| The Cellular Automata of John von Neumann
The cellular automata of John von Neumann
The views of John von Neumann (1903-1957) on cellular automata are reported in the Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata (University of Illinois Press, Urbana and London), a book edited by Arthur W. Burks in 1966. This is a collection of tape-recorded lectures, incomplete manuscripts and drafts authored by von Neumann in the period 1948-1956, which Burks completed, reorganized and commented after the death of the great mathematician. Probably, the detailed plans for the implementation of cellular automata given in that book were only the first step towards a general theory of systems capable of self-reproducing and evolving. Unfortunately, those stupendous studies could not be continued and developed to the extent foreseen by the author because of his premature death.
We can view the cellular automata of von Neumann also as elementary examples of parallel computers. This means that we must consider von Neumann not only the inventor of serial computers - such as the common personal computers - but also of parallel computers, whose thechnology has not yet progressed very much.
In the book mentioned above, of particular importance are the notes on structural and behavioral complexity as well as the concept of universal constructing machine (or universal constructor), which parallels and extends the concept of universal computing machine (or universal Turing machine) advanced by Alan Turing in 1936.