I remember when my copy of Legacy of the Ancients arrived with its codewheel. I fired up my 1200 baud acoustically-coupled modem, hit the BBS and ranted my indignation that I can do as I please with my purchase.
OK, I didn't. Time was, copy protection didn't inspire such anger in power consumers, probably because the schemes were too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Oh, they were a nag. But holding up a piece of colored film to your screen to read off a secret code, Transformers tech-specs style, was kind of a novelty. My brother and I also repurposed a few codewheels for our own stabs at cryptography
Royal Pingdom took a look back at early forms of PC game copy protection. I'd have to guess that the reason none of these ever raised the kind of anger that DRM does today is because there's no real big brother aspect to it. There were things like parameter codes and read-only copy protection, but nothing was ever put on your machine (although, without a hard drive, I guess it's a moot point). Furthermore, some of these methods - such as the code books or history guides - were at least themed to the game, making them seem like real life extensions.
But it's probably because we were dealing with PC gaming before the explosion of the Internet, and the copying and file sharing over it made publishers get tough, some to the point of heavy-handedness, with protecting their sales.
Wacky Copy Protection Methods from the Good Old Days [Royal Pingdom]