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HardPressed™

In the middle of 1992, about a year after I graduated from college, Westcode Software was looking for a programmer to write a "disk doubler" type of product for the Apple IIgs.  Rob Renstrom of Westcode contacted Andy Nicholas, who was well known in the Apple II community for developing ShrinkIt as the de facto file and disk archiving standard.  Andy knew me from my work on NuLib and YankIt, and passed my name along.

I was kind of bored at work, and agreed to work on "Disk Doubler GS" in my evenings and weekends.  It took about a year to write this way, and shipped in June 1993.  The Apple II software market was starting to dry up in 1992, and Rob told me during our initial conversation that he thought we might sell about 10,000 copies.  The market took a nose dive and was clearly dying off a year later (you can even hear it between the lines in the otherwise upbeat II Alive video), and we sold just over 1,000 copies at US$40, so this didn't represent a huge financial windfall for anyone concerned.  It did teach me a great deal about developing commercial software products though.

The retail price of HardPressed was officially US$70, to give it a perceived quality difference vs. the competition. Yes, even in the rapidly shrinking Apple IIgs software market, there was competition, from Econ Technology's Auto Ark. I don't think HP ever actually sold for more than $40, as it was perpetually on sale.

The main selling point of HardPressed was that it expanded files when they were opened, and compressed them when they were modified and closed.  This was largely invisible to the user.  Sub-features included dynamically loadable compression modules that could be chained together (e.g. RLE + LZW works better and faster on some types of files than just plain LZW), profiles that determined which algorithms were used for which files, manual access to compression and expansion though a "Finder extension", file write caching, and best of all, it was tolerably fast on a 2.5MHz Apple IIgs.

With an accelerator card like the ZipGS, LZSS compression just about broke even when reading files from an AppleDisk 3.5 -- the increase in CPU time was offset by the decrease in disk load time.  A reasonable HP installation could fit on a System 6.0/6.0.1 disk if you compressed some of the files, and the time to boot was about the same.

I don't imagine there's much interest now in HardPressed as hard drive capacities are now a thousand times greater, but for the curious I have made available the original program, documentation, and source code.

Several months after HardPressed shipped, I wrote a cut-down version of HardPressed called HPRT, for "HardPressed RunTime". It couldn't compress files, only expand them, and only handled LZSS.  The idea was to provide a free demo that people could try.  (I think somebody from SoftDisk GS might actually have asked me to write this, so they could cram more stuff onto the disk-magazines they sent out, but I need to dig through e-mail archives to confirm.)

As this was once a commercial product, I am required to point out that there is no support for this product.  The publisher asked that their name and phone number be removed from the product to avoid having people call their tech support line.  (I don't think the company exists anymore, so this has probably ceased to be a concern.)

Downloads:

The source code retains the original copyright, but may be distributed freely so long as the HPSrcReadMe.txt file is included.