A few days ago I updated FUZOMA on this site to version 1.6, which makes it the seventh release! This will likely be the last version, since there’s not much time left before I leave here.
For the uninitiated, this is a project where I squeeze as many awesome educational games and programs into a single floppy boot disk as I can, to make the old computers at my school useful. It can run off a floppy, a CD, a USB stick, or can be installed in Windows, Mac, or Linux computers.
This is a version that I spent a lot of time on, and received an unprecedented amount of help with. The kids have been using version 1.6 (or some beta form of it) for months, but it’s finally reached the point where it’s good enough to share with the general public.
One of the biggest highlights of this version has been the further help of Loren Blaney, a programmer whose previous jobs include writing software for the Viking Mars Lander! His career hit a new all-time high, of course, when he started helping me with my floppy disk. Loren modified a few of his own old games just for my students, and for this version of FUZOMA he also wrote a few new ones from scratch. His XPL0 programming language also exposes curious kids to Computer Science from a young age.
In the course of looking for better educational games for my kids, I also stumbled onto a few non-free programs, but I wanted to use them anyway. As always, people have been quite willing to grant permission to use them. Marcia Burrows (author of Math Mileage) and Richard from Flat Rock Software, publisher of Pixel Puzzler, were prompt and accommodating. (Pixel Puzzler, by the way, was co-created by John Romero, who co-created some other games you might have heard of—Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake!
Tony McSherry from Microcraft also granted me permission to use an old program of his, WordWorm, but unfortunately the game (from 1983) was just a little too old to work properly on my school’s computers. I also got some help from Paul Toth in customizing his Commodore 64 emulator, but like WordWorm, it just didn’t work out.
A big “thank you” to everyone who contributed in some way! Here’ one of my students signing “Thank you.” in KSL:
Of course, working on FUZOMA is a mostly thankless, lonely time in which I stay up until 4AM trying to squeeze additional kilobytes out of a floppy disk that’s basically already full. I thought I’d go ahead and pat myself on the back a bit, so here’s a short list of cool things in this version of FUZOMA:
- A Commodore 64 emulator! (I played C64 games when I was a kid, so it all comes full circle to see students of my own playing Commodore games that are still fun and educational for them, even to this day.
- A more thorough Journal feature, taking inspiration from the One Laptop Per Child. It’s a CSV-formated log that makes it easy for me to use Excel to look at what the kids are actually doing on the computer.
- Running FUZOMA from the C drive of a Windows 95 machine now works much better. This is handy for me, since I need to do this to get really big log files from the Journal.
- Y2K compatible! Seriously.
Here’ the FUZOMA page with more info, if you aren’t inclined to click the link at the top of the site.