Relics of the Past: Shareware compilations

I wonder if anyone remembers these anymore. Back in the day (early 90s), Internet access wasn’t readily available for personal use. I still went to a local computer shop (Schadt Computertechnik, at one point the third largest PC store chain in Germany, ceased existing a few years later, in 1998) to get up to date information on things like hardware prices. There, at some point I noticed a disc rack containing (among other things) a few discs that advertised themselves with “more than 100 apps”, “300+ games” and similar. From what I remember, these discs cost around 10-20 bucks, so from time to time I got myself one of them to see what’s on it. This was at the time when CD drives were still a rather new thing in computers and obviously some companies jumped at the chance to profit from this new market.

Due to the size of games and apps at the time, even a single CD (usually 650 megabytes in size) could fit quite a few items on it. So, the advertised numbers on the cover usually held true. Of course, these apps and games weren’t full versions, but were either time- or function-limited demos. But since the mechanisms in place to prevent people from using the demos too much were more primitive in the 90s compared to nowadays, finding a way to get around them was much easier on a computer with no internet connection. Sometimes as easy as adjusting the local time in the BIOS when starting your computer. In contrast, many of the games had other types of limitations that could not so easily be circumvented, like only having part of the content of the full version. Or as was often the case with shareware titles at the time, being the first episode of a multi-episode title that could be mail-ordered through data displayed by an option in the main menu of the game (or at the end when you quit the game). Often, I just entertained myself with that content. Given how many demos I had access to, that was enough for quite some time. In a few cases though, like Castle of the Winds, this led to me ordering the full game.

Another version of these compilation discs was special “issues” from the PC Games magazine (issues is in quotes since those were just two magazine-size pieces of cardboard with a cover and the contents printed onto it). Two of these got released, one in 94, the other in 95. Both contained a large collection of games of all types. Since trailers or other material wasn’t as readily available yet, I welcomed these collections. Besides all the demos and shareware games, there was one kind of game that was also part of these collections that I really liked at the time: advertisement games. But more on those at another time.

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