In the (g)olden Apple days of the early Macintosh there was a simple copy-protection method: if you set bit 11 of a file's attribute flags then the operating system would simply refuse to duplicate that file. The flag was officially called "noCopy" but in less formal language it was "the Bozo Bit". Commonly available tools could flip a Bozo Bit and thereby make a file instantly replicable. Only a clueless newbie — a "Bozo" — would be stopped for long.

So, to use a Garden of Eden metaphor, the Bozo Bit was a fig leaf ... one which Apple dropped (don't try to visualize that!) within a few years after version 5.0 of the Mac operating system came out.

How effective was the Bozo Bit? Not very — but it did, perhaps, make the legal or illegal duplication of programs slightly more deliberate an act. Like a hook on a screen door, it was more symbolic than physical. Maybe some of the arguments over mechanisms to protect intellectual property rights should move in that direction too, toward consciousness-raising rather than war of technological measure versus countermeasure ...

TopicProgramming - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicSociety - 2003-10-29

(correlates: DeadBeginnings, SirJonathan, RulesVersusPrinciples, ...)