I'll fork this off from the thread about the EAGLE license agreement
, because it's more of a general observation than a comment about that particular subject. TL;DR: the founder of Autodesk could probably have told them what kind of shitstorm they were stirring up, if they'd bothered to ask him.
The other part of my assertion is that the boom/bust financial cycle of the old-school update system is just miserable for those on the development side. Wanting a stable source of revenue is not evil. It is what good people want for their employees.
"It is what good people want for their employees"
That is one seriously generous interpretation to put on these changes.
Me. I'm not nearly so charitable. I won't go so far as condemning them as greedy scumbags. Yet.
It's interesting how things come full circle. John Walker
kept a detailed journal while he was building up the Autodesk organization in the 1980s. He published it in book form ("The Autodesk File
"), and subsequently released it as a .PDF
(800+ pages, 6 MB). Walker's journal is a good historical source for anyone interested in AutoCAD or, really, the PC software industry in general. It's written in an anecdotal style reminiscent of Michael Abrash's, for those who may have cut their graphics-programming teeth on his books and magazine columns. Highly approachable and often entertaining.
Except, that is, when it comes to justifying, defending, and eventually eulogizing the hardware dongle that AutoCAD used for copy protection. That's when the rhetorical gloves come off. Less Michael Abrash, more Mein Kampf.
Walker loved his dongle like a good man loves his dog. But alas, the users to whom he owed his fortune felt otherwise, so it had to go. It must have been a sad day when he felt compelled to scribe pages 359-361 for posterity, recounting his reluctant decision to remove the hardware lock. His breezy tone grows bitter, accusing customers and competitors alike of conspiring against not only Autodesk but the entire future of the American software industry. He concludes:
I expect that the two weeks after our removing the lock will be very difficult weeks. I expect those who said that
they would re-embrace us as the market leader if we removed the lock will remain silent, while those moralistic
mountebanks who have been reaping profits larger than ours by far as a percentage of sales by selling products
purporting to “break the lock” will crow over their “victory”. Further, I expect some of the very dealers who
have been silent or petulant about the lock will now view its removal as an assault by Autodesk on the viability
of their businesses. And we will be assailed by publicity and cheap shots about our “blunder”, “indecision”
and the “shakeups in Autodesk”. One of the principles I’ve always followed in business is that there’s nothing
wrong with being wrong—if you never try something that entails risk you’re doomed to stagnation and eventual
failure. Catastrophe is engendered by staying wrong in the face of clear evidence that you’re on the wrong
course. I think that we’re far better off putting this episode behind us now. I believe that we are doing the
right thing in getting this over with and getting back to what we do best: developing, selling, and supporting
products which revolutionise the way designers do their work.
History doesn't just rhyme, it almost seems to actively repeat itself.
There's a lot more good stuff in Walker's journal about the history and rationalization behind the dongle, if you search the entire .pdf for hardware lock
. I originally bought his book in trade-paperback form, and while I can't seem to put my hands on that older edition now, I could've sworn that it included additional entertaining tirades against opponents of the dongle, comparing them to Ayn Rand villains or other fictional miscreants.
I don't mean to make John Walker sound like some kind of hyper-entitled fruitcake, because he's not. He deserves a lot of credit for documenting, with sometimes-painful honesty, both the good and bad moves that he made in his career. Walker and his company really were
integral parts of the personal computing revolution.... the one that's now in the process of being disassembled byte by byte, idea by idea, and moved into various walled gardens in the cloud. Autodesk accomplished some wonderful, groundbreaking work, and they deserve almost all of the success they've achieved.
But back then, just as now, nothing made good people come unhinged like an argument over copy protection.