Dongle /dong'gl/ N. 1. A Security Or Copy Protection Device For Proprietary Software Consisting Of A Serialized EPROM And Some Drivers In A D-25 Connector Shell

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dongle /dong'gl/ n.

1. A security or copy protection device for proprietary software consisting of a
serialized EPROM and some drivers in a D-25 connector shell, which
must be connected to an I/O port of the computer while the program
is run. Programs that use a dongle query the port at startup and
at programmed intervals thereafter, and terminate if it does not
respond with the dongle's programmed validation code. Thus, users
can make as many copies of the program as they want but must pay
for each dongle. The idea was clever, but it was initially a
failure, as users disliked tying up a serial port this way. Almost
all dongles on the market today (1993) will pass data through the
port and monitor for magic codes (and combinations of status
lines) with minimal if any interference with devices further down
the line -- this innovation was necessary to allow daisy-chained
dongles for multiple pieces of software. The devices are still not
widely used, as the industry has moved away from copy-protection
schemes in general. 2. By extension, any physical electronic key
or transferable ID required for a program to function. Common
variations on this theme have used parallel or even joystick ports.
See dongle-disk.

[Note: in early 1992, advertising copy from Rainbow Technologies (a
manufacturer of dongles) included a claim that the word derived
from "Don Gall", allegedly the inventor of the device. The
company's receptionist will cheerfully tell you that the story is a
myth invented for the ad copy. Nevertheless, I expect it to haunt
my life as a lexicographer for at least the next ten years. :-(