Core Wars

Thursday, June 19, 2008 – 10:41 PM

So Chris just sent me a link to It was sort of a spin off from tonight’s ALT.NET Seattle dinner. This includes some scans of the original Scientific American article from ’84. I remember my father bringing a copy of the article home and he and I talking about writing an implementation. Core Wars is an interesting game, a bit like Life where competitors build programs using a relatively simple assembly like language. The programs inhabit a memory code and move through it hunting for other programs and attempting to destroy them. The last program still running is considered the winner.

I wrote one for my BBC Micro in 6502 8 bit assembler when I was about 16. Not sure I ever actually finished it, I suspect women and beer got in the way, although I do remember it had some sort of UI in Teletext (250×240) mode so you could actually see your warrior code moving through memory. I had no knowledge of compilers or interpreters at the time so my implementation was very buggy and probably quite ugly.

Core Wars was one of three big hobby projects I had at the time, the other’s being calculating Mandelbrot set boundaries and N-body models (star and planetary systems).  I’m sort of tempted to go back and write an implementation of one of these today. I could probably run an N body simulation with thousands of stars in real time when back in the day doing half a dozen seemed a stretch. But then my cell phone is better spec’ed than the BBC Micro.

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