Matryoshka Computers: Minecraft Hardware

The inside of my PC also has pigs running around.

I’ll not apologise for posting another Minecraft video. Because it’s a thing of joy. Interrupting yet another late night playing the game (tonight I’m laying some nice flooring upstairs in my house, and checking out some newly discovered caves for much needed iron) was an email pointing us toward something that at least equals this morning’s Enterprise model. It’s a functioning 16-bit computer. Oh yes.

Now, for all I know he could be just making pretty red lines light up in random orders, because my understandings of the insides of a computer are on a parallel with my understandings of the workings of Kieron’s mind. But I rather suspect it’s for real. This looks extraordinary. Again, it’s been designed outside of the game and imported in – clearly to do it in-game would be a special kind of madness when importing options exist. But many hours have gone into refining it since, with many more hours planned. Have a look:

He’s going to make RAM for it? But, huh?

Okay universe, here’s your new goal: A computer built in Minecraft that can run Minecraft.

Subscribe to theinternetftw’s YouTube page for videos of his progression. Big thanks to Gabriel for pointing us this way.

106 Comments

  1. Meatloaf says:

    Well strap me down. That just happened.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      How about running it in a virtual machine that is implemented in a PostScript clone of Emacs, running on a simulated CPU written in JavaScript? For bonus points, the JavaScript has to run on a OS with a Linux kernel written in Malbolge! :D

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      I can’t imagine working that hard just to have emacs crash again.

    • steviesteveo says:

      Is it so much to ask for a computer that can run minecraft?

  2. JR says:

    I’mma let you finish Minecraft, but Dwarf Fortress had the best recursive computer of all time. Of all time!

    Here’s an example of one specific example (link to mkv25.net)
    and here’s a page of general principles for helping you build your own (link to df.magmawiki.com). DF players will scoff dismissively at this accomplishment because he did it himself, instead of having his dwarves do it for him, but put Urist McKanye out of your head – color me impressed!

  3. starclaws says:

    Are you listening pig?

  4. 4th Wall says:

    These type of in-game circut projects are always rather fun(and good practice) albeit a humongous waste of time.

    “A computer built in Minecraft that can run Minecraft.”

    Hah, you really don’t know much about computers.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      But I do seem to know something about jokes.

    • Jakkar says:

      Urge to acknowledge the viewer as part of a stage production.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Fucking OWNED

    • Tei says:

      Java is compiled in code that can only be run in a “Virtual Java Machine”. So you only need to make a “Java CPU” (CPU that run java bytecode following this specification link to java.sun.com ) to have something that runs java on ANYTHING, be this anything a computer made of electronics, steam, gears or minecraft reddust.

      Minecraft maybe “need” opengl, but probably the server version dont need that, or can be striped, so probably is possible to run Minecraft in a “Java CPU”+”Java Machine” built with minecraft reddust.

      I dont see what is the problem. If you can built logic gates and a clock generator, you can built everything else.

      If Minecraft dont emulate a big enough area, is possible to hack minecraft to force it simulate a bigger area, or maybe make the CPU multilevel.

    • brulleks says:

      Tei doesn’t need your jokes!

      I dread to think what kind of Shelley-esque creation he’s brewing up in his own version of the game…

    • Daave says:

      He got a job offer because of this.

    • Ziv says:

      @frenz0rz I so want to upvote that.

    • Pod says:

      @Tei:

      Blahblahblah; great.
      He only built an ALU, which is not A computer, but PART of a computer.

      If I have an engine I do not have a car.

    • nil says:

      We can do some back-of-the-envelope calculations pretty quickly to see if this is feasible. As mentioned, there are a number of Java processors. Let’s use JOP as an example, because it seems pretty small. The advertised gate count is about 11,000 for the core and 40,000 for memory. FPGAs are built with NAND gates; one of these in Minecraft is 2x2x1 blocks in size. To be conservative, we’ll add a block of padding in each dimension. This brings our core to 918,000 blocks in size. The Minecraft world is composed of 16x16x128-block chunks; circuits in chunks more than about 300 blocks away will not be simulated. If we stack our gates as high as possible, our core will have a footprint about 85 blocks a side.

      TL;DR: plenty of room.

      (I/O is outside the scope of this back-of-the-envelope scribbling)

  5. PureUncut says:

    Ultimate ultimate goal: Minecraft computer becomes self aware, followed promptly by our enslavement.

    • Noc says:

      Minecraft computer abandons war against humanity, too busy playing Minecraft.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Problem: By the time it has thought out its plan… veeeeery slowly… humanity, earth and the whole galaxy will be looong gone! ;)

  6. msarge says:

    Advanced circuits and whatnot are confusing.

  7. Mr Tk says:

    Don’t forgot the turing complete computer built in Dwarf Fortress.

    link to mkv25.net

    • Koozer says:

      Every new Minecraft post makes me feel an uncontrollable rage that noone recognises the bigger achievements in Dwarf Fortress, done without cheating and with considerable less effort than mining each block out by hand. Minecraft’s fun, sure, but megaprojects are just more fulfilling with bigger scope in Dwarf Fortress. Excuse me while I kick a cat out of a window and make a fine leather tunic from it.

    • Will Tomas says:

      Yes, but Minecraft looks awesome. Dwarf Fortress looks like ASCII. That’s really important, and why DF won’t get the mass praise Minecraft does – it’s too obtuse. With Minecraft you can see it, and you can walk in it. That’s far more important than just doing it.

    • Tei says:

      Both are good games. DF is a strategy game, so has not appeal to some people, and also his interface is a barrier for a lot of people. Minecraft have a more broad appeal, and has not the accesibility problem.

      Go back to the drawing board, and make a DF clone that can run in java inside a browser, and have cutesy graphics. You will see how this would be more popular than DF, but not as much as Minecraft.

      Is all easy if you remenber that quality != popularity.

      Also, theres a huge overlap, where the people that love Minecraft also love DF. The people talking about Minecraft may also love DF, but maybe don’t have something good to say about DF, because there are not “news” that deserve talking about DF. Other than “Stay the same”, “Is still awesome”.

    • Chris D says:

      I think the popularity of MineCraft vs Dwarf Fortress is probably a reflection on Minecraft starting with a good interface and adding features while Dwarf Fortress started with features and may someday have an interface.

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      You don’t even need to make a Dwarf Fortress clone. With perhaps very little persuasion Dwarf Fortress could be upgraded to support a nice graphics engine, probably as a bolt-on solution that would still allow ASCII as the default output.

      It is just a different view of the same data.

    • KillahMate says:

      @SheffieldSteel

      You mean like Stonesense?

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      Something like that, yeah, although it looks like it is in addition to the game interface rather than a replacement.

  8. Devan says:

    Amazing
    If Notch ever builds logic-gate blocks and other useful redstone conveniences like a block that allows two lines to cross without intersecting, feats like this could become much less time-consuming. Huge kudos to this guy for doing all that work. I can’t imagine how he’s planning to implement memory, or how the system is going to read assembly instructions (input them one at a time with redstone torches? Yikes)

    • empath says:

      There already is RAM implemented for minecraft, look for it on youtube.

  9. pkt-zer0 says:

    Can someone explain the game mechanics behind this thing? Redstone veins (or whatever) seem to light up when you place a torch next to them… but how do you make a NAND gate or similar?

  10. daleran says:

    Circuits actually aren’t too hard. I knew absolutely nothing about hardware or circuits before minecraft., now I actually built my own 8-bit NOR ram system for storing data. I plan on making a clock next that tracks the position of the sun in the sky. I’m now really surprised to how simple computers really are.

    • D says:

      Yes, basic computing with logic circuits is pretty easy. But the circuits you find in textbooks are a far shot from anything that exists in our modern computers. Consider that at this time, we’re at a point in computing speed where we’re being limited by the speed of light (compare the physical space between your RAM and CPU, with the speed of a CPU operation: link to wolframalpha.com ), and the way we’ve reached that limit is with complicated instruction pipelines, which result in (correct me if I’m wrong, I only have a passing interest) 60% of our CPU space dedicated to branch prediction (“durr last I was here, did I jump or no?”). Which is why the future is probably in symmetric multiprocessing (like CELL), which is also not simple stuff as far as I’m aware.

      Interesting project. How do you plan to sample the position of the sun?

  11. geldonyetich says:

    “Wow,” is an apt descriptor.

    I’ll tell you one thing: one obnoxious Creeper would make for some nasty debug problems.

    • Jakkar says:

      My thoughts exactly. I was wondering if he has to hide somewhere far away when night falls and not even look at it, then tread so very lightly the following day, listening for the hiss..

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      Unless he uses peaceful mode like a big cheety cheaterton.

    • Tacroy says:

      That’s one of the things I really liked about this video – he’s definitely a player of real Minecraft, along with being a master ALU crafter. Notice how he closes all the doors behind himself, has several lit observation decks for spying on mobs from afar, and has torches scattered around like they’re confetti? The parts of his base that aren’t the big honking ALU are basically identical to the setup most veteran Minecraft players wind up using.

    • Tacroy says:

      Oh yeah also he’s got a pair of well-used swords in his inventory (better watch out, they love breaking in the middle of combat) and has taken some damage to his armor :)

      I was originally going to say that he’s got to have used INVedit, but after thinking about it I would kinda believe him if he said he didn’t – redstone ore is ridiculously common right now, and the only other materials he would be using in bulk are wood and basic blocks so it’s not completely out of the question.

  12. Aon says:

    Are you listening pig?

  13. Pijama says:

    I suspect that if someone (or a company) created a game on the line of Minecraft and Dorf Fortress with a sweet graphics engine and an awesome interface allowing for spectacular gameplay, collective PC gaming would go crazy in an instant.

    :D

    • Jakkar says:

      Working on it, man.

    • The Hon. Reverend Fred Gherkin says:

      I’d be happy just for something along the line of Dorf Fortress with an awesome interface. Hell, maybe even a halfway decent interface.

    • mandrill says:

      @Jakkar, Keep us posted. I’m one of those people who loves the idea of DF but can’t get past the interface. I want to be able to play a game intuitively (like Minecraft) rather than have to read reams of text to even get a game started, let alone how to tell different elements of the landscape apart.

      I find myself wondering if it would be possible to generate a world in DF and then import it into Minecarft (once Biomes are added ofc.) Methinks Notch should be talking to the DF boys at some point.

    • BSG11 says:

      I sense a disturbance in the Force, as if dozens of LEGO employees just facepalmed and went “Holy shit, why didn’t we think of this first? We should totally do it.”

    • Ergates says:

      I find myself wondering if it would be possible to generate a world in DF and then import it into Minecarft
      What, like this?

  14. OBNOXOUS OTTER says:

    It’s obviously set on peaceful, which is a setting that means no monsters spawn.

    • warsarge says:

      I’m not so sure – it’s dawn when he starts, and I’m pretty sure one of the first things you can hear is a zombie being fried by the sun

  15. The Hon. Reverend Fred Gherkin says:

    Building a working computer over such vast distances makes me think of I Have No Mouth’s AM.

    THERE ARE 387.44 CUBIC METERS OF REDSTONE WIRES ON DIRT AND COBBLESTONE BLOCKS THAT FILL MY MINE. IF THE WORD AUTISM WAS ENGRAVED ON EACH NANOANGSTROM OF THOSE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF CUBIC METERS etc etc

    • kalidanthepalidan says:

      Yeah it kind of reminds me of old SciFi books I’ve read (Asimov, etc) where they write about these huge computers taking up massive amounts of land. Pretty interesting to actually visualize it physically now instead of just in my mind.

  16. MD says:

    As I said elsewhere:

    That is amazing. And don’t let’s start on the ‘waste of time/effort/intelligence’ thing. He’s creating something amazing, excercising his mind, entertaining/inspiring thousands of others, and probably having a great time in the process.

    There seems to be a refreshing shortage of ‘too much time on your hands’ comments here, but unfortunately I’d be surprised if it lasted long.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Well, you just made the first one. How ironic. ^^

    • MD says:

      If by ‘made the first one’ you mean ‘said the exact opposite’, then sure. Irony galore.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Actually, comment number three was some nitwit saying exactly that, amongst other nitwitish things.

  17. Loke says:

    This remind me of a guy who made a binary calculator in Dwarf Fortress, using water and flood gates.

  18. Max says:

    “Ya listening, pig?”

  19. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    But can it play Speedball 2?

  20. DoucheMullet says:

    Man, imagine if this site actually talked about something besides minecraft.

  21. Fox says:

    Actually if you listen close from the 0:23 mark, you can hear what I’m pretty sure is a skeleton burning in the rising sunlight.

  22. pupsikaso says:

    About time.

  23. Thiefsie says:

    I love the way his lisp reminds me of the other nerd on tTe Big Bang Theory

  24. Angryinternetman says:

    I dont get this. Could someone explain: Did the pig listen?

  25. Logan says:

    Can someone explain how exactly a compiler would work in this fashion? I think my imagination might be limited when it comes to Minecraft computers.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Early computers didn’t have compilers, you input programs directly in machine code.

      Grace Murray Hopper developed the first high-level languages and compilers.
      link to en.wikipedia.org

  26. Robert Yang says:

    MINECRAFT IS GOING RAMPANT, GET OUTTA THERE

  27. Muzman says:

    Although you really wouldn’t want to make one this complex, this seems like a really good way to introduce kids (and anyone really) to electronics and computing concepts.
    There’s some modeling programs already for doing that sort of thing, but they don’t have sheep.

    (bit -ar ar- surprised he didn’t impliment switches for the inputs from the start. This may be difficult for some reason I don’t grasp)

    • Clovis says:

      I would have enjoyed my Electrical Engineering class a lot more if I could have created the circuits in Minecraft. Build a simple circuit that lights up torches in so an so pattern based on which switch is flipped. Wheee!!

    • Matt says:

      Breadboarding wasn’t cool enough?

  28. Lukasz says:

    Reminds me a bit of that xkcd strip.

    Cool stuff.

  29. Dinger says:

    What makes you think he imported it? I’m sure he drew up a design, but the flat chunk that he carved out shows evidence of landfill (cobblestone filling in some gaps), and the transitions from rock to dirt are not even.

    My disappointment with redstone circuitry is on the output end. We need water/lava sluices and trapdoors.

  30. Harlander says:

    With the huge structures, logic-gate computers and other stuff in Minecraft, and the similar things and megaprojects in Dwarf Fortress, I find myself becoming blase about the achievements.

    When I first saw this sort of thing my reaction was “Oh wow, so cool!”

    Further exposure to the wonders degraded it to “Hey, pretty impressive.”

    I’m currently at the ‘briefly raised eyebrow’ stage.

    • JellyfishGreen says:

      Heh. Learning to cope with a torrent of awesome. As a previous commenter said, “If you can see your construction from space, that’s average size for Minecraft.”

  31. Demon Beaver says:

    I wish there was a way to recolor blocks… that way we could make a monitor ingame

    • Muzman says:

      Make a gigantic two tone one out of opening and closing doors

    • mandrill says:

      The best way to do it would be a wall of three different colours of glass (not available yet) with torches behind them and doors in between. Or simply redstone torches that are switched on and off by signals from the processor.

      An easier problem is a keyboard (though it would still be huge) using pressure plates.

  32. Sup says:

    Holy crapshit, and it looks like he did it in adventure mode

  33. Lightbulb says:

    “Ya listening pig?” Is the new meme of the week. :)

  34. Mike says:

    I think someone commented this, but in the original Reddit thread he got offered contract work with an MMO firm in Canada. Not that the theory behind this is all that hard for an average student, I think it was the passion and being arsed to actually do it. Quite brilliant.

  35. Gremmi says:

    What if we are just simulation inside a larger game of minecraft? eh? eh?

    (captcha was ‘eaty’ which made me giggle)

  36. Rane2k says:

    And thus, SKYNET was born.

    … am I supposed to start stockpiling weapons and ammunition now?:-)

  37. Fillem says:

    Man, I can’t even seem to assemble a compass. And that’s using existing recipes. :(

  38. Fillem says:

    Also, most of the video didn’t make any sense to me at all. It DID scare me though.

    “I don’t know if anything like this has been done before..”

    Well, maybe in Wargames. And we know how that ended.

    Also wondering when Notch watches these videos, he starts to sweat profusely and starts thinking “What have I done!!!!”

    • Clovis says:

      In the case of someone building a 16-bit computer, I think he planned it. He definitely intended for redstone to be used in circuits; he blogged about that once. Pretty much any time a system is able to complete the basic circuits to be Turing complete, some geek is going to build a computer out of it. You can consider it a Rule 34 for building computers.

    • Tei says:

      Not only has ben done before, but is a normal practice ( rule 33, if you wish ).

      Heres is a Pong game made in Garrys Mod.

  39. SpinalJack says:

    He sounds like Barry Kripke from Big Bang Theory only more nerdy

  40. TeeJay says:

    But will it run Dwarf Fortress?

  41. Navagon says:

    When I saw all the redstone possibilities I knew it was going to get out of hand.

  42. Soobe says:

    So he’s built a computer and now wants to add a compiler so people can write software for it?

    That’s right I’ll say it:

    He needs DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS!

  43. Stuart Walton says:

    When he gets round to RAM I think he’ll come across the solution to his 16bit bus problem. The logic used to store and recall bits from memory could be utilised to convert his parallel bus into a serial bus. He could reduce it to as little as 2 wires, a control bit and a data bit. It would be quite slow so I’d suggest using 2 data wires, one for the odd bits and another for the even bits.

    Further optimisation of these circuits could involve the sending/receiving of data on control bit change (rather than just when it’s on). This operates at the same speed (8 ticks) regardless of the data but the ALU speed varies (I think between 2 to 32 ticks) as is has to handle bit overflow so the serial bus would have to be set to wait until a pair of output bits are decided before sending them.

    I may try making my own serial bus but first I have to get the basics down, my colossus needs blinking red eyes, so that’s a good start.

  44. The Colonel says:

    Minecraft computer inherits earth and starts procedurally generating extra land populated by pigs and creepers until the earth and sun create a binary system where half of the planet is covered in desert and the other half snow.

  45. man-eater chimp says:

    Impressive as it is, his actual house needs some work… not cosy enough.

  46. terry says:

    Pigs sapping ma ALU!

  47. panther says:

    Awesome stuff!

  48. FunkyBadger says:

    A computer built in Minecraft that can run Minecraft.

    Then we all fall into The Gap. Well, the spiders are giving me The Fear already, so why not?

  49. cxseven says:

    We need a reddust torch-based display panel device, at which point we can set about interfacing OpenGL with it.

    With iron doors opening and closing, maybe we could even do multiple colors.

  50. OmNomNom says:

    Today, a 16 bit ALU. Tomorrow, Gentoo!