64-bit And A Display: Minecraft Computers 10 Years Later

Some people build their own computer to play games, while others play games to build their own computer. Minecraft is the prime candidate for the latter, and while you can certainly arrange the blocks to make them look like a computer, we’re of course talking about replicating the actual functionality of a CPU or parts thereof, and/or external components within the game. Many such creations have spawned in the decade since the first Minecraft-built ALU surfaced, and [Rockfarmor] built a 64-bit specimen to add to that list — and made a video to showcase it.

Instead of emulating a common architecture, [Rockfarmor] went for a more home-made approach, and re-used the architecture from an old school assignment (in Swedish) as basis. The result is a simple yet fully functional 64-bit CPU with 32 registers, 32kB main memory and a separate 16kB stack. The instruction set mostly contains ALU and branching operations, but also a few special opcodes to control an additional 64×64 pixel blocks, 64-color display — including drawing circles, lines, and color fills.

More details on the architecture can be found in its documentation and in an older video (with subpar audio circumstances unfortunately). An additional time-lapse video of the initial build is also available, and you will find all of them after break. To simplify development, [Rockfarmor] also wrote a desktop app to program the computer in assembly and upload it straight to the Minecraft version.

As with all computers built in Minecraft, the driving force is redstone, which essentially allows circuit design within the game, and [Rockfarmor]’s is no difference here. He also uses command blocks to avoid the laboriously and slow “wiring” required otherwise, turning it more into a “wireless redstone” circuit.

No doubt, purists will consider this cheating, but another angle would be to see it as Moore’s Law applied to Minecraft computers, considering the computer’s size and speed compared to the first Minecraft ALU. Or maybe as the equivalent of microcode in real-world CPUs? Or then, maybe we should just accept and embrace different options and preferences.

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Mary Sherman Morgan, Rocket Fuel Mixologist

In the fall of 1957, it seemed as though the United States’ space program would never get off the ground. The USSR had launched Sputnik in October, and this cemented their place in history as the first nation in space. If that weren’t bad enough, they put Sputnik 2 into orbit a month later.

By Christmas, things looked even worse. The US had twice tried to launch Navy-designed Vanguard rockets, and both were spectacular failures. It was time to use their ace in the hole: the Redstone rocket, a direct descendant of the V-2s designed during WWII. The only problem was the propellant. It would never get the payload into orbit as-is.

The US Army awarded a contract to North American Aviation (NAA) to find a propellant that would do the job. But there was a catch: it was too late to make any changes to the engine’s design, so they had to work with big limitations. Oh, and the Army needed it two days before yesterday.

The Army sent a Colonel to NAA to deliver the contract, and to personally insist that they put their very best man on the job. And they did. What the Army didn’t count on was that NAA’s best man was actually a woman with no college degree.

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Real-Life Raspi-Controlled Redstone Lamp

redstone-lamp

Minecraft fanatics keep finding impressive ways to bring 8-bit components into the real world, and [Chris Tompson’s] Redstone Lamp Replica is no exception. [Chris] wanted to extend his connection to the game world by not only replicating this block, but also by controlling its light-up effect when an in-game cube is lit.

The lamp is a product of the gang at Hive76, who worked together to develop a quick prototype using the Minecraft Python client pyCraft, an Arduino, a transistor and a temporary papercraft lamp mockup. Hive76 member [Kyle] pitched in to write the plugin for pyCraft, which listens for an on/off message and sets one of the RasPi’s GPIO pins accordingly. The hardware for the actual lamp was designed to smooth out the 8-bit quality into something a bit more precise. The result are laser-cut pieces of MDF with a zebra wood veneer laminated on top. The interior was finished off with amber cathedral glass and then the cube’s sides were glued together. The RasPi, PCB and LEDs fit inside, all snugly affixed together.

Swing over to the Hive76 project page for more details and links to the plugin, and see the video demonstration below. For another Minecraft-inspired real-life project, check out [Bill’s] take on the BatBox.

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Controlling A Raspberry Pi With Real Life Redstone

minepi

We’ve seen computers built in Minecraft out of redstone, the game’s version of electricity, circuits, and digital logic. We’ve even seen a few redstone contraptions controlling real-world devices. [Angus]’ build, though, takes things to a whole new level. He’s created a bridge between Minecraft circuits and their real life counterparts using a Raspberry Pi.

[Angus]’ build relies on a mod for Minecraft servers running as a Bukkit plugin. Blocks powered by redstone are labeled with an in-game sign, and messages regarding the state of a block are passed over the network using the MQTT protocol.

The hardware side of the build is a Raspberry Pi with a PiFace expansion board. With this setup, [Angus] can control LEDs on the PiFace by toggling Minecraft levers, or light up redstone lamps using the PiFace’s buttons.

If you’d like to try this out for yourself, you can grab the Bukkit plugin over on [Angus]’s git. Check out the video of the real life redstone in action after the break.

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