Thursday, December 17, 2015

Filenames I Remember From Shareware Days

Karen and I were talking about how cool sounding the title Ombudsman is and that caused me to think about shareware back when I used DOS. Like many people, my first exposure to Unix was at university. When my parents thought about getting a computer for the house, the prospect of a $10,000 Sun workstation didn't really even get considered when dad's work was throwing out an old IBM PC.

So I used DOS early on. DOS was pretty boring by itself. It didn't do much and what it could do it didn't do fast. But that didn't stop me from collecting shareware programs from every corner I could find them.

Most shareware came packed up in some sort of archive or on a diskette. There were a standard assortment of files, usually including README.TXT. But there were others that popped up in shareware archives over time.

For example, there was almost always a statement from the Association of Shareware Professionals Ombudsman, complete with 5.25" floppy ASCII artwork. Remember this?

         ____|__     |               (R)
    --|       |    |-------------------
      |   ____|__  |  Association of
      |  |       |_|  Shareware
      |__|   o   |    Professionals
    -----|   |   |---------------------
         |___|___|    MEMBER


This program was written by a member of the Association of Shareware
Professionals (ASP). ASP wants to make sure that the shareware
principle works for you. If you are unable to resolve a
shareware-related problem with an ASP member by contacting the
member directly, ASP may be able to help. The ASP Ombudsman can
help you resolve a dispute or problem with an ASP member, but does
not provide technical support for members' products. Please write
to the ASP Ombudsman at 545 Grover Road, Muskegon, MI 49442 orsend
a CompuServe message via CompuServe Mail to ASP Ombudsman

My other favorite filenames of that time period were FILE_ID.DIZ and DESCRIPT.ION.  Oh, and shareware usually had an order form in a text file.  Maybe DESC.SDI.

When I started posting software I'd written online, I would get frustrated when people would email me with questions that were very clearly answered in the first few lines of the README file.  In one case I decided that instead of calling the file README, I would call it DONTREADME.  Assuming no one reads documentation, if I explicitly name it that way, would people read it and not ask me the question?  The answer turned out to be yes...mostly.  Everyone read the DONTREADME file, but then they emailed me anyway to tell me they read the DONTREADME file and found the answer to the question they were going to ask me, and maybe I should call it a README file instead because the information in DONTREADME is actually useful.  Ugh....users.

Any one remember other filenames that were common in shareware archives?

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