Conway’s Game of Life

Back in the year dot I worked on a computer called a PDP11 made by Digital Equipment Corporation. This had 96K (yes K) of RAM and ran an operating system named RSTS/E. I used to do the night shifts working this thing to run batch jobs to spew out mountains of paper and much of the time was spent waiting, reading or exploring how the system worked. Along with the OS came a handful of primitive games. Bull and Cow, Animal, that sort of thing.

Another game, which I didn’t understand at the time, was a one dimensional implementation of Conway’s Game of Life. I say one dimensional as it would push out one row of symbols at a time. Life was not so much a game as a demonstration of how simple mathematical rules can produce spectacularly complex results. To quote Wikipedia: The Game of Life is a cellular automaton devised by the British mathematician John Horton Conway in 1970.

These days the Game of Life is available as a Java app so we can experiment ourselves. Some guy has even written a 3D version though this looks a bit messy.

To really get the feel of how mind blowing the Game of Life is, check out this video. As the maker of the video states, all the patterns created are derived from two simple rules. More facinating still is the the fact that the gap between patterns known as “spaceships” are prime numbers.

If you’re really interested then check out this video where Conway talks about Life.

st malo beach
St Malo Beach

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