How people used pirated retro software

You will be forgiven for thinking that I am teaching you how to make illegal pirated copies of your software after reading the heading above. Well, rest assured, I will not walk the blackboard, as this article is for informational purposes only. I have to program, I understand how pirated software can harm companies, so I do not recommend it. There are many good programs that can be downloaded for free, especially if you don’t need all the fancy features of expensive software. This article describes how people used pirated software for retro computers, such as the Spectrum and Atari ST.

Spectrum and Commodore 64

Spectrum and C64 software was supplied on tapes that were inserted into data recorders (or tape recorders) and could be loaded into memory by typing a command like load. ”These computers relied on a series of beeps that were never fun to listen to. as they were terrible screeching sounds. How often you have to wait up to ten minutes (especially for the Spectrum 128k game), when you can crash, you have to re-adjust the volume and start again. In case of low recording, the gaming tape on a separate copy on the other side.

Most people can copy these games using a two-cassette Hi-Fi system. By installing the original gaming cassette in the first deck and clicking "play", setting the empty cassette in the second deck and clicking "play and record", you can get a perfect copy. You can buy cassettes for saving data, such as the C15, which allows you to record up to fifteen minutes. Some people use the C90, which will allow them to store many games at once.

If you did not have access to dual cassettes, you can use the software. On the Spectrum, you can use something like “007Spy” that allows you to load the entire game into memory, and then make a backup on an empty cassette. Some games had different download methods, such as pulsating (or clicking) loaders, a method used in many Ocean Software games. This led to the release of other software capable of working with these loaders. The average Spectrum game will consist of a short code snippet (header), a boot screen and the main code. This is a standard loader, easy to copy.

When the Spectrum 128k +3 was released, it was built into the floppy drive. If a lot of games were released on the +3 disk, methods were used to transfer them from tape to disk. The standard bootloader was simple. All you had to do was type merge to enter the editor code and save it on disk +3 (save “a: program-name”). Then you have to load the high screen load into memory (load code 30000 “screen name”) and save it on disk +3. Finally, you do the same with the main code and add load to the header code.

For the most sophisticated downloaders, a set of programs called “007 Trans-Master” was used to convert files into a standard format so that they could be saved on a +3 disk.


The great thing about the Atari ST and Amiga computers is that you can take on hundreds of free programs without the need for pirated commercial software. There were many PDL (Public Domain Libraries) that distributed free software at the price of disk and postage and for their work on distribution. This software is free and covers everything from demonstrations to games, from pictures to music files. There was also a shareware method where you paid a small monthly fee to get additional bonuses for full software versions and a license when the PDL offered a small commission to the original participant.

Atari ST software was usually copied using special copiers, such as Fast Copy, while Amiga used the popular X-Copy. However, some discs were protected, and therefore had to use more powerful software for copying.


Publishers have used many forms of production to detect copying, such as the most sophisticated downloaders on the Spectrum. Other methods would require the user to enter a word or letter from the manual before they could enter the game, or select a series of colors or characters from their book to match the ones on the screen. Some games allow you to think that you copied them, until you played them for so long, and did not notice an unpleasant surprise. For example, the game “Shadow of the Beast” turns the screen upside down at certain levels.

This leads to the emergence of hacking groups, such as the famous "Pompeii Pirates" on the Atari ST, which would have hacked the game and removed copy protection. Then they released several games (hacked and packed) on a single floppy disk, which was transferred to different users.


The battle between software publishers and pirates continues, and people will always want free software if they can get it. Old vintage software is available for download on various websites for people who want to survive old times, so there is no need to copy them from the originals. I'm not going to tell you how to copy the latest PC software. I just wrote this article to explain how people backed up their software for older systems. I said that many free and low-cost programs are available for the PC, and I urge you to use it instead of resorting to piracy.

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