WITH THE advent of a number of hardware gizmos, such as Interface 3, Microdriver and 007 Spy, the topic of software piracy has taken a new turn — especially now that the new Software Copyright Bill has become law.

A couple of software houses have a very strong opinion about copier programs and hardware. But it remains a fact that very few software houses supply programs on microdrive cartridges — and if you want to use your microdrive to load your latest purchase, you’re a bit stuck.

Two companies have been in touch with us concerning advertisements for transfer / copying utilities to date, one of which feels very strongly on the subject of copying utilities — to microdrive or tape. English Software got in touch to say that they thought it hypocritical of magazines (such as CRASH) who refuse to condone piracy and yet accept adverts from companies which offer such utilities for sale.

Indeed, English Software were of the opinion that we could suffer an investigation by the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) and, by implication, the full force of the new law if we continue to accept such advertisements. English Software told us that they would be encouraging software producers to refuse to place advertising in magazines which also carry plugs for software copying utilities.

We don’t believe that tape to tape copiers are exactly moral products, and won’t carry advertising for them. But microdrive transfer utilities are a completely different bucket of bytes as far as we are concerned. If you buy a program on cassette, and the software house will not supply that program on microdrive cartridge, we believe you have every right to use a microdrive transfer utility to get your purchase onto cartridge — or indeed onto disc, if you own a disc drive system. We feel we should be free to continue to allow such utilities to be advertised.....

We spoke to FAST and were told that they have not formulated a policy on copying utilities and hardware — the whole area of microdrive transfers is a rather murky one. Bob Hay from FAST alluded to the concept of buying a record, deciding you wanted it on tape, and then recording it yourself. But if the record company simply doesn’t sell that piece of music on audio cassette...? Given that FAST have not yet formulated policy, could it be that there is a vast silent majority of software houses which isn’t too bothered about these devices and utilities? Or is English Software just starting the ball rolling?

So, software houses, what do you think? Will you withdraw advertising if we continue to carry advertisements for transfer utilities? As buyers of tape software, what do you think, CRASH readers? Write and let us know, eh?

Personal Computer World Show


It’s over. Five days of frenetic activity came to a close yesterday, and as we put the finishing touches to this issue of CRASH most of us are massaging aching feet and suffering from sore throats after all that talking... The Eighth Annual Personal Computer World Show has been and gone.

As shows go, it was slightly odd — while we were writing the last issue of the magazine, it seemed every software house in the land was saving its new releases for the PCW Show, and it was a bit difficult to get people to part with new software for review. Scampering down the motorway last week, we expected to see a whole horde of new releases for the Spectrum and it seemed likely that we would be returning to Ludlow laden with new programs to load, run and review.

This hasn’t been the case. Maybe it was because the PCW show was a couple of weeks earlier this year, and software houses tripped up over their schedules, or maybe it’s because games just take longer to finish nowadays, given the increasing sophistication of software. Either way, the stories we kept meeting up with from Spectrum software houses were ‘Due for release later this month’, ‘Set for October Launch’ and sometimes the mega-vague ‘Ready for Christmas’.

At least one company had spent thousands and thousands of pounds hiring a plush stand and hadn’t a single playable piece of software on show. Others, entered the video age with a vengeance, showing extracts from movies endlessly as a taster for their imminent releases.

There was very little new or innovative on the Spectrum front at PCW this year. The Amstrad, Commodore and Acorn stands all had something new (or newish) to reveal to visitors, but Sinclair concentrated on pushing the QL and the range of software that is now available for it. At £199, it’s a good deal, but the cry is that it’s going to be a 128K Christmas this year. No news from Sir Clive on that front.

PCW Show

In a way, showmanship took over, and the tone of the show looked mucky for a while. System 3 were upsetting some people with their daring dancers and attracted photographers from the tabloid press; and one day half a dozen topless females raided the show, touring the ground floor in little more than orange sashes proclaiming HAL 2000 until they were asked to leave by the organisers. HAL wasn’t exhibiting and denied knowledge of the girls when they were contacted by the show, according to the Press Officers, and the agency who supplied them didn’t name their client. Not quite entertainment for the whole family, somehow.

Bandersnatch, which first existed as a concept at the original Imagine, then became the property of a company called Fireiron and was backed for a while by Sinclair Research, apparently for the QL, may have made an appearance on the corner of the Atari stand occupied by a firm called Psygnosis ... a large game, complete with scene-setting book, on the Atari stand. Only time will tell whether we’ll ever get a megagame for the Spectrum.

Overall, the mood amongst the members of the trade was one of confidence during the PCW Show. This Christmas should be a good one, not only for the trade, but also for you, the customers. There’s a whole host of new games on the way, most of which should arrive in time for the festive season. Whether it will be a 128K one on the Spectrum remains to be seen...