Block of the Week: Redstone

Switching it up!

Today's Block of the Week is probably the most interesting block in Minecraft (in your face, coal ore). Its complexity means it can be used in almost every part of the game - it's helpful for everything from stopping zombies wandering into your base, to acquiring enormous quantities of resources, or even building out real, working computers.

When redstone arrived in Minecraft in version Alpha 1.0.1, it was initially named "Red Ore Dust" and walking on it would break it. That annoyance was swiftly removed, and the mineral was renamed "Redstone" in patch 1.0.4. Its capabilities have expanded dramatically ever since - from the early addition of compasses and clocks, through dispensers and note blocks, to its more modern role in making potions last longer. Yum!

You'll most often find redstone deep below the surface, in the bottom 16 layers of the map. Normally it spawns in large veins of 4-8 blocks, each of which will drop 4-5 redstone and some experience when you mine it with an iron or better pickaxe. You'll get more with a fortune-enchanted pick, of course.

The ore itself will light up when clicked or touched, which means you can actually use it in conjunction with an Observer block as a pressure plate that detects contact with any side of the block - not just the top. Another thing some people might not know is that you can also "charge" redstone ore with light, by exposing it to brighter sources. It'll then emit that light level when activated until it's broken or deactivated.

Redstone itself can be placed in lines, which can carry signals between different blocks to form a circuit. These circuits can be as simple as a switch opening a door, or as complex as an in-game computer. Explaining in full how it works is probably too complex for a Block of the Week article, but we've got a great Redstone Handbook that'll tell you everything you need to know.

Instead, let me tell you a little bit about my first redstone creation. I hadn't been playing very long, but I had amassed a huge farm of wheat, which I would harvest and replant any time about half the field had fully grown. This quickly became a pain. So I unleashed my engineering skills on the problem. EAT THAT, PROBLEM!

I built a garden into the side of a hill, which - at the flick of a switch - would unleash a torrent of water across the farmland and carry all the resulting wheat and seeds down into a little receptacle at the bottom, from which I could pick it up. I was so proud, I encased the whole thing in glass, and gathered a crowd of my friends to watch me hit the switch for the first time.

I flipped the switch, and it worked! The water cascaded down the steps, just as planned, and I gathered a stack of wheat with no effort at all in a matter of moments. But then I realised... I had to replant all the seeds again. I had no choice but to smash my way back into the machine and manually sow every bit of farmland with new seeds by hand.

I guess this means that maybe the robots won't take our jobs after all. Or that I'm just a crummy engineer. One or the other, right?

Next Week: The exciting debut of the DUNCANBOT 6000, the robot we've replaced Duncan with to write us new articles! Well, as soon as we figure out how to stop him electrocuting Marsh. No, DUNCANBOT 6000, no! SOMEBODY PULL THE PLUG.

Written by
Duncan Geere

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