A Clock Created with Conway’s Life

Conway’s life has to be the most enduring zero-player computer game in history. Four simple cellular automaton rules have been used to create amazing simulations since the 1970’s. The latest is an entire digital clock implemented in life. StackExchange user [dim] created this simulation in response to a challenge from [Joe Z]. We have to admit that we didn’t believe it at first, but you can run it yourself by importing [dim’s] gist to the online Javascript Conway’s Life Simulator. To say this is impressive would be an understatement. We don’t know exactly how long it took [dim] to build this clock, but the challenge has been around since August of 2016.

[Dim] does a pretty good job of describing exactly how the clock works. The timebase is at the top. Below it is clock distribution and counters. After that come counters, latches, and lookup tables. Data moves around the clock in the form of gliders. P30 (aka Queen Bee) gliders to be exact. It might make things simpler to think of the glider paths as circuit traces, and the gliders themselves as clock pulses.

We couldn’t get over all the little details in this design. If you zoom way in, you can see all the lookup table patterns have been annotated, much in the way a schematic would be. For [Dim’s] next feat, we hope he takes on [Joe Z’s] Tetris challenge!

Conway’s life is like honey for hackers. We’ve seen it running on our own Hackaday Badge. We’ve even seen clocks that run the game on their display. Someone needs to implement a clock that runs the game that runs this clock. Clockception, anyone?

Old Fax Machine Shows Signs of Life


[Dmitry] is a Moscow based artist. He’s also a an avid circuit bender and hardware hacker. His latest project is entitled “signes de vie” or signs of life. [Dmitry] started with an Arduino and an old thermal fax machine. He removed the thermal print head and replaced it with a row of 10 LEDs. These old fax machines would use rolls of paper, cutting each sheet of as it was printed. [Dmitry] kept the roll system, but treated his paper with fluorescent dye. As the paper passes under the LEDs, it pauses for a moment and the LEDs are flashed. This causes a ghostly glow to remain on the paper for several minutes as the next rows are printed.

While [Dmitry] could have made this the world’s biggest tweet printer, he chose to go a more mathematical route. Each printed row of dots represents a generation of one-dimensional cellular automata. Cellular automation is a mathematical model of generations of cells. All cells exist on a grid, and can be alive or dead. The number of neighboring live cells determines if any given cell will live on to the next generation. One common implementation of cellular automation is Conway’s Game of Life. In [Dmitry’s] implementation, a bank of switches select which of the 256 common cellular automata rules controls the colony. A second bank selects how long each generation lasts – from 1 to 18 seconds.

We really like how the paper becomes a printed, yet temporary history of the colony. [Dmitry] doesn’t say if he’s using a single long strip of paper, or if he created a loop. We’re hoping for the latter. Finally a useful implementation of the old black fax loop prank.

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Large remote-controlled Game of Life display


Sometimes it’s just plain fun to over-engineer. [Stephanie] gets a warm fuzzy feeling when she successfully adds way more electronics components to a project than she really needs – just because she can. We can’t really argue with her if that is the intended goal, nor can we find fault with the sweet Game of Life display she put together.

She started off with six Game of Life kits from Adafruit, but she quickly caught the LED bug and her collection grew until she had 20 kits (that’s 320 LEDs for those of you keeping count). After piecing them all together, they were mounted in a wooden frame and placed behind a dark piece of acrylic. It looked great and worked just fine, but it wasn’t overdone enough for her tastes.

In the end, she added a small Arduino and Xbee module to the Game of Life display, which enables it to be controlled by her network-enabled thermostat we featured a few weeks back. The thermostat was fitted with an Xbee unit as well, which allows it to turn the Game of Life on and off at whatever times [Stephanie] specifies.

We’ll take two please.

[via Adafruit Blog]

Needs more LEDs, EMSL biggified Conway’s Game of Life

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories has proven bigger is better with their colossal LED table running Conway’s Game of Life. At the heart of the system is 44 ATmega164Ps controlling 352 LEDs on a 32×44 inch table; and to make it interactive IR LEDs detect the presence of objects.

The display is set up as an exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art in tribute to [Leo Villareal]. To see a demo, catch a video after the divide.

Related: Colossal LED tables, and Conway’s Game of Life. Why has it taken so long to combine them?

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SMD soldering practice kit

Here’s an interesting kit put together just to help you work on your SMD soldering skills. It’s got 49 SMD LEDs on the front with a programming header and switch jumper. The back has an ATtiny26L and a coin cell. At only 3V, power management is essential; all of the example programs are only addressing one LED at a time (imperceptible to the human eye). If you turn on too many LEDs at the same time, the voltage drop could cause the AVR to reset. Included example programs are a scrolling marque, bouncing balls, and Conway’s game of life. SparkFun has tutorials for regular SMD soldering and using a reflow skillet. The video below shows the kit builder attaching just one LED using the heat and slide method.

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