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In this Amiga "quick kickstart guide" magazine thing that I have from when I bought an Amiga 1200 long ago (it seems to be printed in late 1995), they really go out of their way to point out that "you should always write-protect your floppies as soon as you get them". They are referring to commercial floppies that come with software on them inside a big box, rather than empty, unlabelled ones used for writing data to them.

But if that's so important (and I can see why), why didn't they simply ship in write-protected mode to begin with? Why rely on the user to manually remember to do this?

Title: THE COMPLETE KICKSTART GUIDE TO YOUR AMIGA! by the CU Amiga Magazine, page 7.

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  • 2
    Did any Commodore-supplied disks not come write protected? In general, any mass-produced disks could/should have been produced already write-protected. Disks made by a small vendor one at a time would require human intervention to write protect them, which could easily not happen. Feb 9 at 18:13
  • I assume that the "Magic Pack" was made by Commodore, yes. That is, the A1200 bundled with a bunch of demo software on floppies.
    – Amiganu
    Feb 9 at 18:37
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    This sounds like general advice to new/ignorant computer owners. Just write protect everything so you don't accidentally save little Billy's homework over-top of your pac-man game". Those were different times; I literally watched a high school teacher trouble shoot PrintShop for 45 minutes trying to figure out why it wouldn't print until my best friend finally had enough and turned on the printer for her...
    – Geo...
    Feb 9 at 21:53
  • "Title: THE COMPLETE KICKSTART GUIDE TO YOUR AMIGA! by the CU Amiga Magazine, page 7." - is this available online? Feb 9 at 22:21
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    @Amiganu You're talking about the manual, it sounds to me like you didn't even check the disks
    – pipe
    Feb 10 at 17:41

3 Answers 3

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I bought a lot of original games and the floppies were always write protected from the start.

I also remember the message that appeared a lot in manuals:

ALWAYS KEEP YOUR DISKS WRITE PROTECTED

(just in case you had the bad idea of unprotecting them just for laughs or the previous owner of the disks did unprotect them)

What is true is that you could write unprotect them if you wanted to, which is most of the time a bad idea as bootblock viruses could make your disks unuseable.

You were more or less compelled to do that for games that had:

  • physical copy protection (no way to copy the floppy disk without a special device)
  • high-score saving on the disk

This combination was rare though. TBH I can't quote an example from memory but Software Preservation Society had a hard time preserving some particular games in the original form because most users had let the game write the highscores on the disk.

One particular example I remember is the game "Gods" (from The Bitmap Brothers) which came in 2 disks. Disk 1 was copy-protected (RN copylock) whereas disk 2 was 100% copiable with a standard diskcopy command. And an intro text screen instructed to make a copy of disk 2 and not play with the original, so the copy could be left unprotected and high-scores and unique passwords could be saved on it. It was essential to save the passwords at least, else you'd have to play from the start each time.

But how many users didn't know how to copy a disk (honest users mostly :)) or had only one drive and 512k memory (harder to copy a disk with that setup) and used their original disk to store high-score and passwords?

(Note that Commodore Workbench 1.3.2 disk doesn't even have the black sliding write protect on/off switch so to write on the disk you'd have to put tape where the hole was)

Let's put the whole "write-unprotect danger" in perspective:

  • if your drive was sufficiently faulty, you could destroy the disk with the write-protection on
  • floppies can also be damaged by magnetic fields (speakers), moisture, dust... so write-protecting disks is not failsafe.
  • if you powered on your amiga only to play original disks, there was no chance that a virus would destroy your originals
  • writing to a disk can't happen by accident: you need to write twice the same value in the diskwrite registry to trigger a write, that's for a reason. If a piece of code goes haywire, it's very unlikely that it will write to your disk.
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As Jean-François Fabre already points out quite a lot of data got lost by overwriting the wrong disk. So reminding users to write protect was a well needed advice. No matter if official documentation or, like cited, third party.

But if that's so important (and I can see why), why didn't they simply ship in write-protected mode to begin with?

There were in fact 'hard' protected disks - such that simply had no write protect hole. These were used by software distributions - at least by some companies.

This is not only true about 3.5 inch but 5.25 and even (audio) cassettes.

Why rely on the user to manually remember to do this?

Because it still happened. Unless a disk was hard protected, there's always a chance that it got unprotected and forgotten to re-protect again. Like when changing configuration or adding updates. Yes, this should be done only to copies, but people are pople.

Long Story Short: We're all human.

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Hers' proof that Commodore shipped 1.3.3 system disks write-protected - no tabs!

enter image description here

I have a vague recollection of cutting through the write-protect tabs with a knife so I could extract them on disks I duplicated for a local producer of Amiga educational software. I used SuperDuper with 3 external drives to write 4 disks at a time.

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  • I wonder whether any disk manufacturers produced disks without tabs for use by disk duplication facilities (whose equipment could be designed to ignore the write-protect hole), or whether disk duplication facilities bought disks with tabs and then removed them?
    – supercat
    Feb 15 at 16:35

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