Golly – exploring cellular automata like the Game of Life

Last Updated on June 23, 2023

Golly is a free and open source cross-platform application for exploring Conway’s Game of Life and many other types of cellular automata. A cellular automaton is a model studied in computer science, mathematics, physics, complexity science, theoretical biology, and microstructure modeling.

The Game of Life is an example of a set of rules often known as a “cellular automation”. Life takes place on an arbitrary-sized grid of square cells. Each cell has two states “dead” or “alive”. The state of each cells changes from one “generation” to the next only on the state of its eight immediate neighbors.

The British mathematician John Conway invented the Game of Life in the late 1960s. He chose rules that produced the most unpredictable behaviour.


I haven’t had time to research how many distributions carry a package for the current release of Golly (at the time of writing it’s version 3.3, released in October). There’s a package in the AUR for users of Arch and Arch-based distros, but it’s version 3.2.

The developer provides 32 and 64-bit binaries for both Linux and Windows. There’s also support for Mac OS 10.6 to 10.8 and 10.9+. The software also runs on FreeBSD, OpenBSD, iOS, and Android.

The 64-bit Linux binary wouldn’t start on my system as it’s built against libpng12, which wasn’t present on my system. But that was easily fixed.

Next page: Page 2 – In Operation

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – Introduction / Installation
Page 2 – In Operation
Page 3 – Summary

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