Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Software in the Age of Sneakernet: A Pictorial

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 9, 2014

I’ve spent the last few weeks fighting with a screen recorder to get a good demonstration of a hypertext word processor. A power outage caused me to lose my carefully prepared sample document, so while I recover from the pain of loss, let’s take a look at something different: packaging.

These days, a lot of software is distributed digitally, and even software distributed on disk is often packaged in no more than a keep case, but it used to be that when you bought a piece of software, you really got your money’s worth. Boxes, manuals, stacks of disks–you could measure software by the pound.


Item number one: an upgrade kit for OS/2 2.0. I’ve scanned the front and back, if you’d like a better look. It’s a fairly unassuming little box, but inside…


four different manuals (“Migrating to the OS/2 Workplace Shell”, “Getting Started”, “Using the Operating System”, and “Installation Guide”), a pile of legal documentation, a rather shiny proof of license, twenty-one 3.5″ diskettes, and, to top it off, a roll of stickers.


My copy of WordPerfect 5.2 for Windows came with a catalog (Issue 4–collect them all, I suppose) full of ancillary material, including fonts and instructional videos, a heavy cardboard folder containing a license certificate, and, most importantly, one of these:


A plastic keyboard overlay! Once, keyboards had room above the function keys for one of these, and for complex software, they were very necessary, at least until you got used to the software.


Of course, you didn’t always need a hefty manual–particularly if you already owned one. This ‘additional license’ version of WordPerfect 5.1 (suggested retail price: $295 US) contains a license certificate, a keyboard overlay, and not much else. From the back of the box:

This Additional License Package is sold to you based on your certification that you are an authorized and licensed user of this version of this WordPerfect Corporation (“WPCorp”) software product.

This package includes a license and templates, but does not include manuals of disks.

A full-size software box for basically just a piece of paper. Dead tree edition, indeed.

One Response to “Software in the Age of Sneakernet: A Pictorial”

  1. […] Back when you got something for your money! Even application software used to have much more bulk to it. […]

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