MINECRAFT, the Swedish indie video game that became a global phenomenon, now houses two working memory chips.
The original object of the game was survival, but in three short years, during which it has broken out of its PC confines to conquer mobile, and most recently the PS3, it has shown demonstrable evolution within its environment, culminating with user smellystring creating a working chip with 1kb of memory within the environment of the game.
In terms of capacity, its equivalent to a Sinclair ZX80 microcomputer, though in terms of scale inside the game environment its more like something of the Charles Babbage era.
The steampunk affair uses pistons that trigger the arrangement of blocks, with clear blocks representing 0s and solid blocks representing 1s. The pistons are triggered by Redstone, an in-game element that is capable of powering constructions such as barriers and engines.
Confused yet? Well, try this on for size. Even though the drive is only capable of storing 1kb of data, it requires 855kb of real world memory, making it perhaps the most inefficient chip in history. However, it's important to point out that this is a massive achievement, made on a vanilla server, demonstrating that this kind of feat is possible using the original Minecraft game with no add-ons, adaptations or enhancements.
Since smellystring announced his first chip, a second user, TheOJJ has introduced a 4kb version. And this could be just the start. With enough time and dedication, users could create entire computers within the Minecraft world. The more powerful they become, the more applications they could have within the online world.
Eventually computers within Minecraft could be able to play Minecraft, within Minecraft. That process has already begun.
From there, the next stage might be robots, or even artificially intelligent in-game life. And at that point things get a bit existential. But if the thought of being a product of The Matrix scares you, let's put things in perspective. The 1kb drive could store little more than a shopping list. And no one has actually worked out how to program it with real-world data anyway.
So it's pretty safe to say you can put plans for your world within a world within a world on hold for now. µ
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