My fascination with computers began when I was a kid growing up in the 1980s. If you wanted to buy software for your computer back then, you got in your car and drove (or in my case, begged your mom to drive you) to the local software store where you could peruse shelves jam-packed with software.
Maybe my memory is a little hazy, but there seemed to be a wide array of applications available at these stores — everything from games to full-up databases to productivity apps to compilers. Packed inside each box, along with one or more floppy disks (larger applications came with enough floppies to tile the floor of a small bathroom), was something that has reached the point of virtual extinction these days: a printed manual. The manuals for higher end applications often came in three ring binders so you could add additional pages that came with updates and add-ons.
Perhaps the best part of the “good ole days” is the software was usually incredibly solid compared to today. Without the prevalence of the Internet as a means to cheaply push out updates and bug fixes, the software you purchased needed to work and work well right out of the box because mailing out a bunch of disks to customers to correct a major bug was expensive. Of course there were a few vendors that put out barely working software anyway and never bothered to provide free fixes. Companies that did this immediately went on my do-not-buy-from-these-con-artists-ever-again list.
As with everything else, the retail software market has changed. Most of the dedicated software stores are long gone. Instead, computer software is just a small part of the offerings at the local super-ginormous-mega-big-box store. With the exception of games, the available selection seems to have dwindled — you may as well forget about taking a trip to the nearby Best Buy or Walmart to pick up a copy of VisualStudio Professional or AutoCAD.
The boxes themselves have changed with time as well. They’re a lot smaller now. Floppy disks have given way to CDs and DVDs. Often, particularly with games, the software in the box was shipped in a less-than-complete state (and I say that charitably) with an online update waiting for you on the day of release. And manuals? Not very likely. Maybe the program will come with a quick reference card, if you’re lucky.
Boxed software is becoming less and less relevant. With the upcoming Mac and Windows app stores, third party services like Steam, and listing sites like MacUpdate, it is pretty clear that software that comes in a box is going the way of the Commodore VIC 20.
Perhaps because of my fond memories of the countless hours spent browsing the shelves of those old software stores, there is a sort of legitimacy in my mind that comes with having your software packaged in a cardboard box. It’s the physical manifestation of the string of bytes that make up the software on the disk inside. So it’s in that spirit of legitimacy that we’ve had some boxed copies made for Home Inventory.
Though having your software available in a box is not as important as it once was, it still feels like we have reached a milestone. We’re mainly using the boxed copies of Home Inventory for promotional purposes, such as giveaways and to send to reviewers, but if you are interested in purchasing one, head over to the support page and drop us an email. If there is enough interest, we’ll make boxed versions available through Amazon. We’re also looking to get Home Inventory into retail stores, so if sell Mac software and are interested in carrying Home Inventory, by all means, please get in touch. To see our software on store shelves would make that young, wide-eyed geek still in me very happy indeed.