In the early 50′s Nils Barricelli utilised the Institute of Advanced Study’s computer to run programs that mapped the foundations self-reproducing entities simulated entirely by numbers.
A cycle of 512 generations of self-reproducing algorithmic organisms evolved in a numerical universe of 5 kilobytes. Representing genes as on/off states in pixels – his organisms appeared as self-organized textural patterns contained within autonomous shapes.
According to the link above, Barricelli published a paper in which “base-pair interactions of DNA nucleotides would be used to interpret commands, compute and run algorithms in their native wetware environments and then output to a more standard hardware environment.”
“For this particular collection of greyscale patterns, Ferriss used code written in the popular programming language Processing that employed two techniques: pixel sorting and cellular automata. Starting with a photograph of a wave crashing against a craggy shore, Ferriss first used code to sort the pixels from brightest to darkest (his program was a tweaked version of one written by fellow artist Jeff Thompson). Then Ferriss made a greyscale version of that image and sorted its pixels again. At this point in the process, the original ocean scene is totally unrecognizable, having been rearranged pixel by pixel into a bouquet of monochrome diamonds.”