How Amica Paint protected tampering with its credits

In mid-1990, the floppy disk of special issue 55 of the German Commodore 64 magazine "64'er" contained the "Amica Paint" graphics program – which was broken beyond usefulness. I'll describe what went wrong.

"Amica Paint" was devloped by Oliver Stiller and first published in 64'er special issue 27 in 1988, as a type-in program that filled 25 pages of the magazine.

Two years later, Amica Paint was published again in special issue 55, which this time came with a floppy disk. But this version was completely broken: Just drawing a simple line would cause severe glitches.

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64'er issue 9/1990 published an erratum to fix Amica Paint, which described three ways (BASIC script, asm monitor and disk monitor) to patch 7 bytes in one of the executable files:

--- a/a.paint c000.txt
+++ b/a.paint c000.txt
@@ -67,8 +67,8 @@
 00000420  a5 19 85 ef a5 1a 85 f0  4c 29 c4 20 11 c8 20 6c  ........L). .. l
 00000430  c8 08 20 ed c7 28 90 f6  60 01 38 00 20 20 41 4d  .. ..(..`.8.  AM
 00000440  49 43 41 20 50 41 49 4e  54 20 56 31 2e 34 20 20  ICA PAINT V1.4  
-00000450  01 38 03 20 20 20 4f 2e  53 54 49 4c 4c 45 52 20  .8.   O.STILLER 
-00000460  31 39 39 30 20 20 20 01  31 00 58 3d 30 30 30 20  1990   .1.X=000 
+00000450  01 38 03 42 59 20 4f 2e  53 54 49 4c 4c 45 52 20  .8.BY O.STILLER 
+00000460  31 39 38 36 2f 38 37 01  31 00 58 3d 30 30 30 20  1986/87.1.X=000 
 00000470  59 3d 30 30 30 20 20 20  20 20 20 20 20 20 00 01  Y=000         ..
 00000480  31 00 42 49 54 54 45 20  57 41 52 54 45 4e 20 2e  1.BITTE WARTEN .
 00000490  2e 2e 20 20 20 20 00 64  0a 01 00 53 43 48 57 41  ..    .d...SCHWA

This changes the credits message from "O.STILLER 1990" to "BY O.STILLER 1986/87" – which is the original message from the previous publication.

64'er magazine had published the exact same application without any updates, but binary patched the credits message from "1986/87" to "1990", and unfortunately for them, Amica Paint contained code to detect exactly this kind of tampering:

.,C5F5  A0 14       LDY #$14     ; check 20 bytes
.,C5F7  A9 00       LDA #$00     ; init checksum with 0
.,C5F9  18          CLC
.,C5FA  88          DEY
.,C5FB  79 51 C4    ADC $C451,Y  ; add character from message
.,C5FE  88          DEY
.,C5FF  18          CLC
.,C600  10 F9       BPL $C5FB    ; loop
.,C602  EE FD C5    INC $C5FD
.,C605  C9 ED       CMP #$ED     ; checksum should be $ED
.,C607  F0 05       BEQ $C60E
.,C609  A9 A9       LDA #$A9
.,C60B  8D E4 C7    STA $C7E4    ; otherwise sabotage line drawing
.,C60E  60          RTS

The code checksums the message "BY O.STILLER 1986/87". If the checksum does not match, the code will overwrite an instruction in the following code:

.,C7DC  65 EC       ADC $EC
.,C7DE  85 EC       STA $EC
.,C7E0  90 02       BCC $C7E4
.,C7E2  E6 ED       INC $ED
.,C7E4  A4 DD       LDY $DD
.,C7E6  60          RTS

The "LDY $DD" instruction at $C7E4 will be overwritten with "LDA #$DD", which will cause the glitches in line drawing.

The proper fix would have been to change the comparison with $ED into a comparison with $4F, the checksum of the updated message – a single byte fix. But instead of properly debugging the issue, 64'er magazine published a patch to restore the original message, practically admitting that they had cheated by implying the re-release was not the exact same software.

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