Chaos Downloads











Last updated by Rudy Rucker, January 24, 2011
You can post comments at this post on Rucker's blog.

The Chaos Software

This is a shareware release of "James Gleick's CHAOS: the Software."  We provide both the complete executable and the source code for the 1990 Autodesk release based on the wonderful James Gleick book Chaos

The software was written by  Josh Gordon, Rudy Rucker and John Walker for Autodesk, Inc., with Josh Gordon doing the lion's share of the programming work. It is our hope that this shareware release will allow educators, students and dabblers to freely use our software. Great for classroom use or individual exploration.

CHAOS can presently be run, using the free DOSBox ware, under Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and other platforms, as described in a section below

Download the CHAOS executables and support files. (, 800K),unchanged since December 15, 1998.   After downloading the file, unzip the file. It will create a Chaos directory and copy all the executables and support files into the directory.

If you are primarily interested in the higher-order fractals viewable in CHAOS, you might also look at Rudy Rucker's 2010 formula files and parameter files for the commercial Ultra Fractal software. See Rucker's long blog post on this, "The Rudy Set as the ultimate Cubic Mandelbrot."


The CHAOS program ran under earlier versions of Windows as a full-screen DOS session, accessible by clicking on one of the batch files in the Chaos directory. But starting with Windows XP with service pack SP2 and cointuing into Windows 7, CHAOS no longer runs directly in Windows.

The fix! Run CHAOS using the open source DOSBox ware, downloadable for free at the site As of January, 2011, the latest DOSBox build is 0.74. You don't need to download a "Frontend."

The current version of DOSBox is known to run smoothly under Windows XP and Windows 7, both in the 32 bit and 64 bit versions. You can run versions of DOSBox under Linux, Max OS X, and other operating systems. So my guess is that one should be able to run CHAOS on these platforms in this way.

What's In Chaos

CHAOS has six modules.

MANDEL. A very fast Mandelbrot set program, incorporating: quadratic and cubic Mandelbrots, various fill patterns, quadratic and cubic Julias, and the gnarly "cubic Mandelbrot catalog" set that Rucker calls the Rudy set. The image in the background of this page is the RHORSE.FRP parameter set for the Rudy set. As mentioned above, you can also run these rules with the Ultra Fractal software, as described on Rucker's blog post, "The Rudy Set as the ultimate Cubic Mandelbrot."

MAGNETS... A Pendulum and Magnets program showing chaotic physical motion.

ATTRACT. A Strange Attractors program showing some of the Hall of Famers as the Lorenz Attractor, the Logistic Map, the Yorke Attractor, the Henon Attractor, etc.

GAME. A "Chaos Game", which is a Barnsley Fractals program showing Iterated Function System fractals such as the famous "fern".

FORGE. A "Fractal Forgeries" program that shows mountain ranges based on random fractals.

TOY. A "Toy Universes" program that shows some cellular automata.

Using DOSBox to Run CHAOS

When you install DOSBox (at least in Windows), you see a shortcut for DOSBox on your desktop. You can open a DOSBox session of CHAOS by clicking on the DOSBox icon to get a DOS window, and then entering the following four lines. I am assuming that you've unzipped your CHAOS package into the C:\Chaos folder---if you use some other location, then change the first command.

mount C 'C:\Chaos'

(1) The first line tells DOSBox to treat your hard drive's Chaos directory like it's C drive. (2) The second line tells DOSBox to move to this virtual drive. (3) The third line tell DOSBox to run at a nice, fast speed (the default speed is too slow to be enjoyable). (4) The fourth line says to start up CHAOS using the original batch file, which is the package as OLDBAT.BAT. Do not use the more recent CHAOS.BAT file, which has something wrong with it.

A shortcut way to run the four commands all at once, is to create a desktop shortcut for DOSBox, and to change the shortcut's "Target" field to something like this, although the location of DOSBox.exe and the Chaos directory may vary:

"C:\Program Files\DOSBox\DOSBox.exe" -userconf -c "mount C 'C:\Chaos'" -c "C:" -c "cycles=max" -c "OLDBAT.BAT"

And now you only have to click the shortcut. When you're done running CHAOS you need to enter the following command to close the DOSBox window:


Directly Running CHAOS in Old Windows

In versions of Windows earlier than XP with Service Pack SP3, you can run the program by opening Windows explorer and clicking on one of the batch file names. The OLDBAT.BAT file doesn't work directly in most of the older Windows versions, and CHAOS.BAT may or may not work. You may n eed to run a separate batch file for each of the six sub-programs of CHAOS.

MANDEL.BAT Mandelbrot sets and variations.
MAGNETS.BAT Magnets and pendulum.
ATTRACT.BAT Strange attractors.
GAME.BAT Barnsley's iterated function system fractals.
FORGE.BAT Fractal forgeries of mountains, clouds, etc.
TOY.BAT Cellular automata.

Rights and the Optional Source Code

The software was originally released by Autodesk, Inc., in 1990, and was placed in copyright to Autodesk at that time. When the product went out of print in about 1992, Autodesk transferred intellectual property rights for the product to James Gleick. As shareware, CHAOS may be freely distributed, but any commercial use should be approved in writing by James Gleick. This shareware release has been prepared by Rudy Rucker.

The code is DOS and assembly code written to work with a DOS GUI called Metashel. The original algorithms for our rules can be found within the code.

Download the C and assembly language source code for the CHAOS program. (, 1 Meg).

After downloading the file, unzip it into your Chaos directory. The file will create a ChaosSrc subdirectory with subsubdirectories including Josh Gordon's release-version source code for each of the CHAOS modules.

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