Activation Key

Remember the old days when downloading a large file was a rare occurrence and your modem was the size of a box of Girl Scout Cookies?


About 20 years ago you could dial up a bulletin board and start a download of some software. Come back an hour later to find that somebody tried to make a phone call and lifted the hand-set of the phone line, causing the download to abort. Remember the restartable download protocols like zmodem, xmodem, etc. ?


Because it was hard to download and try large software packages, you had to  buy software off the shelf or through the mail, or even online using a bulletin board. Spending big bucks on software that you had only seen ads for or read about in reviews was risky, so there were mechanisms devised to help.


Remember this?



The date says 7/2/92: just 1 day after the Microsoft Fox “Merger”. There are two Activation keys: one for demo mode, and one for the fully functional product. The Demo mode limited FoxBase+ to 200 records.


You could spend the $800 or whatever it was, get the package, install it on your machine, use the Demo Activation key, try it out. If you didn’t like it, you could return the sealed envelope with the package (with the huge manuals) and get a refund.



I think Fox Software marketing could have used this scheme to give out demo copies (with the on-line DBF style help) for free, with the Demo activation key. If the user liked it, they could call up Perrysburg Ohio, give a credit card number (yes: for you young readers, credit cards have been around longer than Foxpro) and receive the Activation key for the fully functional product.


I recall similar schemes by other software to have different keys for various levels of product activation.


Does anybody remember activation schemes like this?



Comments (8)
  1. Tom Z. says:

    Hi Calvin,

    Sure, I remember these sorts of activation schemes – in fact, I would argue that the software license keys of today are not really a lot different than those in the early ’90’s.

    In a way, it’s kind of amazing that we haven’t thought of anything better yet!


    – Tom

  2. Carl says:

    Yes, I remember.

    But, I swear I didn’t put this in the wish list. Honest.

  3. Calvin;

    I’d hate to see the other ancient things you have in your closet! Sure I remember (but I know I’d never be able to find them now).

    Fortunately, the very popular "30 day free trial" is at least as good – better, actually, since it doesn’t require an up-front purchase just to try the product.

    Looking at MS’s web site, I cannot find a 30 day trial of VFP… interesting?

    I hope you plan on cleaning out your closets sometime soon. Time to get rid of that pet rock and hula-hoop.

  4. John says:

    Once you purchased the FoxBASE software and got the activation key you could pick out a goodie from Fox (mouse pads, t-shirts and coffee mugs). I still have 4 tall Black Coffee mugs that I got for my Fox purchase.

  5. Arto Toikka says:

    Yep, I have a bunch of those still somewhere in my closet. My company was Fox Software Inc representative in Finland. I remember to delivery more than thousand demo copies to Russia and Baltic in late 80s

    I think that I have all version of foxes. Only what I haven’t found is FoxBase+ diskettes and manual.

    I have to keep all versions as there are still working apps even FoxBase+ and time to time customers need some extras to their apps.


  6. Grady McCue says:

    Yes I do. I still have every copy of Foxbase and Foxpro ever produced. This includes the additional runtime modules that had to be purchased over and above the Foxbase cost. FoxPro 2.0 had a compiler that easily took over half an hour to produce a result. My My, how times have changed.

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