The Starflight Code Wheel and Copy Protection, Circa 1986

You’re going to get a lot of blog posts this week that were spawned out of my storage locker. I don’t have that much stuff, but sometimes I keep the oddest things.

My latest find is this code wheel from a game called Starflight, produced in 1986 by Binary Systems and released by a young gaming company called Electronic Arts. You may have heard of them. Here’s the ‘Interstel Security Access Code Wheel’:

StarFlight Code Wheel

Though I never finished it, I played Starflight a lot. It was, at the time, a pretty cutting-edge sci-fi game, with a big plot and plenty of game universe to explore. Along with the code wheel, I found pages and pages of notes with lists of coordinates and obtuse phrases like “Crystal Planet here!” and “watch out for the Gazurtoids!”

I wanted to mention the code wheel, though, because it was an interesting copy protection option in a pre-Internet world. I used my cell phone to make this crappy video to describe what it was and how it worked:

I inaccurately describe the wheel as a ‘copyright’ mechanism when it’s more accurately concerned, I think, with ‘copy protection’. Here’s an online version of the code wheel, should you want to play along at home.

If you’re desperate to play Starflight, you can download it from this page. Mind you, you’ll need an old 286 PC or a severely underclocked box to run it. Maybe just wait until Windows Vista is available at the end of the month–that should slow your machine down adequately. Alternately you may be able to get a copy on eBay (this one went for US $23.50 earlier in the year).


  1. Darren,

    I’d actually suggest anyone wanting to run Starflight should Google for “Dosbox” a PC emulator for older games (though your suggestion for Vista doesn’t seem too far off the mark).

    Oh, and Happpy New Year!

    – Mike

  2. Very minor correction.

    In your example, you wouldn’t enter “ELOWAN 701897” into the game, as the video implies. In addition to EARTH and BLUE BABBLE, the came would also give you ELOWAN and you would use all three of those terms to determine the proper number to enter.


    P.S. Loved your comment about Windows Vista.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: