New in June 2004: A new version of EdgeOfChaos is available that can use file and save images (when run as an application). The new version requires Java 1.4 or higher. See Page 7 of this site for more information.

Cellular Automata
And the Edge of Chaos

A computer follows rules. At each moment, the rules determine exactly what the computer will do next. We say that a computer is an example of an automaton. Other, simpler examples of automata also exist. (Automata is the plural of automaton.) These more abstract rule-following devices can be easier to study computers, and they can be interesting to study in their own right. One type of automaton that has received a lot of attention is cellular automata. For one thing, they make pretty pictures. For another, they are related to exciting new ideas such as artificial life and the edge of chaos. Here is a fairly simple example:


An applet showing a cellular automaton
would appear here
in browsers that support Java.


If you would like to learn more about cellualr automata, here are some pages of information and Java applets that you can look at. (The most interesting things here are the applet on page 6, and the newer version of the same applet on page 7, which can make some awfully nice pictures, such as this one (117 kilobytes).)

  1. About Cellular Automata
  2. Instructions for using the HandCraftCA Applet
  3. The HandCraftCA Applet
  4. The Edge of Chaos
  5. Instructions for using the EdgeOfChaosCA Applet
  6. The EdgeOfChaosCA Applet
  7. Version 2 of the EdgeOfChaosApplet, for Java 1.4 or higher.
  8. Bibliography

The source code for the applets used on these pages is available here:


If you would like to see more of my Java applets, visit Eck's Java Page. To learn more about Java, have a look at my free, on-line Introductory Java Textbook. You can also check out my introductory computer science book, The Most Complex Machine.
David J. Eck
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva, NY 14456
E-mail: eck@hws.edu