Apple's Software Dispatch (and similar pre-App Store distribution CDs)

This video (see below) reminded me of one of the similar CDs (not by Apple but also for the Mac), I picked up once. The problem with these products: This was in 1993/94, when most households had just a single landline telephone, which wasn’t necessarily installed right next to the computer.

In my case, when I acquired a modem, I also acquired a 10m modem cable in order to connect it to the rather distant phone outlet. Back to the dispatch CDs, the procedures were as follows:

  1. select the software in question in a menu, enter some personal details, and press a buy button,
  2. the CD browser generates a personal key,
  3. phone the distributor, who would finalize the deal and give you an activation code in turn, to be
  4. entered in the CD application, which would
  5. generate an unlocked installer.

However, these activation keys had apparently a timestamp encoded and the timeout was extremely tight, and in my particular case, as it turned out, much too short – stranding the deal on the way between 4) and 5).
The CD came with a range of programs with one to be picked for free, so I gave it a try. The procedures were actually straight forward and you even hadn’t to provide any payment details for the free pick (not your modern App Store), but there was no way to enter the activation key into a computer not located closely to the phone. I tried three times (or so), including scribling several versions of the activation key down at the phone, sprinting from the phone to the computer, and retyping it from the note pad, but to no avail. … (There was also a significant delay in the CD software, which brought up the prompt for the activation key – adding another minute or so to this.) Eventually, they mailed me the unlocked program on floppy.

I think this might be called a race condition…

Interesting situation though, I’d never come across it. I have run long, very long, telephone extension cable setups.

Nicely observed.

I also encountered this in a single store, where I also obtained another CD-ROM, I had never seen before, an educational bundle including one of the very first versions of Soft PC (the precursor of Virtual PC, then still by Insignia) and Word Perfect for Mac along with some other useful software for next to nothing.

P.S. That this was actually an imitation of a distribution service by Apple, I only realized now, thanks to this video.

P.P.S. I miss this sort of deals. The particular shop wasn’t exactly nearby me, rather at the other end of town – and I had been there only once for the quit extensive travel. However, why I undertook the journey in the first place, was yet another bundle, the Centris 660av in a bundle with the dedicated monitor and an extended keyboard for about a third of the price! (The 660av was still pretty fresh, this was still a Centris, before they were eventually rebatched as Quadra.)