Gliders are the key to the virtual computers. They can be used to carry information because they can move. Imagine groups of eight of them traveling from one part of a big space to another. Now imagine that some of them are missing. The ones that are present can be though of as "one" bits. Those that are absent can be thought of as "zeros."

This glider gun was invented by Bill Gosper and others at the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab in the late sixties. They had heard that Conway felt that computers could be built in the Game of Life if a glider gun could be found. To work out the details of the gun, the MIT group wrote macros in TECO, a predecessor of EMACS.

In addition to the glider gun there is a glider eater. It survives a collision with a glider. The glider doesn't. Conway showed how it was possible to build digital logic in the Game of Life. However, his circuits all required an enormous playing field, one thousands of times bigger than the one shown here. The essential ideas, though, can be shown on a smaller playing field if we use a different set of rules.

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Brian Silverman
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