Jeff Parsons has been able to locate an executable compressed with Realia SpaceMaker which significantly pre-dates all hitherto known SpaceMaker or EXEPACK survivors. It’s an editor called DVED.COM version 6.02, found on disk 191 of the PC-SIG Library 8th Edition CD-ROM. The DVED.COM file is timestamped September 14, 1983 and its accompanying READ.ME file is dated September 18, 1983.
DOS timestamps are not necessarily trustworthy, and timestamps from before the PC/AT era (and built-in clocks) are notoriously unreliable. But in this case, the version history in the READ.ME file clearly talks about DVED “V6.02 (September 14th, 1983)”, which matches the COM file’s timestamp.
The 1983 DVED.COM file is certainly compressed with SpaceMaker. It has the same MEMORY$ signature, no long runs of zero bytes, as well as stub loader code at the beginning and end of the file that’s very similar (but not identical) to what SpaceMaker 1.06 (1986) produces.
Could DVED.COM have been compressed at some point well after 1983? Yes, but there’s an excellent reason to believe that’s not the case. DVED stands for Dewar Visual Screen Editor, and it was written by the same Robert B.K. Dewar who also wrote SpaceMaker. The on-line help for DVED in fact explicitly mentions SpaceMaker as a product available from Realia (DVED itself was a freebie). If anything should have been compressed with SpaceMaker, it’s DVED.
The 1983 version of DVED.COM can be examined live on pcjs.org, just load PCSIG08:DISK0191 into the machine and run DVED.
Can anyone find an even older executable compressed with SpaceMaker (or anything else for that matter)?