Life was developed by John Conway, a British mathematician. It
was popularized by Martin Gardner in the October 1970 issue of
Scientific American. It is hard to describe what Life is. It can be
called a game, except that you don't play against it. It plays itself.
Life is its own unique universe. It has its own rules and its own
The Life playing field or "space" is an infinite grid of squares
like a checkerboard. Each square is called a "cell", and each cell can
be on or off. You start the action by "seeding" the universe with a
start pattern of on and off cells. There are rules to follow in order
to proceed to the next generation. Each cell has eight neighbors, four
at the edges and four at the corners. The fate of each cell is decided
by the number of its neighbors that are on. The rules of Life are as
These three rules are applied to each and every cell whether it is
on or off. Apply these rules to a start pattern, and you will get
another pattern. Apply the rules again, and you will proceed to a
third pattern, and so on. Every time the rules are applied to a
pattern a new "generation" or "tick" has been produced.
Since the rules are fixed the outcome is fixed for any given starting pattern. None the less, it is not usually possible to predict what will happen to a start pattern after ten generations, for example, without actually calculating every generation in between. This makes Life a lot like some people believe our universe to be: predestined and yet unpredictable.
It is possible to play Life on a checkerboard or another grid of some kind, but this is very tedious and prone to mistakes.
The computer is perfect for playing Life. With this program,
there are many advantages over playing by hand. For one, speed. All
of the actual routines that calculate new patterns are written in
Assembly Language for the fastest possible code. In addition this program
allows a playing area of 320 by 182 cells. This allows for quite large
and complicated life forms. In addition, if you were to play on a
checkerboard, you would be unable to backtrack to see what patterns led
to what. This is because a given pattern may have any number of
predecessors. But with this program, it is possible to record each
pattern as it evolves.