A while ago, the Make: magazine people told the world about a neat little circuit board kit that plays a four-by-four version of Conway’s Life. The kit’s made by Dropout Design, one of the front-runners in the recent nerd-craze for LED-lit disco dance floors.
Four-by-four Life is kind of like four-square Tic-Tac-Toe, but the boards can be linked together at the edges to make a larger playfield - and you could presumably use long wires to link the edges of your playfield to each other for some good old toroidal wraparound action.
The docs (PDF) don’t explain how the cells actually get populated in the first place, but this is the sort of thing that I presume they’ve, you know, thought of.
A more serious problem is that making a reasonable-sized playfield would get expensive pretty quickly. A mere 64-by-64-cell field would cost more than $US2500.
Those of us without the money to cover a wall with Life boards may prefer to try the disturbingly complete Mirek’s Cellebration, which plays Life and just about every other cellular automaton anyone’s thought of, probably including the rules which will turn out to govern the behaviour of quarks.
(Note also that the Life “Glider” is the Universal Hacker Emblem. I’m not entirely sure that I’d want to be represented by something that tears off in a straight diagonal line to nowhere until it dies, but the Glider certainly is an excellent nerd shibboleth.)
This can be used to devastating effect in both games. Create an R pentomino in either one, and you’ll be rolling in herbs in the first game, and turning the entire population of an area into wet sucking sounds in the second.
Anybody know of any other hidden Lifes?