If you’re a parent of “Minecraft Generation” kids, you might think your kids spend too much time playing Minecraft and watching YouTube videos about Minecraft.  On the other hand, you may know Minecraft provides some great educational opportunities. But did you know Minecraft learning just might extend to building a whole (virtual) computer inside the game? These Minecraft machines actually can do a lot of the same cool stuff real computers do. 

The computer in the video above functions just like a 16-bit computer. It has 256 bytes of ROM, 32 bytes of RAM, and a processor. The Minecraft material known as “redstone” provides the means to transmit the basic on/off (binary) signal.

Believe it or not, building virtual computers within Minecraft is a phenomenon that’s been going on for a while. But updates and mods are making it easier than it used to be. And of course there are YouTube tutorials and Minecraft Wikis that give step-by-step instructions.

If you want a little help with your Minecraft computer building, there’s a mod called OpenComputer. OpenComputer provides building blocks for a computer—things like computer cases, switches, and storage devices.

And if you’re up for starting from scratch, you can go to Minecraft Gamepedia for a tutorial: “Most computers are made of redstone, torches, and repeaters leading into sticky pistons or redstone lamps. They are controlled using a series of buttons, levers, pressure plates, etc. Alternatively, in versions such as Pocket Edition, redstone is very limited. Using sand/gravel and signs might be a better choice.”

If your kids enjoy learning from YouTube tutorials, there are several that explain how to make a computer inside Minecraft. Here’s a tutorial that explains how to build an addition machine:

Wired wrote about virtual computers in games and listed some examples of virtual computers in games besides Minecraft. There’s a complete 8-bit programmable computer in the game Dwarven Fortress, a calculator in LittleBigPlanet, and logic gates in MineSweeper.

If your kid is interested in building computers (there’s nothing bad about aiming for an electrical engineering degree, right?), messing around with virtual machines in Minecraft and other games just might be a great place to practice some skills.

This article was written by

Linda learned to play video games as a way to connect with her teenaged kids, and then she learned to love video games for their own sake. At Pixelkin she wrangles the business & management side of things, writes posts as often as she can, reaches out on the social media, and does the occasional panel or talk. She lives in Seattle, where she writes, studies, plays video games, spends time with her family, consumes vast quantities of science fiction, and looks after her small cockapoo. She loves to hear from people out there. You can read more about her at her website, Linda Breneman.com or her family foundation's website, ludusproject.org.