My story: when I was 12 years old (I have 13) I was watching a TV documentary about artificial life and showed the game of life. And I said: cool game Im going to play it and then i meet golly and these forums and then Im making this topic
Well submit your story
In the last chapter he talked about The Game of Life and my interest grew from there.
After some computer changes and new responsibilities I stopped frequently really doing anything but kept passively following LifeNews. Downloaded Golly in 2008-ish for a test run, lost it in a computer crash, redownloaded in 2011 and I'm likely to be here to stay now.
Then some time in the early 90s I read "The Recursive Universe" by Poundstone, which outlines the original proof of universality. That's when I realised how much depth there is to it.
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Pointless Tangential Reminiscences on Computer Hardware and Software in 1980 Our computer was a "TRS-80 Model 1 Level II", with 16K of RAM -- the Level 1 had had 4K. This was long before IBM PC clones; TRS stood for "Tandy/Radio Shack", one of many competitors in the strange new home-computer playing field. The source code for Kitsz's Life programs was printed in the magazine -- both the assembly instructions and the BASIC code for the support program. This was a fairly standard way of communicating programs; people got a lot of practice typing code in from magazine listings. Initially the alternative was a rather unreliable cassette player, which took a couple of minutes to load a 16K program, when nothing went wrong... sometimes it seemed easier just to type a program in again. A year or two later we upgraded to 48K (maxing out the two-byte addressing system, since 16K was needed for the BASIC interpreter in ROM, plus video memory and suchlike) -- and a dual disk drive, which stored 73K on a single disk. It was mighty hard to fill up one of those disks, we thought. I suppose this was partly because word processing hadn't really been thought of yet, at least not for the TRS-80 which didn't get lowercase letters until the Model 3 (or a custom upgrade was possible -- the main problem was that Tandy had decided to save money by having only seven-bit bytes in the video memory). Our first printer did have lowercase letters, but no descenders, so g's and p's and such were printed way high up on the line, and it printed on three-inch-wide paper tape. _80 Microcomputing_ magazines are all archived online nowadays, and here's the June 1980 issue featuring Life: http://archive.org/details/80-microcomputing-magazine-1980-06 Might be worth a look if you're interested in ancient computing history: there are many places where the implication is that 16K is quite spacious and 48K is downright huge... My father spent his working career in the 1960's and 1970's programming mainframes for a big government institution in Albany, NY, and for a good while anyway, he had to do everything with 4K of RAM plus those big 10.5-inch magnetic tape reels. Plenty of storage there, probably around 128 bytes per inch and no shortage of tape -- but the seek times weren't too good.
As far as actual Life investigations go, I seem to recall I got about as far as rediscovering pulsars. All random experimentation, no thought of doing systematic searches or anything. I got hold of Gardner's articles, tried out a few glider constructions, got a Gosper glider gun going, and was suitably impressed by it all -- especially the thought that somebody somewhere had enough computer power to run a quadratic-growth breeder pattern. Don't remember knowing anything about switch engines, though they were old news by that time.
So then I dropped the subject for a decade and a half. Spent a lot of time on computers investigating fractals, chaos theory, aperiodic tiles, and so on, but didn't think much about B3/S23 at all. I think I did write a Life simulator for every new computer I got my hands on, though, as a kind of speed test. Computers just kept on getting faster... but that's all I knew.
Imagine my surprise when I thought to look for Conway's Life on the Internet in early 2000. A whole new universe had opened up! XLife, MCell, and Life32 were available. Alan Hensel and David Bell and Jason Summers and others had put together collections of patterns that did incredible things -- enumerate primes (or prime pairs, or Fermat primes), simulate B3/S23 inside a larger Life pattern, emit gliders at every imaginable period, and so on. Achim Flammenkamp had his huge list of unlikely-looking objects that appeared, very very rarely, out of random soup. Mark Niemiec and Heinrich Koenig had improbably large databases of how to construct every conceivable still life and oscillator, and many inconceivable ones. Stephen Silver had put together an incredible lexicon, hinting at just how much Life I had allowed to pass me by. Huge flotillas of spaceships had been collected, with various new and old velocities -- spiders, darts*, and weekenders, oh my!
[Not to mention Corderships. I always did like Corderships. Everybody seems to forget about them most of the time.]
And that was just what I ran into first, the tip of the iceberg -- I've left many other people, pages, and programs unmentioned and unlinked, but most of these were there waiting for me in 2000. Something like a Cambrian Explosion of new Life forms had happened when I wasn't looking.
... Bear in mind that -- just for example -- up until 1995 nobody had managed to build an odd-period glider gun. A true-period gun, that is; a pseudo-period p15 gun showed up in 1992, when a 373x372 pattern was considered "HUGE". Then in the mid-90s Herschel tracks appeared on the scene; all kinds of new possibilities opened up, and now it's hard to imagine that an odd-period gun would ever have been something especially remarkable.
So I've been fascinated by Conway's Life ever since that sudden re-discovery in 2000-2001.
Guess this has been a long answer to a simple "how and when" question -- but I had two very different answers, separated by fifteen years that saw an incredible run of technological change, in Real Life as well as Conway's Life.
* Why on earth hasn't anybody been able to synthesize a dart yet, anyway? EDIT 12/4/2014: Must not have been trying hard enough: turns out it takes 25 gliders (so far).
One day I noticed Conway (and Mike Paterson, I think) messing around with Go pieces, but not playing Go.
It turned out they were tracking the "R" pentomino by hand, and had completed a hundred or so generations.
I was intrigued, and thought this looked like a task eminently suited to a computer. In the next day or two I wrote a quick-and-dirty Life program (in FORTRAN), and ran it on the IBM 360 at the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy (I'd written some utility code for them, so I got to use the computer in the afternoon if no-one else needed it).
The following day I dropped a stack of pages of printout on the table in front of Conway (200 generations, IIRC), and asked him if this agreed with what he had calculated. I don't remember now exactly what he called me, but I do remember that it wasn't polite!
Later on I extended the universe to something larger than one page of lineprinter output (which is what had constrained my initial run), and tracked the R pentomino for 1000 generations. If only I'd been a little more ambitious I might have found the final configuration (attained at generation 1103), and had my name enshrined in the annals of Life. Still, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that I wrote the first ever Life program.
Then, this year I got an android tablet. And since it's my first personal computer I finally could actually get into programming. So I did. I found among the apps an implementation of GoL and said "oh I remember this, cute" and forgot about it. Then I was curious about hacking, hacking lead me to virus writing, virus writing lead me to artificial life, artificial life brought me back to cellular automata, and I thought "So Conway's rule is somewhat disperse" and started checking other rules as well as Generations and Turmites, then I thought "oh well" and just a week ago I found a gif of Gospel's Glider Gun and I was truly amazed. I didn't know that kinda stuff could be done. Bit of research and I'm here, amazed at how many things can be done with such a simple rule (Life in Life, Turing Machines, Factories, DAMN!)
So yeah, quite a story huh?
http://zhurnalko.net/=sam/junyj-tehnik- ... -08--num11
There were earlier articles in Soviet magazines about the Game of Life though, in particular, in "Наука и жизнь" ("Science and Life"), the earliest reference dates back to August 1971.
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Most likely, it was in my junior high years, around the mid 1980s. I probably heard about it from someone via the first edition of Winning Ways.
I first encountered GoL in an math book. The book introduced a lot of math games and online resources, and Life was the most interesting among them. That's how I got to math.com's Life page. (With Alan Hensel's Java Applet. I still like the nostalgic white-background-dark-blue-cells design the most.) But... for some reason the pattern collections didn't open so I just played with the r-pentomino, squiggled some patterns, played with the queen bee shuttle. My interest dwindled eventually and did not play Life for some time until 2. Alan's pattern collection worked.
After rummaging my memories I think 3. Paul Callahan's applet also didn't work at that time. So squiggling patterns at math.com was my only degree of freedom. No wonder I got bored after not tooo long.
2. Viewing Alan Hensel's pattern collection.
Several months later at a friend's house I entered the pattern collection in Alan Hensel's applet... and it worked!!! And wow, that was pretty amazing! I think I saw these after Paul's Page but am not sure... My memory is a mess...
3. Paul Callahan's Life Miscellany
Paul's Page of Life Miscellany was on the first link of math.com so I got to look at it. I think the applet didn't work, so I'm not sure when I got to see that first. I was pretty amazed to see all those patterns in the catalog. Whenever I had time I got through some or all the patterns from acorn to zips. I first got to know the B-heptomino but didn't understand why a pattern with a 200 gen lifespan is considered an important methuselah until later. I got to know the twin bees and the bi-gun. I got to see all the complex p30 technology and constructions. The most interesting things were Paul Callahan's cherry pick of the email archives in 1990s. That p24 gun making dense glider streams were a total wonder. So was the stable glider reflector. So were the swan, snail and the spider.
There were other sites linked to yet another sites linked to math.com, but Paul's Page of Life Miscellany was the most inspiring and accessible. Also, all the seemingly more interesting sites had RLE encoding that I couldn't read. I was dying to figure out what those patterns were. That includes Jason Summer's Life Page and Dean Hickerson's Page.
4. Getting Life32 and Viewing RLE
I'm pretty sure this happened after 2 and 3. I did struggle to view all those really new cutting edge patterns in RLE. I searched the web to find Johan Bontes' Life32, only to find the download page not available. I also stumbled into Mirek's site which had and online RLE viewer. Although it was REALLY slow, that was the only source to view RLE, but I lost how to get to even that, so for a while I couldn't read RLE again. Then a miraculous thing happened. I'm not sure how, but a link to Johan Bontes' Life32 was available, and I downloaded the program right away. I never got access to that site again. And the program was magnificent. I loaded almost everything on Jason Summer's site and played with it.
I remember perturbing the debris of the Schick engine by hand for quite a long time and am proud to present that I manually discovered this rake:
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x = 15, y = 17, rule = B3/S23 4b2o$4ob2o$6o$b4o$11b4o$10bo3bo$14bo$6b2o2bo2bo$6b3o$6b2o2bo2bo$14bo$ 10bo3bo$11b4o$4b2o$b3ob2o$b5o$2b3o!
I knew something like gencols existed, but thought that was for the smart geeky computer experts, not me. Never thought I would be really into programming. (Although I'm not good at it.)
5. Finding Conwaylife
I can't remember how I got here, but I was really surprised to see all those high-tech things happening here. I can't remember what I saw specifically but I was pretty astonished, to see that I was really behind of time.
And Golly! This was really fast, even without hashing. After playing with it for some time, my eyes soon got adjusted to the even faster speeds. And the extensive functionality available was really nice.
I learned introductory C in high school and got the courage to learn Python. That's how I started scripting and doing things that the younger me thought only super computer experts would do.
Well, so that's how I started and got into Life!
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...and yep that's pretty much it.
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