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How Old is Software Product Activation and Licensing Technology?

By Regina Nax  |  General

Posted:  November 11

Protection Plus Professional user manual cover, showing copyright date of 1991

Most of us can remember “borrowing” software installation disks from friends or coworkers to avoid paying for our own copy. But do you remember the first time you got blocked from accessing that software by a license key requirement? Most of us can probably relate to the frustration of trying to find a way around it and the eventual acceptance that software companies do actually need to make money in order to keep creating software. And they have put that money to good use! Consider all the things you can do with software today that would have been impossible just five or ten years ago.

If you remember that technological shift in your software budget, you most likely have none other than our very own founder, Mike Wozniak, to thank for it. Today, you know that software activation licenses are simply a part of the product cost, but how long has it really been that way?

Protection PLUS: The First Commercial Software Product Activation and Licensing Toolkit

We recently got a helpdesk ticket that took us on a wild ride in the wayback machine. A long-time customer sent us a screenshot of our Version 3.0 Protection PLUS licensing toolkit, and we were surprised to see the 1992 copyright date!

Screenshot of error message from Protection PLUS Professional showing copyright 1992.

That bit of history got us thinking about the early days of Protection PLUS commercial software product activation, so we sent one of our interns down to the basement to see what he could find. Don’t worry, we packed him a snack and a sturdy flashlight.

What he found was pretty amazing. Well, it was amazing to a company of technology nerds who love finding industry fossils. We found the Protection PLUS Version 2.0 user manual, copyrighted in 1991! We invite you to take a moment to consume the full array of font choice on the cover page. It’s a sight to behold, for sure.

Cover page of Protection PLUS Professional user manual, copyright 1991

Timely Innovation in the Early Days of Software Development

Giggles aside, we are really proud of this manual. We made sure to write it in clear language that end users would understand, we focused on detailed instructions for running the Protection PLUS commercial product activation toolkit, and we organized it in a way that would encourage users to maximize functionality as they gained experience with the toolkit.

The goal was not only to create software product activation and licensing technology that helped businesses protect their products, but also to encourage them to get creative in how they would leverage that protection to optimize their product value. You can’t read this manual without realizing what a powerful and flexible product Protection PLUS is.

We started as a company that wanted to take ownership of our clients’ goals and challenges so that we could support them with innovative software product activation and licensing solutions. That is exactly what we are still doing today.

This 1991 copy of our manual is filled with empowering statements like these:

Protection PLUS Pro manual page 9
Protection PLUS Pro manual page 83 excerpt.

When Mike Wozniak invented the Protection PLUS software product activation toolkit, his goal was to encourage technology companies to innovate and develop new solutions and products because they could rely on anti-piracy tools that protected their intellectual property. 30 years later, SoftwareKey is still delivering on those original goals.

Not everything is the same. The programming has changed quite a bit in 30 years! The graphics are fancier, the fonts are far less fancy, and the technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. But every step of the way, SoftwareKey is intent on keeping our guiding principles and core values at the forefront of everything we do.

Ultimately, this trip down memory lane just proved to us that SoftwareKey was born for innovation in the technology sector, and we are so proud of the way it has grown up to be a leading provider of commercial software product activation and licensing.

About the Author

I'm a St. Louis native, with a life-long background in customer service. I've worked in a lot of different industries, but learned early on that providing good customer service is a universally appreciated skill. I love to create and collaborate on content, both written and visual.

Regina Nax


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