Lenslok was a form of copy protection used in 1985 in an attempt to combat computer software piracy.
Lenslok was represented as a rectangular foldable piece of plastic with transparent prisms that can be used to reflect light and decipher text off a television and type in the deciphered code to start the game. It was packaged with 11 games, the most famous example being Firebird's Elite.
While deciphering text on a monitor/TV screen using a lense to combat piracy sounded like a good idea on paper, in execution, it was a flop, and in the end, all of the games that supported Lenslok were eventually patched to remove the Lenslok protection, with some of them replacing it with manual-based copy protection.
List of games that used Lenslok
- Silicon Dreams
- Jewels of Darkness
- TT Racer
- OCP Art Studio
- The Price of Magik
- Fighter Pilot
Why It Sucked
- The Lenslok required the user to have a very good monitor or TV to use it and calibrate it properly, at a time when most households had fuzzy CRT TV sets with blurry visuals.
- Even if the user had a good TV set/monitor, it's still very difficult to decipher the text.
- The copy protection screens had a 30 second time limit for deciphering the scrambled text on the screen.
- Not all TV sets and monitors of the time were the same size, meaning if you had a TV set or monitor that had a screen which was too big or too small, the Lenslok became useless.
- You only get 3 attempts to enter the correct code, and if all attempts were wrong, the computer resets, forcing you to reload the game. While this isn't much of a problem with disk-based software on computers like the Commodore 64, it's a big issue on tape-based software for systems like the Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum, since they usually take upwards of 10 minutes to load the game, meaning you had to wait 10 more minutes to try the copy protection check again if you bought the game on tape and failed the Lenslok check.
- In addition, all of the games had different Lenslok lenses, and some of them came with the wrong lenses.
- The Lenslok itself was cheaply made and easy to lose or break.
- It actually encouraged piracy rather than prevent it, since many people chose to crack the games to play them without Lenslok protection.