Shareware, which was patently untrue because you had people making millions of dollars with a small selection of Shareware programs. But games in particular were an example where you couldn't make money because you play this game, you've already got your enjoyment, you're probably not going to want to play it more. And even if you did want to play it more, there's no incentive to register it because you don't need it for your work. It's just a leisure activity. And there were some people who would make a bit of money, maybe they'd make low five figures with a very low registration rate, but the game would be so popular that they'd make a bit of money, nice part time income for what they did. And it remained that way until right at the end of the 1980s when this guy, Scott Miller, who founded a company or went on to found a company called Apogee, later became known as 3D Realms, that did Juke, NuCom, three D and all these other amazing games. He just had this idea of, well, what if I hold back part of my game? He had that idea of an Episodic game. I'll give you just part of the game and I'll break my game up into three parts or five parts. I'll give you the first one and you pay for the rest. And it worked so well that he was able to create the company and go full time in shareware. And then everyone else started to copy his ideas. Epic Mega Games came along and they did CZT and later on Jazz Jack Rabbit, and they had to go commercial to keep scaling up because they wanted to do 3D games. But you also had all these other companies that were really, really successful in the early to mid 90s following Scott Miller's Apigee model or some similar variant of it.

David Kopec

I want to take a step back and just think a little bit about how people are actually getting copies of these Shareware programs. And games. So we're talking back the 1980s. This is pre World Wide Web. So if I'm just your average PC or Mac user, and let's say the year is like 1985 or 1987, and I want to get a copy of a program that is shareware, where am I going to go to get it? How is it actually going to get to my computer?

Richard Moss

Well, if you are really hip tech wise, and you have knowledge of BBS's and newsnet and you're able to get online to the proto internet as it was at the time before the web, then you can just download it. But not many people actually were able to do that at that point. Even if they knew about it, they might not have the ability to do it because you had to get a modem and possibly sign up for some early internet services. So more commonly, what would happen is that you either get it from a friend or a relative who happened to get it from somewhere, or you get it from a computer club. There were lots of computer clubs in those days, users groups. There were a lot of prominent Mac users groups, for instance, that would send their disks off all over the world to members. And the other way that came along was you had these mail order distributors who would advertise in magazines that they could send you floppies of shareware. And they had these big catalogs like PC SIG had a massive catalog of thousands of bits of shareware that you could pay. I can't remember the exact number. I think it was like $7 a disk or something. And there'd be anywhere from one to a half dozen programs on the disk depending on the size of the programs. And a whole bunch of different distributors came along doing this. And that became from most of the 1980s, the dominant way that you would get shareware. You'd go to a shareware vendor and pay them money for an unregistered program. Keep in mind that you're not actually getting the registered software. You still have to pay again if you want to register after you get this. You're only paying for the work that they have to put in to put it on a disk, to duplicate the disk, to ship it to you, all of that their overhead business costs.

David Kopec

So these middle companies actually had quite a bit of power to be tastemakers. I guess you could think about them almost as collectors or editors. They're getting to decide which programs, which games they're actually distributing on the disk each month. So I imagine that there were some programs that had a real benefit from this model, but there were also probably some that maybe because of the margins or because they were just on the periphery, or maybe they had angered one of these middle companies or had some kind of legal dispute with them, that there were some downsides to this, too.

Richard Moss

As with all things, there's always downsides. There were people who would get very angry at some of these distributors because they weren't all getting permission to redistribute someone's work. Some of them would just find things online and pop them on discs and be charging money for this disc. And that really rankled some people like, why are you getting paid for my work? But more commonly, you just had the usual issues of what's already popular tends to remain popular. And the reasons have become popular that they might have been early to the scene and they were the first decent program that could do something or they just happened to impress one of these tastemakers. These distributors would have their people on staff reviewing the programs that are coming in and writing these little descriptions in their catalogs. And so if you got their attention, then they'd write a really nice blurb about you and they might even give you a more prominent place in their catalog or in their magazine adverts. And that would absolutely make a difference to how much attention you're able to get. And at the same time, you have people making very, very good shareware programs but not making any money from them because it's that carrot and stick thing. They hadn't figured out the incentive for people. So even though they're getting a lot of people who are acquiring their software through a shareware distributor, some kind of library thing, friends, users, group, whatever, none of the money is actually reaching them. They might have tens of thousands of users and they've made $100 or something pathetic like that in registration.

David Kopec

Yeah. I'm wondering what writing the book taught you about kind of human nature or kind of the economics of free, so to speak. Did you get any sense that there were actually you mentioned earlier that high quality utility programs, productivity software people would tend to pay for, but sometimes people would not for games? Perhaps if it was given all at once and there was no stick like in the Apigee model. Or perhaps maybe there was a difference between something that people value as entertainment versus what people value to do their work. So I'm wondering just kind of what economics lessons you had as a takeaway from the success or lack of success of the model for certain programs or when done in certain ways.

Richard Moss

One obvious big one that we've been skirting around here is just that incentives really make a huge difference. If you don't give people an incentive to pay, then very often they won't pay. And it's not necessarily because they're too cheap or stingy or they're sort of a dick and they want to pirate your stuff. Sometimes it can just be that paying takes effort and without the incentive, they can't be bothered making that effort. And in the shareware days, the effort required would very often be quite substantial. It's not like now where you're trying to sell something online. You've just got to get the person to your store page and then they've got their PayPal password or their credit card number memorized. So they don't really have to put in any effort. They can just buy the thing in a couple of minutes or less. But back then, if you wanted to pay or shareware, you would have to write a check and put it in an envelope and mail that envelope to this person. Or maybe if you're getting into the might be able to dial a number and pay credit card over the phone or get into the mid ninety s. If you're willing to take what was perceived as a big risk, you might pay for it online using a credit card, which was in its absolute infancy then. So there was a big barrier to paying at that point. So incentives are a huge thing. You've got to give people enough of an incentive to justify the effort that it will take for them to pay for something. You also have to make something that people like that's sort of a no brainer, but if you don't make something that gets their attention and something that they think is worth paying for, then you're never going to get any money.

David Kopec

Yeah, let's look at the incentives also from the other side. So if I'm a software producer and let's assume I'm coming up with something that's high quality, okay. And it's the early 1990s, so the models have already been established. Why would I maybe distribute my software as shareware instead of as retail software? There was already a thriving retail market by this time, just for context of the listeners. So why would some companies sometimes choose to go the shareware route instead of going the commercial route once both models had already been established?

Richard Moss

The big benefit of shareware was that the cost of distribution was almost nothing. So if you did commercial software, you got to get a box produced and you've got to get that box sent out to shops and stores all around the world or all around the country. It depends what your scale of distribution is. But you have a very large upfront and ongoing cost to distribute your software. If you're in shareware, you just had to send a copy off to each of these catalogs, upload it to some DBS servers and maybe some FTP servers, and then it would just spread around on its own. The shareway model was all based around viral distribution and so it didn't really cost you anything to distribute. But at the same time, because it's all about viral distribution and because the cost of distribution is nothing, there was a lot of noise and you had to make something that could break through that noise. And the way to break through that noise is either to be different in a way that's exciting, like say you make something that is just totally weird off the chain, in the late ninety s, a Mac company, Freeverse, had a great success with a Freeware program. So they didn't ask for money, but SIM stapler, where you click a button and you get a virtual stapler pressed and after ten presses it'll say splendid. And it was just a silly little thing, but it went mega viral. And they had another one called Jared, which was the brother of the founders, singing badly In Spanish. Also Free. It served as fantastic marketing for the stuff that they actually wanted to make money from. So that's one of the ways. And the other way is you make something that's just making a really special impression once you get your hands on it. Like, this is how its software had a huge success with Wolfenstein, Three D and Doom. Once you played those things, you were blown away by them. And more often than not, people would be incentivized to go and pay the money to get the rest of the game because it was just so good and that was so amazed. And I don't think it would have had the same impact if it had been just a straight commercial thing from the beginning.

David Kopec

Yeah, that's a good segue. It almost felt like the climax of the book, the release of Doom. So for those who maybe weren't alive or just don't remember it, why was that such a big deal? And what did they capture at that moment in the market that was missing? And of course, I know you have an upcoming film about all of this that folks can check out, but just give us a quick snapshot because I felt it was really a major point in the book as well.

Richard Moss

Well, before Doom came along, commercial companies, they were doing their thing with flight simulators and adventure games and platformers and the like. And it was much the same in the Shareware space of everyone doing 2D games and copying each other's ideas. And 2D was really the way of things before 1993. Everyone was making these 2D games much less exciting than 3D game today. And there had been first person action games before. Its software had made Wolfenstein 3D just a year before Doom that was distributed also under Shareware and was great success and that got some attention. But Doom was different in that Doom was sort of breathtaking to people. Doom was obviously a window into the future of where things were going with games. Doom was it was so exciting. You had texture mapped floors and ceilings. So for people who don't know, that basically means you've got floors and ceilings that actually look like something that are not just a flat color. There's an artist has come along and drawn some stuff to make it look like it's a rock face or it's got physical texture to it. You had variable height rooms so that you weren't boxed in, and claustrophobic, you had enemies who could appear above you throwing projectiles down at you. So it had a sense of space that hadn't been done before. The design was like nothing else that had been done before, very much intentionally, because the more powerful engine that they'd built, they wanted to show off by doing something that could never have been done in any of their prior games. And it was really intense, immersive experience. Nothing had been done that was this fast and intense. And people were there'd be newspaper reports of like people at universities are skulking along the edge of the wall, hanging in the shadows because they'd been playing Doom and it sort of warped their mind a little bit. And they were thinking about how they can not be seen by enemies and just having a bit of fun playing around with that. They're still seeing the demons. It was like nothing that had been done before. And because it was so successful, all the commercial publishers sat up and took notice. They were talking about it at conferences. Shareware was not something they could ignore anymore. First person shooters, this whole new genre, was not something they could ignore anymore. They had to start doing what these guys were doing or they'd be left behind. Because you think about it from their perspective, that's very confronting that this small team, half a dozen people with almost no budget, has made the best game of the year and they were making millions of dollars without even yet having a retail box in a store. Doom didn't get an actual proper retail release until 1995. You could get it in a lot of game stores in the shareware form because there were these companies called RackWare Publishers that would take a shareware disc and put it in a crappy box and put it on a shelf for like $10 or something. The full version of Doom wasn't available for another couple of years and yet it was everywhere. You couldn't go anywhere without people talking about it. It was just total frenzy and it changed everything.

David Kopec

That's something I really loved in your book, is how you captured how small teams and even independent developers were able to have a foot in the door through Shareware and sometimes have an incredible impact and cool careers. And I liked a lot of the vignettes about some of the smaller developers. Not everyone became Doom, but some of them still had some interesting livelihoods and pretty interesting businesses through this model. I want to shift gears a little bit before we wrap up. I can't not ask you about the Mac market a little bit more since I was an avid Mac shareware gamer in the 90s. Obviously you wrote a whole book about the history of Mac gaming. But I'm wondering if for our listeners, you could just kind of contrast and compare a little bit the PC shareware market with the Mac shareware market in the was there anything particularly strong about the Mac market that wasn't there in the PC market and was there something that was lacking in the Mac shareware market?

Richard Moss

Well, the last part is easy to answer. What was lacking in the Mac shareware market compared to the PC market was scale and breadth just through simple merit of the fact that the Mac market at its peak was maybe 20% of the personal computer market in the US. And less if you take a global look. Numbers are hard to come by and be sure on, but so at the most, you had a fifth as many Mac users as you had PC users. And in reality, it would have been substantially different. It would have been even smaller percentage of Mac users compared to PC. And so you have a much, much smaller audience, a much smaller market for what you're making. And also there's a smaller pool of developers because there aren't as many people who own these machines. And shareware was always predicated on people who own something and they happen to have an interest in creating things for this platform. But then as to the qualities and sort of flavors of the two different platforms, there was a bit of a difference on the PC side. There was a strong focus for a lot of that time on making platformers. On emulating what was happening in console games quite badly for the most part. And the graphics tended to be very, very limited because people are making games for older PCs that didn't have capabilities to do fancy graphics. So even into the 90s you're having people still putting out shearware games that are using text mode or that are for CGA graphics which is like eight colors or even less. It can be four color. There's a four color mode in CGA I believe and they're all ugly colors. Whereas on the Mac you get into the everything is 256 colors or you can even get monitors with 1000 colors. So it's much more vibrant and you could assume as a Mac developer that people were more up to date in terms of what their computer could do and so the games could be a little bit more advanced in terms of the graphics and the sound. As for the character of the games, I feel there was a bit more creativity on the max side. It's very subjective to say, but to me I think there's a beautiful originality to things like glider where you take a paper airplane and you're trying to guide this paper plane through a house. It's a puzzle game and the plane will drift down until it hits an air current from a heating vent below and then it'll come back up and you've got to navigate through the rooms of a house by going back and forth across the screens. And you had in the era of Ambrosia software there were weird things like Harry the Handsome Executive, where you are a middle manager on a. Swivel chair and you are saving your company and sort of the world from some very angry office equipment that has become sentient. And it was a bizarre but very amusing game from a couple of teenagers who'd never actually worked in an office before. And I mentioned the freeverse guys before. They always put a lot of humor into their games, even though they're making like, Solitaire games. You can't really get more derivative than making a Hearts game and making a Solitaire game, but they managed to make it unique. And there was some of that sort of originality on PC, but I felt like the character on the Mac side was a bit more creative and it tied into the stereotypes about the audiences on the Mac. A lot of people will remember the I'm a. Mac, I'm a. PC ads from Apple. And it was stupid campaign, but very effective because it was tapping into something that actually does exist. That Mac users tended to be more out there creatively and often were buying computers because they loved the aesthetic of the Mac, or because they were graphic designers or filmmakers or artists or musicians. So they're already predisposed to be more creative in their mindset. And because the Mac market was smaller overall, shareware Mac games could sort of rise more easily. They could get attention more easily. You'd have news sites that would write about every single new game release, even if it's Shareware, and you just couldn't get that kind of platform wide exposure when you're on the PC.

David Kopec

Thanks for that. That's really interesting. As we get to the late 90s, early, it seems like the shareware market is starting to wane. Of course, it does exist to some extent to this day, but what kind of led to a decrease in the popularity of this model? And in what niches does it still exist today?

Richard Moss

That's a big topic that actually I pretty much spend like 20,000 words or something in the book talking about. But that's true. That's fair to try to simplify it, you had big commercial publishers who had jumped onto Shareware and muddying the market because they're putting out demos that they're calling the Shareware Edition. And you've got shifting consumer tastes that are driving I'll talk about games specifically because it's a bit easier, that are driving games towards three D graphics and much more advanced technology that teams of one, two, five people just can't do anymore. So the budget involved in making a game is higher than Shareware can sustain anymore. And you had a shift in audiences with console games getting very popular. PC was still huge, but console, a lot of people were shifting to consoles. You had fewer people willing to pay for Episodic shareware because there was just so much stuff out there. The market was at saturation level. And even if someone makes a good game and they put it and say they put it out in this episodic model which was proven to be effective. They still might not actually make much money because people will play that episode and then they'll move on to the next thing because they've got dozens of really good games they could play. You've got CD vendors putting out discs like 1000 shareware games and it costs $10 and no one's going to get through all these thousand games ever. But it meant that you could just keep moving on to the next thing and not paying for anything. You had the big players like Apigee and 3D Realm, apigee and Epic and its software leaving the shareware business to focus on commercial stuff. So the quality of Shareware sort of dipped and you just had Shareware sort of becoming irrelevant because as the internet matured, the model of selling software evolved. So where before it was you could do shareware or you could do retail and there really wasn't an in between. Now with digital distribution online, there actually was an in between thing. You could put out a demo, a really small like one level demo on your site just to show off your game. You could get all these reviews on online websites, some nice screenshots, and increasingly even put out low resolution videos to market your game. And then people could just go to your site and buy the whole thing and download it right there. And then they don't need to have a disc sent to them in the mail to get the full version because it's already downloadable from their website. And you had the rise of Indie, which didn't really take off until a bit later. But Shareware turned into indie. We used to use Shareware as sort of a shorthand or independently developed it's the shareware market and it's actually grouping in public domain stuff and freeware stuff and all the different variants of that shareware model that we've been talking about. But suddenly out of nowhere, like 90, 99, 2000 people started calling it Indie. And it was this revelatory moment for the people making the software. Oh, we're indies, we're independent developers and the way that they were selling their stuff didn't change all that much. Shareware sort of slowly phased out, but the term very quickly went out of vogue and everything just became indie that you could get online in one way or another.

David Kopec

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So thinking about the book as a whole, who was your target audience when you were writing the book and who would you recommend read it?

Richard Moss

Well, I would hope that anybody who has an interest in either games history or software history would find the book engaging and interesting and enjoy it. But it is specifically for people who have an interest in learning more about the history of indie games and of the history of the game's business. Because that was sort of my focus as I was writing the book. Was not just sharing development stories, but sharing a story of the evolution of this business model of shareware and how it affected what we have today, how it led to the games industry of today. I didn't spell all of that out, but I really wanted to paint a picture of, well, this is how we got to the foundation of what modern software is. This is why everything's sort of free with an asterisk now.

David Kopec

Yeah. And I think that really does come across that arc throughout the book. Richard, thank you so much for coming on today. Is there anything else you'd like to plug? And how can our listeners follow you on social media?

Richard Moss

Okay, so to follow me on social media, I'm on what they call X now at no, Twitter, but I'm not really active there. I'm much more active on Blue Sky, where I'm also Moss RC, and on the Fetiverse or Mastodon is what a lot of people know. It as where I'm on Mossrc at social mossrc me. That's m e. And I'm not really active on Instagram. But you can find Sharewayheroes@sharewayheroes.com. You can find my macgaming book@secrethistoryofmacgaming.com as of right now, as we're recording this on the 20 eigth of July, we have a few days left in the preorder sales campaign for FPS First Person Shooter, the documentary I've worked on that's available@fpsdoc.com. That's Fpsdoc.com. And you can also find me at Mossrc Me, my personal site, that one day I'll get around to styling more nicely than the plain white thing I've got now, and maybe do something more like Shareware Heroes, where it looks like an old computer program.

David Kopec

Very cool. And we'll put all of those links in the show notes. Thanks so much for coming on the show, Richard.

Richard Moss

It's my pleasure. Okay.

David Kopec

Thanks for listening to us this week, Rebecca. How can people get in touch with us on Twitter?

Rebecca Kopec

We're @KopecExplains K-O-P-E-C-E-X-P-L-A-I-N-S.

David Kopec

Want to remind you to follow us on Apple podcasts or Spotify or wherever you're listening to us. We come out with new episodes about every two weeks. And if you enjoy our podcast, don't forget to leave us a five star review. It helps other people find us. Have a great day. Bye.

Shareware was a major distribution model for consumer software and games from the 1980s through to the 2000s. We’re privileged to be joined on the show by journalist and tech historian Richard Moss, the author of "Shareware Heroes: The renegades who redefined gaming at the dawn of the internet." In the most common scenario, a piece of shareware is distributed free of charge but users pay a fee to "register" their copy which may include unlocking additional features or content. Some of the most popular PC utilities and games of the 80s and 90s were distributed largely through shareware including PKZip and Doom. Richard discusses the history, impact, and evolution of the shareware model.

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