As anyone who knows me will be only too aware, I’m something of an avid (read: obsessive) collector of vintage computing equipment. Some time ago, I was given the task of helping a widow out with a loft full of gear, which included several boxes of floppy disks and a rather nifty Dragon 64 in third-party dual-floppy housing which had belonged to her late husband. Since then, I’ve been gradually sorting through the collection to see what should be preserved for posterity and what should be recycled and came across something which should not only be preserved but shared.

First, some background: Des Critchlow, born 1940, was a man whose two passions were amateur radio and computing. Having upgraded from the Dragon 64 to an IBM Compatible, Des began keeping notes and logs on floppy disks both in service of his personal life and the radio network – RAYNET – to which he belonged. The following story is extracted from one of those disks, and something which I believe Des would have wanted to find a wider audience. The text has been corrected for typographical errors, but is otherwise duplicated intact.

Fact is often stranger than fiction.
Quite a few years ago when yours truly used an FT101EX a friend of mine, who we will call Rimmer, said can you do me a favour. He explained his son, a devout on SSB was hoping to acquire a new rig for “DXing” with, and could I please test it out as it covered Ham bands as well as 27 MHz.
As I agreed, a date/time was suggested a few day later, and he duly arrived one evening. The rig turned out to be same as mine – an FT101EX modified to cover 27 MHz as well as all the Ham bands. After a few quick checks into a dummy load an antenna test was done. The set proved quite good and as at that time I was running a dipole on 20 metres I set out to get a report with it.
Tuning to a quite spot on 20 meters I was about to give a call, but I heard a weak and watery signal. The signal was a French maritime mobile asking for help from anyone who knew about engines or a fitter. By a stroke of luck the young man with me was a heavy goods fitter, and said he would help. We questioned the French station and gathered that his starter motor was sticking in, and so he could not get more than a few revs before horrible noises came from the engine. My young friend was most excited and insisted this was going to be dead easy. He said “tell him to shove it into second gear and rock it a bit and it should clear the problem.”
My friend could not understand why I just rolled about laughing. I said “don’t you understand you don’t tell anyone to rock a boat!!!” It took several minutes before an alternative method of clearing the problem was sent to the poor Frenchman. Which was, by the way, to belt the starter casing with a hammer. Lord knows who was listening, but they would have creased themselves if that message had been sent.

Franklin Ace 100 Manual ExtractI spotted this post on Boing Boing a while back, and meant to write something about it at the time but kept putting it off.  It’s been languishing at the bottom of my Google Reader Starred Items ever since, and as I’m in the mood to clear out some old stuff I figured now was as good a time as any to put it up here.

Basically, professional photographer David Friedman found a selection of old Franklin Ace 100 and Ace 1000 documentation from back in the early days of home computing – and there’s some absolutely awesome sections hidden therein, covering such topics as why breaking DRM is the best thing you could ever do and why end-user licence agreements are the spawn of Satan.

The latter section includes the following:

These [end user] licensing agreements typically stop just short of requiring you to sign away your life, your house, and your first born child.  Nobody in his right mind would sign one of them.  But personal computerists do it.  Are they of unsound mind?  Possibly, but signing a licensing agreement doesn’t prove it.

The section on DRM is even more shocking, with the writer not only encouraging circumvention of copy protection in order to produce backups of your purchased software, but even advising on how to do such wicked things:

All you need is a weapon, a program called a nibble copier.  It’s a cute name, but its purpose in life is malevolent.  It’s designed to copy uncopyable programs.
Two examples of high quality nibble copiers are Locksmith 4.1 TM and Nibbles Away TM.

The full manuals are available for your edification in PDF format from David’s site, Ironic Sans.