In the aftermath of Y2K problem, landscape of IT and IT enabled Services (ITES) industry changed very drastically. World was getting used to India’s emerging STEM (primarily computer and engineering) power. This resulted in Computer Engineering courses becoming first choice for college admissions for most students. Combination few of these factors launched “Home Computer Era”. Having a computer (a desktop) was a status symbol.

Today while buying a computer (now preferred option is a laptop and not desktop) common configuration is high speed chipset and RAM in the range of 32 Giga Bytes (GB) and storage capacity of at least 1 Tera Bytes (TB). Back in the day, TB hard drives were not even born. Most common configuration in those days was (today most smartphone offer more processing power than this!) – 

  • Intel Pentium 3 processor
  • 40 GB Hard-drive
  • 256 MB RAM

Internet connections were still dial-up. Maximum speed you could get was 56KBPS (Kilo Bytes per second). The dial up connection was tied to home phone. And a result when internet was in use, you couldn’t use phone. Not everybody had internet at home. So cyber café was a very lucrative and booming business. Depending upon where you go and speed they offer, internet access for an hour used to cost about ₹ 20 to 25 / per hour. So relying on internet to gather information for research was very costly proposition. 

Due to things constraints, 1000s of college going student who had computer at home, used to rely on various magazines to keep up to date with what was happening in the world of computers. Those days in couple of computer specific magazines along with book you would get a CD. CD used to include freeware utilities. There was also trial version of softwares and games. Magazines were giving free trailer via trail version and if you wanted to full access you have to pay for license. 

During college days when you operate on limited budget, paying license fee to buy full fledged product was a luxury and we couldn’t simply afford it. So there were multiple tricks (aka jugaad) in place to work around 15 day trial period. First approach was to install the software and use it. 2 weeks later when it stopped working due to expiry of trial license, uninstall software and then reinstall. This was working well in early days. My guess is due to poor conversion from free to paid licenses companies figured out this and started putting something in OS registry which would catch this trick. Only way to work around these new restrictions was to format the PC and reinstall OS. Doing this every 2 weeks was time consuming and complicated.

This gave birth to another trick which became really popular. This idea was very simple. After you install the software use it for few days. Then as 15 day trial period was coming to end, you go to computer settings and change computer date to an arbitrary date in past. There have been couple of cases when date was actually changed to couple of years in past to get maximum benefit! As a I write this post on Jan 15, 2022 (last day of 15 day trial of 2022), I am starting to wonder if we could use old hack and go back in time. With ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (hopefully in endemic stage) still causing significant impact world over, if I could I would really like to go back to 2019 and stay there forever! 

PS – computer magazines those days used to have review of newly launched technology and products. When 40 GB hard drive was launched, one of the magazines had asked question “do you really need this space?” in product review. 20 years later, in my opinion it’s still candidate to win “rhetorical question of the century” award… 


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