Frequently Asked Questions
The SOMA Puzzle never cease to catch new players.
Those who visit this WEB site, have asked various questions,
so here is the Why and How's
- Why did you make this Web site.?
In my childhood days, when I visited my Grandfather, I played
with various things, but one day, he showed me a new toy that
he had bought - a simple cube of 3x3x3 smaller cubes, he took
it apart and showed me the 7 pieces - I mean seven pieces -
how difficult could it be, but I was hooked, and that summer
I spent a lot of time playing with his cube, and making figures.
Then nothing happened for many years, but when he died I received
his wooden SOMA cube. I played with it for a while, but being
now a young adult, it was not really 'IN' to play like this.
Years went by, I grew up to understand that adults also play
and act silly. And internet became a reality. Then in May 1998
when updating my homepage, I thought of this game, "Why not show
my SOMA figures to the world." So I did, and on Sep.29 1998 my first
SOMA page was online.
Then in November 1998 I was browsing the net, for more SOMA figures,
and stumbled upon a page created and maintained by Jay Jenicek
- San Antonio, Texas - U.S.A.
I wrote to him, asking permission to copy some of his figures.
He was closing his site, and after a short correspondence, we agreed
that I could cut anything I liked from his homepage.
This made me feel that it was a good time to try some new ideas,
so I rewrote the whole SOMA page.
Having a SOMA web site quickly attracted other SOMA players
from the World.
During the first 4 months of 1999, I have received more
support and more figures than I had ever dreamt of. and
the original plan of having nice pages with individual
pictures of each figure, simply was not possible any more,
because of the immense number of figures, and the rate at
which new ones arrive.
In April 1999, I had so many different figures,
exceeding 2000, that the indexing method got too complicated
to maintain, so I thought about this for a month or so, and
then finally decided that if I was really going to keep the
pages up to date, then I had to make a new layout, where my
updating was easier.
Once again the layout of my SOMA page changed.
Read about the Change Here.
- How often do you update.?
Newsletters and Pages are updated when I find something interesting.
But - Remember that Piet wrote.
Put up in a place
where it's easy to see
the cryptic admonishment
When you feel how depressingly
slowly you climb,
it's well to remember that
Things Take Time.
- Why are there 240 ways to solve the cube.?
There are many conflicting statements on how many ways
these seven pieces can do the cube. One number is said
to be 240, while another is as high as 1,105,920.
The truth is there are only 240 standard solutions if
you do not include rotations or mirror images.
There are 24 ways to rotate the assembled cube,
and each rotation has a mirror-image solution.
This brings the total up to 11,520.
In addition to that, five of the pieces (1, 3, 4, 5 & 6)
can be picked out of the cube, rotated so it "looks like
itself again", and placed back in for a perfect fit.
Piece #7 can be rotated in 3 such ways, cranking the
number of solutions up by a factor of 96. This gives
us the very large answer of 1,105,920 combinations, the
same number that appears in you Soma book (you still
have that thing, don't you?).
Description by C.McF
- Who is SKJØDE and Parker Brothers.?
Peit Hein invented the Soma Cube in 1936, and in
1967 the Danish compagny SKJØDE produced and
sold a wonderfull version of the SOMA cube, made in
rosewood, each cube was standing on a polished aluminum
platform in a dip covered with green plush.
Each cube was supplied with a 26 page
describing both figures and the history of the cube.
The compagny SKJØDE unfortunately does not exist
In USA. the SOMA cube became a reality in 1969 when
Parker Brothers manufactured and sold them.
Actually, it was very nicely made. The pieces were
hollow plastic and came in three colors:
Red, Blue and Gold. The size of an individual cube
was 9/8 inches on the edge, which is kind of large, but
not enough to clutter up the coffee table.
The P.B. Soma cube also came with a black base, a sort of
platform to store your favorite puzzle. Inside the base
was a tiny 56-page
with about 50 figures to solve;
some of them for double-sets only. It had other goodies
such as history of the cube and a couple of interesting
articles to read. There were 36 standard figures in the
booklet, so after burning through the 33 possible figures,
you could try to take a stab at solving the 3 impossible
ones, and dream about winning a Nobel prize for solving
the infamous 'W-Wall' figure (which, by the way, is
Description by C.McF
- Who then is Binary Arts.?
Binary arts is a toy making compagny, that in 1998
produced a game package called
Block by block,
Actually it is soma.
The 7 pieces are numbered slightly different from the
SOMA cubes, and are made in light blue plastic.
These pieces are smaller than the original SOMA pieces
(Nearly half size)
and the individual cubes are slightly 'rhombe' shaped,
possibly to ease the plastic molding, so they dont fit
together as nicely as the wooden or Parker Brothers sets,
BUT they will be useable in most SOMA figures.
Each package also contain a set of 60 playing cards,
each card shows a figure to build, and on the rear side
is given directions on how to do it.
The figures shown on these cards were compiled by mr.
- What will SOLVE do if my figure is NOT using 7 pieces.?
We define the REAL SOMA figures, as being made using
exactly the 7 SOMA pieces, joined face to face.
As you have discovered, figures can also be made
with less pieces, and the SOLVE program will handle
these with no problems.
BUT - if you produce figures that use slanting pieces,
or pieces halfway offset like I do in the BI001025
collection, then you must Hand-Write the solution
because there is no way to enter slanting or offsets
- Why is the view of the figures seen from 45 deg, this
sometimes makes it difficult to see.?
Actually I started using a viewing angle of approximately 30 deg.
Then I started thinking about angles for some time, because a
45 deg view would give more information about the structure,
than the 30 deg.
30 deg looked nicer, but the front cubes tended to obscure
more of the cubes on the rear.
How about 40 then ? that would have been a nicer angle.
- Yes, - but - I also wanted to keep the drawing sizes at a
minimum, because too large images would take too much server
space, and take too long to download.
Having that in mind, AND looking at the fact that the cube
is done by pixels (15 x 17 pixels) there were not that many
possible angles to choose among, which would also make a nice
cube drawing, AND allow the cubes to be fittet together to form
THAT was my reason to land at 45 deg.
BUT the coming version of SOLVE V1.10 has an
option to allow 45 AND 30 deg view's.
- Why is the world map so small.?
I wanted to keep it small, because I wanted a fast load time
off the web.
Anyway as long as the users list is short, the small map
will do nicely. AND I will change it, when there are so many
users that I can't fit them in.
- Why do you use "Basic"? Isn't "C" faster.?
Basic was used, because I like to use it for my small
'Mickey Mouse' programs. Like if you just want to scan
a file and find all lines of a certain content, or just
want to plot the result of a file as a graphic courve, etc.
This is exactly what I did with SOMA, because the first
program was simply a small graphics program, that should
draw the figures for me, so that I did'nt have to draw
all my homepage figures by hand.
Then I stumbled across the American 'Courtney McFarren'
who had made a solution finder program (in QBASIC) we agreed
that I could mix the two programs, and from there it simply
took off with more ideas, and functions being added.
I made the user interface, Graphics, and file handling,
while he improved the finder algorithm to make it 6000 times
- How is it possible for two people on each side of the Earth
to co-write a program like SOLVE.?
That is a good question.
I (Thorleif Bundgård) live in Denmark - Europe, and
Courtney McFarren live in Ohio - USA.
But once we found each other, and agreed that we might do a
SOMA SOLVE program together, it was'nt that hard.
We did NOT start out with a brilliant PD (project description),
EPD (engineering partitioning descriptions) and ECO (engineering
We simply took one step at a time, first a simple user interface
attached to the solver routines, then while I expanded the user
interface routines, Courtney enhanced his solver routines.
We then shuffeled the program back and forth.
Each time we had a real improvement we changed version numbers, and
mailed the code.
I used numbers 080 - 081 - 082 ....
Courtney used 80a - 80b - 80c ....
Each success generated new ideas, which were done and evaluated.
The SOLVE program has now (3.5.1999) changed from development
versions to version 1.0.0 with its latest addition being an ability
to solve partial puzzles, using only some of the 7 SOMA pieces.
Planning and tests have been done for a Double-Solve that will
solve figures using two SOMA sets, but the realisation of this will
probably take long time - IF it is ever done. (Because double solve
involves an extremely high number of possible piece combinations,
taking our computers hours or days to do just one solve)
Anyone who have any suggestions of how we might approach a double
solve, is welcome to write to either of us.
- The making of Solve101
(This is how my good friend Courtney McFarren writes it on
Solve101 is a QBASIC program that was the result of merging
two programs together; SOMADRAW, which was written by
Thorlief Bundgård, and ANSWER which was written by myself.
Both programs were rather crude back then.
SOMADRAW was a graphics program that would display Soma
figures, but was void of any features. ANSWER was a program
that could solve Soma figures, but ran way too slow, could
only solve one figure at a time, and had to be modified every
time you wanted to solve a new figure.
- Thorleif initially combined the programs together, and
from what I understand, the programs meshed together very
well with minor conflicts... or at least I don't recall
Thorleif throwing his keyboard at the monitor.
By the way, Thorleif's half of the program was in
structured BASIC format, while my half was still used the
old line-numbering type.
- So now we had a program that could solve Soma structures
AND graphically show the figure. But it was still primitive
and needed a lot of work. I was in charge of the solving
portion, while Thorleif was in charge of the graphics,
user-interface, inputs and outputs. He was also responsible
for the notation that is used to define a Soma structure.
- So off we went on our separate ways to work on this thing,
furiously typing away at our keyboards. This wasn't too
convenient for either of us; both of us have families and
jobs and only about an hour to spare each day.
- After four months, the program was finished and posted on
both our web-sites with many improvements. Thorleif loaded
his half of the program with graphical and user-interface
features, all which can be seen as the function keys when
running the program; including rotating and viewing a solved
figure in color or text and all sorts of other goodies.
For my half, I threw in a few algorithms and did some
spring-cleaning. The result? The time it takes to solve
a figure has sped up by a factor of 3600! What use to take
hours now only takes seconds.
- The most amazing thing is how smoothly the project ran,
even though Thorleif and I have never met personally and
live FIVE TIME ZONES APART. He lives in Denmark while I
live in Ohio. This entire project was done through e-mail
and finished in a relatively short time period. What?
You don't think that four months was all that quick?
Think about this, then: At the work place, how long does
it take you to finish ANY of your projects, after your boss
interferes and keeps setting it back to square-one every week?
- It was actually a sad day when the program was finally
finished. Instead of breaking out the champagne, we just
sat back and thought, "Wow... it's over!" After 4 months
of ideas either coming to life or blowing up in our faces,
the rolly coaster ride was over. Once in a while, I'll
sift through some old e-mail and get a kick about the
letters involving Solve101; the victories, the
frustrations, and how the Hell we were ever going to pull
this one off. Thorleif and I still remain on a pen-pal
- How do you feel about Copyrights.?
I am sure we can agree that hand drawings made by individual people,
may be considered "A piece of art" and as such undoubtedly
have a copyright. But ONLY the specific work of art,
NOT the figure shapes themselves.
Using the seven SOMA game pieces,
figures found by any person will undoubtedly also
have been found by other people during the past 63 years.
And indeed this is the purpose of the GAME.
The idea that anybody might claim a right to a certain
figure is both conceited and wrong.
Indeed the very game manuals that come with the Game
encourage you to copy and build figures made by others.
So even though a lot of the figures
CAN be contributed to specific persons, I believe that
NO ONE PERSON can hold a copyright to ANY SOMA figure.
SOMA is a puzzle and a passtime, NOT a source for
Copyrights and limitations.
Copyrights would be like someone trying to rule that we
can't play Chess, AND draw a certain board position,
simply because someone else made that drawing first.
The person reference I give to some of the figures
on these pages, reflect MY sources of the material, and
not necessarily the chronologically correct 'First
person who made it'.
IF you have ANY legitimate copyright claims, regarding
photos, old manuals or newsletter scans, then send me an
Email, and I will immediately remove these from my page,
with a reference to the person claiming ownership.
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