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Earlier today an old internet friend from 8 or 9 years ago hit me up on AIM out of the blue. He goes by 'Nappo' and ran a file sharing server on Carracho when I was in high school.

Back before the days of torrents, online piracy was a lot more fun and a lot less impersonal. You had to wheel and deal your way into favor with server admins, upload requests, and generally jump through hoops to earn your access. Some servers charged monthly membership fees. A bunch of servers routinely blipped in and out of existence.

Meanwhile growing up I had no allowance. My parents would buy me Nintendo games and stuff but no Mac games, at least not after I developed a raging addiction to Diablo 2. So I'd come home from school and I'd be bored out of my mind. (Diablo 2 was strictly metered.) I was so bored I would spend hours browsing MacUpdate checking out random Mac freeware and shareware apps and games.

So when I discovered Carracho and this sprawling underworld of servers full of Mac software and games to download… it was a revelation. I just had to find my in.

There were plenty of free servers out there, but they quickly filled up with users and bandwidth would reduce to a crawl. You might spend a week slowly downloading half of Black & White, then get kicked off the server without warning. I spent a few months drifting from server to server until I stumbled on Nappo's high speed server hosted somewhere in Italy.

I remember chatting with him here and there and generally being blown away by the speed of his server and his up to date library of Mac games… and more alluringly, the latest Adobe and Apple betas. Like most servers there was the request folder, but the other people on Nappo's servers were pros and would upload the latest and greatest the day they arrived. I had no chance.

I think I uploaded a beta of iStorm, this Mac shareware app I was working on with my Dad that summer. Miraculously, Nappo granted me access.

The next few months were an exciting and colorfully pixelated blur. This is the stage of a pirate's life where you become a collector, which may as well be a euphemism for becoming jaded. It became more about filling out my binder of burned CD's, and I started playing less and less of the games I pirated as I became more of a media cynic.

Still, there were vivid highlights. There was the Mac OS X Jaguar beta where the rainbow spinner of death briefly turned a gumdrop blue. There was the pristine Divx screener copy of The Two Towers just a week after it hit theaters. I remember being blown away by Black & White's gesture based controls, and completely sucked into the world of Star Wars again with Knights of the Old Republic.

Baldur's Gate II was my white whale. For six months I only had the first two disks, not quite enough to finish the install, and it became almost a fetish I had to satisfy. Installing that game was far more satisfying than playing it.

I don't think I've pirated an app or game in years now. I am a dutiful App Store and Steam and Xbox Live Arcade customer. I own crates of video games, shelves of books and boxes of Bluray movies. I've helped sell millions of dollars of Mac software to customers over the years at MacHeist and a couple million copies of my own apps on the App Store. I guess to the type of people who are terrified of the very word 'pirate', I'm a rare reformed past-offender.

But when I look back at my experience pirating as a kid in high school, there's a part of me that really treasures the experience. I'm not really ashamed of it – if anything I'm thankful. There was something really magical about hitting the tap and receiving a never-ending stream of games, software, and other digital art that I couldn't dream to afford or try out back then… It felt like having the keys to a secret garden, and I think I owe a lot of my developed tastes today to the breadth of software experiences pirating on Carracho lent me.

I also realized I owed Nappo quite a bit, and had to thank him. So I did.

As for what he's up to now, it sounds like Nappo moved on from pirating years ago. Apparently he's excited for a new terabit pipe though… I like to think he has some fun plans for all that bandwidth. :)

Surely I'm not alone having grown up with a positive relationship with piracy?
Ahmed AbuBaker's profile photoJames Dempsey's profile photoAri Weinstein's profile photoeo sytle's profile photo
Went through pretty much the same experience as you did. Carracho and Hotline before that. It was truly an adventure for me. I got so excited when I saw top-secret alpha/beta copy of Adobe apps and got it long before everyone else.

How I got my spot into some of the best Carracho servers was simply designing GIF banners for admins to use in Carracho's floating palette window :)

Nowadays I owned 99% of the media I use (would be 100% if not for two pirated Mac utilities apps.)
These kids today. No, seriously, I ran a pirate line on my Apple II (I'm dating myself) back in high school, for a little while. Ended up deciding it was an empty experience and turned it into a BBS instead. The platforms change but I think the song remains the same.
Yep, soon after I grew tired of pirating I got really into the GUI customization community and started the MacThemes boards with Adam :D
Haha, I also did some graphic design for some IRC distro admins. Such a small world :D
Pfft, youngster. My exciting times of piracy were mailtrading in the Amiga days - we wouldn't even pay for postage because we'd cover the stamps with tape.

That's why I have a hard time condemning kids who download today, even though it hurts to see your own products available for free. It's the same story though - when you have access to everything, it's hard to appreciate anything. And my sympathy runs out immediately when I find out you have a better computer than me, or are otherwise pirating things you can clearly afford if you weren't so greedy.
For me it was hiking to a friends house in the summer heat and watching as he went through the C64 disk nibblers and other tools until one would work. Then things moved to pirate BBSs in the Amiga days. I seem to remember buying (out of guilt) the Microprose games because I loved them (Racing Destruction Set, Ebonstar, etc) and they were a relatively affordable $20.
Oh the tales I could tell.......very timely Phil!
Heh. I'm probably the only one here who will admit to still having a positive relationship with piracy. This is gonna probably wind up starting a huge flame war (good thing there's no "-1" button here), but haters gonna hate.
There've been studies out that as its easier/cheaper to access content, piracy goes down, mostly because its work to pirate at that point (much easier to hit up an app store than to Google for an .apk or jailbreak/search Cydia).
I'm infinitely grateful to the person in college who introduced me to the whole world of piracy. It's saved me millions on programs that looked cool but ultimately weren't useful. On the flip side, I've lost count of the programs/music/books I've pirated that I then turned around and bought properly because I felt they were worth the charges. If you make a product whose benefits/advantages outweigh the price, I have no qualms (and the ability, at this point in my life) to pay for them. I've discovered all sorts of things I never would have risked buying if I hadn't tried them first through pirating!
thanks for the share! i used to jailbreak my iOS devices for free apps and games but now i am strictly against that and i pay for all my apps. this might not mean much to you guys (as the prices for the apps are measely compared to those of softwares), but i would like to think of it as a good starting point for my no-piracy beliefs in the coming days.
I know what you mean dude. Software prices in Malaysia is very expensive and I have limited pocket money. If without the use of piracy i wont think that I will be studing Software engineering. Today I try to buy software that are in between my budget. :) Original for the win :)
Very well written, appreciate your view :)
I used to pirate everything I could get my grubby hands on, and admittedly still do. Because whenever I slap down $100 Aussie Dollars down for a game that doesn't work (GTAIV PC) or buy some software that doesn't do what it promises, I get pissed off.

I pirate first, and buy if it's worth the price. My massive library of steam games which I pirated first is testament to that. Because honestly, anyone who has bought Saint's Row 2 on the PC, or suffered in agony through the PC launch of GTAIV will definitely say they should have pirated it first.

Speaking of which... PC Demo's, where are they nowadays?
Also: My god, being a teenager in 1998 and discovering Emulation and SNES Roms. I was like a crack addict, Downloading english copies of Final Fantasy V, playing all these NES and Super Nintendo games I never got to play when I was younger. that was a blast.
best thing about being is student these days is that some universities are part of MSDN! running a legit 64bit Windows 7 Professional on my iMac now. thank you, SCAD!
Man there was something so awesome about how limited the access was to 0 day stuff back then. It felt like you had a right to steal it after finding good uploads to get decent d/l's. I was a big mac guru myself, and i remember things like TeleFinder and the *-force guys (Wasn't their tag line MtFbwY?) and having to work my way through the ranks just to be able to download photoshop or something.
Wow…Carracho and Hotline. That's been a long time ago. First Class. Zterm. Anyone remember the Buzzard's Nest? (East and West)
I have to say, I too come from a past of piracy. We weren't pirating music (no CD burners yet, much less mp3) or movies (definitely no DVD burners), but software, like Phill said, especially Apple, Adobe, and Macromedia warez. I was in college, I couldn't afford any of that stuff. I had worked for an Apple reseller so I had a headstart, thanks to Not For Resale (Adobe was great for that). But since there was no online stores, even getting Mac software was tough. Anyhow, I wanted to say that my piracy paid back the software vendors in spades: pretty much every piece of software I ever pirated and actually used I ended up selling to customers or clients in the future. In the case of FreeHand and PageMaker it led to an early career. The software vendors really are missing opportunities by not getting inexpensive licenses of their software to students…the earlier the better. And I don't mean $150 copies…mowing lawns can't buy that. I was doing things in middle school that didn't mainstream for several years, even if it was only stupid kids' stuff, but it was that experience that propelled me forward.
But the greatest piracy memory I think I have was System 7 betas (maybe even alphas). Running System 7 on a IIci while all my college friends were on System 6.0.5 on Mac SEs rocked!
I did some cracking and training back in the C-64 days. I got to the point that I was checking out pirated software for the intros, and never playing the games.
Ahh, Hotline too... I remember when hinks would come online and everyone would bow to his greatness.. with his little swirly color icon.
How many copies of Macromedia studio and photoshop did I download, a lot. I was lucky to get my hands on a copy of VB 6 in 99 that got me started into programming. Here I am a software engineering working in .Net. If it wasn't for that copy of VB 6, who knows if I would have become a software engineer or a have a job right now. Thanks piracy!
+Patrick Doran - Same here bro, started at VB6 with a pirated copy and someone to explain to me wtf a Dim was. Now pretty good at .net vb & c#), Java and learning C/C++ and Objective C.

Granted i'm still a sysadmin for a living, but i cant tell you how many times all those skills i got from piracy still got me to where i'm at.
It was 1998 in my parents computer room, and the Hotline server I was on somehow peaked at about 4.8 kbps for nearly 2 hours. I had never seen speeds so high before, I was stunned. And that is how I got one of my first Mp3 album (it was a Good Riddance album). I am very glad to have lived those days, but jeez, if myself today could chat with my 1998 self and explain to him that he'd one day use a computer that is 2,400 MHz with a 24" monitor, he'd shit himself.
(oh and that it would have 3,000,000 mb and 4,000 mb of RAM).
Just another to add to the list here! Like many of the other's comments, I have bought tons of software legally, only to regret the purchase in the first place. Sometimes I think I really need something, buy it, then stop using it a week later. I would have never taught myself 3d modeling or graphic editing without playing with Maya and photoshop back in high school, both of which I use legally at my current job today!

Part of the enjoyment is that of the scene itself though. I often use a keygen, then listen to the embedded 8-bit music clip for the next hour. As many programs have quite difficult activation systems, being able to succesfully crack a program (even with a powerful guide and keygen) often has a feeling of accomplishment with it. Perhaps that is not a good enough argument for piracy, but again, MANY MANY people who are working in the IT industry today found there roots in software piracy....and they are the ones rebuilding that industry by using the knowledge they acquired from multiple software sets!
Anyone else remember Computist, or does that make me too old to hang out with the cool kids?
Booga 1
This is what my youth days were like as well, and if I hadn't been able to get my hands on 'free' software I think my passion for computers would be less.
I can fully relate except I have always been a PC guy :P
Seems every techie has a history with piracy and i don't think its basically bad if you're using it for trying out software or you are gonna pay for it later(not the procrastinating later) as you can't afford it now.
Amazing stories, relate to my youthful past back in the early 90s, only I was interested more in compilers and utility programs - and it helped my get my feet straight on my professional course far before I hit the uni. The fact is that thanks to piracy I also was also introduced to amazing things and companies, like Blizzard and manga. In my opinion many of today's successful IT-oriented people did venture a bit in the troublesome waters, some for a few months and others for more than a decade... but I digress.
Nonetheless, a good reminiscence!
I did not become a games developer, but still had the exactly same experience... thx for the memories... Carracho, what an amazing discovery, and the XIII game was my white whale... I think I still have somewhere parts 1,2,3... never could find part 4 & last. ;-)
It all started back in 1983 with me (before alot of you were born) with the C-64 and 300 buad modem. Calling BBS', downloading the latest games. Then whne I got a 1200 buad modem, I thought that was lightning speed. Got into the scene back then... moved up to importer/exporter of games, made some Euro contacts and was trading internationally. Do you guys remember Q-link? It was the predicessor of AOL. In the early days of that network you could trade software P2P. Man, I could write a book about those days, Like most have shared here, I'm a legit software purchaser now. Good travels down memory lane.
I may get some hate about this, but I'm in high school and I have some things to say about pirating. I personally think that online play is really the best anti-piracy there is. Since you always need a proper cd-key for that, it just won't work unless you buy the game. Companies like Ubisoft are destroying their games because they're trying to stop piracy, which is obviously never going to happen. I buy all games that I intend to play online and some single player games that I think really deserve to be bought. Most games I pirate however are just to try them or see if they are worth it(maybe it got mediocre reviews). If it's not, then I delete it and never touch it again, why waste money on a game I will never play. When people really annoy me is when they pirate iOS and Android apps. Seriously? You payed 500-600$ on that phone you're using and you can't pay 0.99¢ for a game? What if those 50 games you pirated where I'm the price of the phone? So it would have been 600 and not 500 dollars, I think you'll still buy it. The funny thing is when pirates actually call or email the developer telling them the game won't work, that just makes me laugh. This was just my opinion about modern piracy, since I have no idea what those apps before torrent were.
I think it was 1991 or 1992 - I ran my first BBS, and had a section full of PC games that were retail, not shareware. 1994 or so, I got onto my campus's network and discovered the internet before everyone else pretty much did, and saw all the IRC eggbot's offering stuff, and did that for years. Warez#1 through Warez#5 were and probably still are offering the stuff on irc. After those years, it was all just newsgroups for me, as it will full throttle bandwidth. Then I graduated from college and made real money, and now buy all my pc games and xbox games. So yea, I blame it on being broke, and access.
What a great post - so familiar too :) I remember being "in" with a guy at work who was "in" with a newsgroup - He used the "Super fast" ISDN at work to download, because at home we were still stuck on 56k etc etc.
If it wasn't for this then I never would have ventured into Programming, Graphics Designing, and Web design. It's because I was able to get my hands on software I couldn't afford and teach myself - that I found something I was passionate about. I don't know what I'd be doing today had I not had that experience and I most certainly wouldn't be able to manage and operate a website involving another one of my passions. My personal journey with the software and apps I have gathered has taught me so much over the years and that's knowledge I most likely wouldn't have acquired otherwise.
I remember saturating the universities intranet with our music share... That certainly brought some attention to our dorm room...
Interessante, dentro em breve estarei nessa batida também!
Good old days, when I was using a badass internet connection: Netzero @8kbps, 10 hours/monthly free, got up to 40 accounts.
"I'm a rare reformed past-offender" - you're not rare, there are a lot of us out there.
Not rare at all. For me it was music though instead of games. I actually bought all of my games, but couldn't afford to sample the kinds of music I could through Napster and AudioGalaxy. If it weren't for those 2 music sharing services I wouldn't have had the love for punk music I do today. Thanks for sharing your experience.
You really don't have an option. In order to obtain a career in this field you really do have to pirate unless you are born into wealth. The software and education you receive in school is usually a generation, if not a few, behind.

Companies like Microsoft and Adobe really price their products out of reach for those of us who need to learn the ins and outs of their software early and at a young age only to help them make more money in the future.

There is one thing I never understood and that's the piracy of games. Development tools and work related applications created by billion dollar corporations that charge hundreds and thousands of dollars per version makes some sense. It's wrong too but I understand it for the sake of education.

But games? Why would you hurt these (usually small teams of) game developers? That really is one industry (at least from the design and development side) that I have a lot of compassion for. Publishers...not so much.

Not only are games a LOT cheaper than your average Windows/Mac application but they have options.

You can buy them at a dramatic discount just months after their release.
You can borrow them from friends.
You can rent them.
You can (even though I wouldn't recommend it myself) even buy them used.

None of which you can do with any work suite. (That I'm aware of.)

The ONLY way I can kind of understand pirating a game is if it is no longer available and/or the studio has gone under.

So I agree, pirating is not good but a bit necessary in the very early stages of your life.
Heh, younguns. That sort of experience was the norm rather than the exception back in the BBS days when you'd have to find the phone number for a BBS (which was a challenge in and of itself sometimes), connect to it, then convince the sysop to let you join. People don't appreciate the value of effort now in the world of torrents.

But yes, in my young and stupid and poor days, I was willing to download or burn most anything. Now that I have a job and money, I pay for everything. Except for Ubisoft titles or anyone else who uses consumer-unfriendly DRM.
I began pirating games and utilities on my Apple IIC. I didn't even know there was a word for it at the time. My parents signed me up for a summer class in BASIC at a local university, and I was hooked. Here I was, some dumb 10 y/o kid talking to these college people and asking to take copies of disks home in between classes. The teachers said no, of course, but then I discovered BLANK DISKS. I was a freaking addict then. Blank media meant I could copy everything. I was limited only by the number of 5.25" floppies I could round up. I learned tricks like covering up holes would circumvent copy protection on some of the disks, or that you could edit certain files to tell it not to check for the rudimentary copy protection. This was old school sneaker net, and I didn't even know it. Damn those were fun days.
I think one of the primary reasons I make my living as a graphic designer today (and, I should point out, I have paid for all the software I currently use, both professional and personal — I rounded that corner after I graduated college) is because in 7th grade my friend Russell gave me a copy of Adobe Photoshop 2.5, which at that time was bundled into a single Mac application that fit on an 800k floppy.

I carried that disk around with me everywhere; with the insertion of that disk, any Mac at my middle instantly became a gateway to a whole new way of seeing the world.


I'd also like to throw a shout out to Nifty Corpse, wherever he may be, whose Tasty Petunia Vomit really opened the doors to the world of the BBS community. :)

-- \/aƒeR
I remember how I felt when I had access to my first "0sec" FTP. Incredible. The good ol' days.
This article was spot on.
It seems like this might be some sort of stage most of us tech junkies go thru. For me it was ages of empire II that started this need to collect rather than play or use. It's a very satisfying feeling to know that you could get that software working.
i may be reiterating a lot of whats already been said but i think your article is spot on. ive pirated software, ive then gone on to pay for the product.

technically i should have paid to start with, but even during the 'free' period i had it i was selling it like a door to door vacuum salesman. suggesting it to my friends and talking it up like it was sliced bread. i think piracy is necessary IF we're all going to purchase it afterwards.

for the dirtbags that dont. shame.

the same goes for music, some of my favorite bands bring out a cd and i might not be able to afford it that day but god knows i want to hear what theyve done next, so i download it.

i'll then go to a show, but a shirt, (which leaves more money for them compared to a cd) and pick up a copy of the EP that i sneaked onto my computer.

i think the most important thing is respect for the developers/musicians.
Thanks so much for sharing all of your stories, it's great to see what a shared experience this was for us all growing up :)
It's pretty much the same for a lot of people I'm sure. I want to experience a product be it music, programme etc. in it's entirety. If it's good and I'm hooked I'll support it most definitely. Just like a lot of things, there are always good points and bad points, it's mostly a matter of how people use and view said points.
I can pretty much relate. I'm pretty sure if it wasn't for piracy, I wouldn't be a software engineer now.
MJ Lim
i can relate with this a little.
Sometimes i'd pirate some games, and after installing + playing for a while, i just lose interest and never play it again as i went to search for the "next-game-to-be-downloaded". :)
The same for me, no money for games and software but still the hunger for all the shiny peaces of art (like AoE 2). Pirated software allowed me to enjoy the blessings of computers.
I am still growing with piracy and as a college student I will tell you the days of pirating are just beginning, with new live stream technologies some of the phones are having now (ex Thunderbolt, Motorola Photon 4g) and with websites like youtube and People can find any entertainment for free that would have been impossible just a few years back. I pirate a lot of music and games but equally make up for it by going to concerts and buying new games from say Best Buy vs used game store.
I have to say that I used to be an all time pirate. When I had first learned about the jailbroken app for iOS (App** and In********), I was downloading all kinds of iOS apps and I was in heaven... later though I bought the app (Like TweetBot), I am only 14 right now, and I don't get an allowance from my parents so I can't just go get a whole bunch of iTunes cards. But when I did get some money, I always bought the apps that I loved. I barely use pirating, except for trying apps, especially those that are very expensive! And then one day I got a hackintosh working (Macs are way to expensive), and I downloaded XCode (Okay, I didn't have a Developer account so I found other ways) and the iOS SDK, and tried some Objective-C coding, well, if you haven't tried it, let me tell you how hard it is! It's like trying to teach a baby to say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. And I have to say, after trying that, I decided, developers work day and night to make this software and they deserve some money back. Now I barely pirate other than trying apps and then buying them.
What I'm trying to say is that most people Pirate because they can't afford stuff, or to try it out.
What kid at 14 can afford a piece of software over $20? Not a lot, I think. Still, once they get money under themselves, get a job, most people just go ahead and buy the software, at least to not have to worry about download times and the risk of a crack coming with a virus in it.

But on the topic of games - Ill be pirating Driver: San Francisco. Then I'll delete it, and Pirate it again, just on principal. Because the DRM policy of Ubisoft is horrible, especially for someone in Australia with a flaky internet connection that drops out every few hours.
Soooo main reason for pirating i was financial!!!
I just could not stop my self of getting those SHINY NEW sw release, I just had to get it, Any Method required!!!

But now, after I got a job, I always PAY for what I want, I even get excited to PAY for something that is worth it (games, SW,...etc)
Thing that when you use it, you can tell the Huge effort went into it...

I loved your article, and Ive been through similar experience, except it was on a PC and not a MAC!! ;-p

Ahhh. Hotline. Many hundreds of hours lost. The thrill of the hunt!
Wow... Carracho... Interesting story and great post.
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