Game Of Life Clock


[Alex] wanted to make an LED clock. But simply making an LED array clock was far too easy — so he decided to make it follow some interesting rules…

Ever heard of John Conway’s Game of Life? It’s quite simple — there are four rules.

  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbours dies, as if caused by under-population.
  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbours lives on to the next generation.
  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbours dies, as if by overcrowding.
  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.
    [from Wikipedia]

So [Alex] decided to make his clock LED matrix follow these rules, with lit pixels representing life. Every minute, on the minute, the time is displayed. But as soon as it is displayed, the rules take over, and the display disintegrates, following the rules of the Game of Life. It makes for an very interesting display that’s just waiting to be scaled up to a larger size!

He’s done a great job writing it up on his blog, and has included his code as well — so if you’re so inclined, take a look! If not, stick around after the break to see the clock in action.

12 thoughts on “Game Of Life Clock

    1. Hmmm, a bit too negative there. Helpful tip – shoot your video and then immediately watch it, make note of problems, then shoot it again. Repeat until satisfied. Very rarely is my first take the one I use.

    2. I smell a troll. If mjrippe want’s to brainstorm about some code, or hardware, I’m down. Consider that I made a video and a page for people that might want to do something similar, not for a video art project. I didn’t feel like spending the time to perfect, write, re-write, and practice what I would say for a video. I did not think any window-dressing was needed on the site, to get may point across either. People like that, make me not want to post at all. It was not posted to get my voice cadence critiqued (although critiques about the ACTUAL CONTENT are more than welcome), it was posted to share. Get off your high horse mjrippe.

  1. This reminds me of our RGB-LED-Matrix cabinet, showing some patterns. It also has a mode with the game of life where green lights show cells coming to life, blue ones are living since the last step. Red lights show cells dying. You can get an impression by looking our Youtube video . Matrix stuff begins at 3:42, game of life on it at 5:00.

  2. I worked on the firmware for this life game from over a decade ago, and came up with a nice hack for the clock mode: display the life computation backwards, so that instead of starting with the digital display of the current time and eroding it with the computation, you start with (apparently) random debris that purposefully coalesces into a perfect display of the current time.

      1. I only used one extra byte to implement the hack.
        I probably only really needed 4 bits, but I used an entire byte.
        It’s a nice hack that runs a thermodynamically irreversible process in reverse!

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