Author Topic: John Conway, creator of the life simulation game passed away  (Read 490 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Jason Wallwork

  • President
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3365
John Conway, creator of the life simulation game passed away
« on: April 18, 2020, 06:34:38 am »
Some of us old-timers in the history of computers might remember a simulation game called the Game of Life. It wasn't a game in the normal sense, you chose dots in a field of cells and watched them as they "evolved". It has nothing to do with the Milton-Bradley game which much more boring. I think that ssfc72 was using home computers back then and might remember the game.

I remember playing the game on a couple of different home computers back in the early 80s. Home computers weren't PCs, each was different although all had the BASIC programming language in common. They each had their own variant of it. You loaded programs from cassette tapes and later single-sided floppy disk drives. More often, you subscribed to computer mags that had programs that you spent long hours typing in.

Buster, with his command-line fear, wouldn't have been able to hack it back then. Even though computers needed a lot more work to do anything back then and you were stuck with blocky graphics, you loved it. Not many homes (as a proportion) had computers back then, it was just me and my nerdy friends. It was like family televisions in the 50s (or 40s?), not common for a home to have one. The Kawartha Computer Club started back then as the Kawartha Colour Computer Club, yes saying 'colour' with computer made you among the elite.

Wikipedia explains how the Game of Life fit into computer history from which I quote here:

Quote
Conway was especially known for the invention of the Game of Life, one of the early examples of a cellular automaton His initial experiments in that field were done with pen and paper, long before personal computers existed.

Since the game was introduced by Martin Gardner in Scientific American in 1970, it has spawned hundreds of computer programs, web sites, and articles. It is a staple of recreational mathematics. There is an extensive wikicellular automata

I didn't know about his history back then or even where the concept for the game came from but it was fascinating to create the original state of these cells you positioned and watch them grow or disappear according to a set of rules he created. The rules were:
  • Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbours dies, as if by under-population.
  • Any live cell with two or three live neighbours lives on to the next generation.
  • Any live cell with more than three live neighbours dies, as if by overpopulation.
  • Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.
Often, they went bust and disappeared or ended up a static state. But if you put the dots in the right position, you could create larger cells that moved across the screen or interacted in fascinating ways with other cells or cells that glided across the screen or created other cells. It was interesting to watch and experimenting with different positions to see what would happen. Wikipedia has a good entry on it. If you scroll down on it, you'll see examples of some of the interesting cells that were created, some very complicated, some very simple. You can watch the animations. If you look online you can find many websites where you can try the Game of Life. It was a happy part of my childhood.

You can still play it online.

John passed away and the tender young age of 82 on April 11, 2020, from complications related to COVID-19.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2020, 06:36:58 am by Jason Wallwork »
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline ssfc72

  • Posting Member
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1607
Re: John Conway, creator of the life simulation game passed away
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2020, 07:55:17 am »
Thanks for the info, Jason. Yes, I remember hearing of that simulation, back years ago but I never did test it out.

John Conway was born and educated in England and later taught at Princeton, in the USA.
Mint 19.1 on a Dell 14" Inspiron notebook, HP Pavilion X360, 11" k120ca notebook (Linux Lubuntu), Dell 13" XPS notebook computer (MX Linux)
Cellphone ZTE Axon 7 Mini, PCMobile pay as you go

Offline Jason Wallwork

  • President
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3365
Re: John Conway, creator of the life simulation game passed away
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2020, 08:43:31 am »
Smart guy. The various sub-fields of mathematics he worked in, well, I don't even understand what most of the titles mean other than game theory.
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata