Logic Gates And Powered Rails

May 1st, 2011 | Posted in Current Events, Education, Entertainment, Games / Contests, Misc Assorted General Stuff, Programming, Software | 2 Comments

One of the things that I like about Minecraft is something in the game called “Redstone”.  In game it’s an ore that you can obtain by mining.  When you mine a block of it, you get Redstone dust.  The special thing about this stuff is that it can be used to make an in game equivalent of electrical circuits.  These circuits are based on the use of basic logic gates such as the logical AND, OR, NOT, NAND, XOR and so on.

It’s used for everything from a simple circuit to switch the direction of a curve in a minecart railway to creating incredibly complex devices and computer circuits.  I saw one video in which somebody built a 16 bit Arithmetic Logic Unit in game that actually works.  Because it’s in-game it’s slow but the super cool part about it is that it works.

I’ve always had an interest in electronics in general and computer logic circuits in particular.  Back in the 1970’s I used to read everything I could find on the subject.  The unfortunate part is that I didn’t have money to actually buy parts and build circuits to test and play with.  This budgetary problem still exists today.

Minecraft and Redstone has changed that.  I recently started a test world, one where I’m playing with the difficulty level set to “peaceful” (which means no monsters will spawn) specifically so that I could experiment with Redstone and learn how to use it to build working logic circuits that would accomplish some in game task.

Partly I did this because I figure I’ll want to use it in my “real” game that I play on the hardest difficulty level and partly just because it’s absolutely fascinating to work with low level basic logic like this in a way that I wish I could have done 40 years ago.

Of course, it’s no easy task learning how to think out the logic of a task in a sufficiently basic, step by step elemental way that is required to be able to make even the simplest circuit work.  There’s been more than one time that I thought I was going to need a hair loss product or two because I was tearing my hair out (well, figuratively speaking that is).

You would think that it would be fairly simple to make something like an arrangement where three tracks come together and wanting the ability to not only select your destination before leaving, but have the system not only detect your arrival on returning and switch the track to send you to the right place.  In fact is NOT that simple at all.

Earlier this week I spent a full three days trying to figure out that exact problem.  Thankfully I finally did it and now when the time comes I will be able to use that circuit in my “real” game.

Then in a recent game update, Powered Rails were introduced.  They are intended to take the place of minecart boosters used for a long time that take advantage of some bugs in the program.  Since It’s been stated that eventually those bugs will be fixed I figured it only made sense to start working out how to do things with the new powered rails instead of using the boosters that rely on program bugs.

That has been every bit as challenging as what I’ve been doing with Redstone circuits.  Even more so because the rails are powered by Redstone and therefore they affect and are affected by nearby Redstone circuits.  It’s been quite a challenge to get things arranged so that both items work the way they’re supposed to.

This challenge has been complicated by a series of program crashes that started the very day I started trying to use the powered rails which tells me that on top of everything else they have bugs in them as well and it’s playing hell with my efforts to do anything with them.

I’m hoping now that the 1.6 update will come out soon and that those bugs will have been part of what it addresses.

[tags]minecraft, redstone, logic circuits, computer logic, electronics, binary logic, electronic logic, minecart rails, rails, powered rails, bugs, program bugs, update, program update[/tags]

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2 Responses to “Logic Gates And Powered Rails”

  1. Pedro Deya on May 17th, 2011 at 3:42

    My son is addicted to Minecraft – I’ll tell him about Redstone! Thanks.

  2. Based on what I’ve learned about Minecraft since I started playing last month I would say that if your son is addicted to Minecraft the odds are pretty good that he already knows about Redstone