Asynchronous updating cellular automata

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The rules continue to be applied repeatedly to create further generations.

Conway was interested in a problem presented in the 1940s by mathematician John von Neumann, who attempted to find a hypothetical machine that could build copies of itself and succeeded when he found a mathematical model for such a machine with very complicated rules on a rectangular grid.

Many different types of patterns occur in the Game of Life, including still lifes, oscillators, and patterns that translate themselves across the board ("spaceships").

Some frequently occurring examples of these three classes are shown below, with live cells shown in black, and dead cells shown in white.

The popularity of Conway's Game of Life was helped by its coming into being just in time for a new generation of inexpensive minicomputers which were being released into the market.

The game could be run for hours on these machines, which would otherwise have remained unused at night.

Research on cellular automata that are truly asynchronous has been limited mostly to trivial phenomena, leaving issues such as computation unexplored.Conway chose his rules carefully, after considerable experimentation, to meet these criteria: The earliest interesting patterns in the Game of Life were discovered without the use of computers.The simplest static patterns ("still lifes") and repeating patterns ("oscillators" - a superset of still lifes) were discovered while tracking the fates of various small starting configurations using graph paper, blackboards, physical game boards (such as Go) and the like.In this respect, it foreshadowed the later popularity of computer-generated fractals.For many, Life was simply a programming challenge: a fun way to use otherwise wasted CPU cycles.

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