Flakey Bits

A type of Copy Protection.

These are particular bit cells on a disk that indicate neither a 0 or a 1 clearly. They are indeterminate because they have neutral magnetic polarity. You can think of them as unformatted, and when read, they just return “noise”, i.e. random data.

We define that something has flakey bits when:

A complete track of random bits is called a noise, or an unformatted track.

An original game with flakey bit protection will read those bits multiple times. If they are different values, then the game knows the disk is an original. When the disk is copied, the bits are no longer indeterminate or random, they will always be the value they were read at copy time, i.e. each bit will be always 0 or always 1. If the multiple reads return the same result, then the game knows the disk is a copy. Perhaps you are wondering how you can possibly get random values when reading these “indeterminate signal” bitcells? The reason they do not always return the same bit (say, always zeros or always ones) is down to the fact that it happens at the most basic level of operation without any kind of control, i.e. looking directly at the read line of the Floppy Drive.

So what actually determines if you read 0 or 1 for a flakey bit?

Weather conditions!

Actually, we are serious. We are talking about a delicate electromechanical device and environmental effects will certainly have a affect on how flakey bits are interpreted. Some of the main technical factors that determine it include:

  • Distance from head
  • Rotation speed
  • Previous state
  • etc.

What you need to remember is that these are all analogue values artificially measured in digital, therefore if they play on the limit, i.e. use unsupported values, then inconsistent results are produced.