Tag Archive for 'FUZOMA'

Floppy Disk Updated (for the last time?)

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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4 Responses to “Floppy Disk Updated (for the last time?)”


  • What an amazing project. Makes me want to play old games. Looks great! Hope to see you soon.

  • Wonderfully satisfying when something I created over 25 years ago gets put to good use today!
    Thank you so much for all your work, Paul AND the delightful pictures.
    Marcia

  • We’ll miss you too, Paul!

    Thanks for breathing new life into these old programs. It’s been fun!!

  • Really great Paul! Thanks so much for this. So many people are going to enjoy and appreciate this!

FUZOMA in the library

So tonight I followed my usual schedule, which is to eat dinner at home and then open the school library from eight to nine, allowing kids to come in and use the computers before they go to bed.  Things went along nicely, and then at nine the kids filed out to go to the dorms.  I took the rare moment of peace in the library to start making copies of the floppy disk I use, since I want to bring a bunch of them to Nairobi to give out.  At the same time, I was testing a new program I had recently put on the floppy disk—a space flight animation that acts as a lead-in to a map of the solar system.

Anyway, some of the older kids who were in study sessions came in and saw I was still there, and they saw the recent addition playing on one of the monitors.  They ran out and grabbed some other kids—maybe 40 of them in total—and they all ran in and watched the one tiny yellowing monitor until the spaceship completed its flight and the screen was filled with stars, and then suddenly it flickered to the map of the solar system.  Thunderous applause ensued, and then the kids got closer to study the map, which led to  conversations about the different size of the sun and the moon.

This map has been on the floppy disk for ages, and I haven’t been able to get anyone to look at it for more than five seconds, and I feared that giving it an exciting intro would make it even less appealing, but there I was, trying to explain why the sun and moon look the same size.  Cool.

Anyway, it’s a small victory on the road to making the best use of the little bit of computer time the kids have (and of course I’m a sucker for any story that ends with me being applauded).

It also coincides with me putting the new version of the floppy disk programs onto the blog.  It’s the version I’ll be bringing to Nairobi for next week, so I figured it made for a decent milestone, since I haven’t updated that part of the site in a while.

In other news, I have my old phone number back (see right column).

And just so you don’t have to endure a blog post without a photo:

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I just finished FUZOMA 1.3!

I’ve updated my page on educational software accordingly.

I tried in this version to address the most common question about FUZOMA: “Why do I need to make a floppy disk just to use it?”

So, starting with version 1.3, the FUZOMA page also has instructions and downloads for making bootable CDs, USB sticks, and good-old fashioned hard drive installs.  This is pretty significant, as it makes the software much more accessible to all sorts of computers, from 486s to MacBook Pros.  I’m not aware of any other educational software project that can make such a claim.

I did create a problem for myself with this version, though.  As I found and added better math activities, I ended up with 29 activities total, but there are only 27 icons on FUZOMA’s menu.  I never thought I’d run into this problem… 29 activities that fit on a floppy disk!  I refuse to make a confusing multi-layer menu for the kids.  To address this, I made 2 of them “bonus” activities, meaning that they launch only after you play some other more educational activity first.

The most popular bonus activity by far is Super Worms 3D Racing, which lets two kids get on each computer and race against each other.  It’s cute enough for the girls to like it and the boys will like anything that lets them shoot each other.  The kids can only play the bonus game if they first solve math problems in Super Worms Math Arena.  Both programs are courtesy of Wiering Software, who also sells an improved version of the racing game.  Mike Wiering was kind enough to modify Math Arena to make the “Bonus Activity” concept work so well and to provide a smaller version of 3D Racing that takes up less room on a floppy disk.

The kids love the split screen action (and they tolerate the math required to get to it)!  Check out the pics:

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