Red Ryder (software)

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Red Ryder was the name of a well known communications and terminal emulation software program created for the Apple Macintosh in the 1980s. It was one of the first donationware programs to be distributed on the internet. It was written by Scott Watson, who founded The FreeSoft Company of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. By spending no money on advertising, but simply offering Red Ryder on Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs), Watson marketed and distributed what became a popular communications program for the Macintosh. He did not sell it in any retail store. All he asked of those who downloaded the program was that they might send him $40. He later said, "I took advantage of a problem: piracy. Many program-users copied them free. I assumed that, if I offered something free and asked people who liked it to pay, that some people would; that maybe I'd get a bigger percentage than people who sell software."

This new kind of "on approval" selling worked well and there was no necessity for follow-up. The cost was a fraction of available competitive software. Many people who found the software useful sent in checks. Each BBS sent the program online free to anyone. Anyone who liked Red Ryder could copy it for friends and pass the word to others, who then got Red Ryder from their bulletin board systems.

Macintosh magazines rated Red Ryder highly. Watson rejected orders from both computer stores and distributors and concentrated on development. Many new bulletin boards ran his offer. Watson then came up with a program allowing anyone to create a BBS. It was called Red Ryder Host, later renamed Second Sight. Watson introduced the new program as he had Red Ryder, on bulletin boards. By then, Watson operated his own bulletin board; anyone could order directly from him. He had proved the power of the simplest bulletin boards for the marketing and distribution of media.

Red Ryder Host served as a BBS shell. The software allowed a BBS to have public message boards, private message boards, file download libraries, and various levels of access that could be set for each individual, external system user.

Red Ryder was ultimately replaced by a commercial package called "White Knight."

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