Steve Eddins has developed MATLAB and image processing capabilities for MathWorks since 1993. He also coaches development teams on designing programming interfaces for engineers and scientists. Steve coauthored Digital Image Processing Using MATLAB.
Recently, I saw a particularly concise implementation of the game. My MathWorks colleague, Christopher Creutzig, recently posted the following code snippet on a MathWorks company forum. These seven lines of code initialize a 750x750 game board, run the board through 500 generations, and save the result as an animated GIF file.
Matt McDonnell, a former MathWorks consultant, explored several short implementation techniques in his 19-Jan-2010 post on Loren's Art of MATLAB. More good ideas can be found in the reader comments on that post.