Abandonware is an application that was written many years ago and where the original creator or the company that owned and distributed the license is no longer maintaining the software or offering copies for sale. U.S. Copyright Law implies that the copyright on creative work, such as books or software, lasts just under thirty years. Technically, this means that the classic DOS games that were created throughout the 1980s now fall under the "Abandonware" category.
Even though many people feel that the copyright on old software is no longer legitimate, there is certain etiquette associated with using a piece of software that someone else wrote. Technically, the work is still someone else's intellectual property. Even though that most likely no one will complain if you download and utilize free Abandonware in your classroom, it is frowned upon to try to resell or otherwise make money from the software.
How to Run Old DOS Software
If you decide to download some of these old, free abandonware titles, the first thing that you're going to need to figure out is how to run DOS games on your version of Windows. On the newest versions of Windows, such as Vista or Windows 7, there's a special application called DOSBox
, which you can use to run classic DOS games.
In Windows XP or other older versions of Windows, there are various ways to run older programs like this. Usually it involves right clicking on the program and selecting "Run As Windows 95..." or a similar command. If you need technical assistance to install any of these on your classroom computer, try to get the help of your local computer support person. Once you can run one game, you'll have no problem running the rest.
There are a number of great resources where you can obtain classic educational abandonware, but in this review I'll cover the top sources that feature the most titles. The most popular, and also the largest archive of abandonware, is The Home of the Underdogs
Home of the Underdogs
This website is actually a very large collection of abandonware covering many different genres, but if you click on "Education" you'll discover more titles than you'll know what to do with. There are famous old classics like The Amazon Trail
, Einstein Jr.'s Classroom
and even Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing
Another fantastic website for free educational abandonware is My Abandonware
, which has fourteen pages of classic titles in the educational section, including great classroom applications like Adventures in Math
, Barney Bear Goes to Space
and Where in Europe is Carmen Sandiego?
C DOS Abandonware
One website that is great for quality over quantity is C:Dos
. This site has only one page of educational titles. However, it's worth mention because the applications provided are some of the best, including titles like Adventure Construction Set
, the Barney Bear
series, and of course the very popular Oregon Trail
A creatively named warehouse for classic DOS games is called Abandonia
. It is basically a kingdom filled with abandonware. There is a useful game filter to the right, and when you select "Educational" from the "theme" menu, you'll find that this website offers 4 full pages of educational abandonware listings.
One website that is set up more like a free software portal than an application archive is Abandonware
. However, if you look at the left menu you'll find an entire section devoted exclusively to Educational Games. Some of the great titles here include ABC Fun Keys
, Firehouse Rescue
and Monster Math
One more honorable mention is a massive collection of abandonware downloads called VetusWare
This website doesn't appear to have a section devoted primarily to educational, but educational games and applications are distributed throughout this huge archival website. It may take some searching, but you're almost guaranteed to find the exact classic DOS application that you're looking for.
While DOS applications and Windows 95 software may not have all of the bells and whistles that modern software and games have, when it comes to education, the bells and whistles don't always matter. What matters is that the topic interests the child, and that the flow of the game or program is such that it keeps interest long enough to teach important lessons.
Exploring these sites can be a lot of fun, and downloading from a seemingly endless supply of software can be rather addictive. Even though the odds are in your favor that no one will ever have a problem if you utilize these old applications in your classroom, it's always a good idea to talk to school administrators and make sure that using abandonware on school computer systems is approved. However, for homeschooling families, this isn't as much of a concern. So start searching for those wonderful classic educational games and have fun!