Here is Richard Dawkins, introducing and demonstrating the program in Episode 2 of his 1991 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, "Growing Up in the Universe":
Darwin himself used the topic of
artificial selection as a "softening up" (in Dawkins' phrase) to introduce the concept of
natural selection in the first chapter of his 1859 book "On the Origin of Species,"
under the head of "Variation Under Domestication."
Within the simulated world of the game, arthromorphs are artificial animals which are represented as simple, insect-like drawings on the computer screen. Arthromorphs reproduce asexually, like stick insects and aphids. The simulation starts with a grid with a center square, surrounded by eight other squares. A simple "arthromorph," the "parent", appears in the center square, and then the program "evolves" eight offspring, which are then rendered in the squares surrounding the parent. The appearance of the insects is controlled by a chain of simple data structures that are meant to make us think of the genes that code for the characteristics of actual living creatures. The offspring are produced by copying the data structures of the parent, but the program then subjects the copy to a random mutation: a change in one of the numerical values for each "gene," or the duplication or elimination of a segment in the chain of genes making up the animal.
To play the simulation, simply click on the arthromorph you want to breed from. It moves to the center square, and eight new descendants will be displayed around it.
Notes on the translation