So, yes, I have owned (and currently own) a lot of useless stuff, but never have I set out to purposely create something that is completely useless. Until now.
The idea of creating a machine that serves no purpose whatsoever goes back to at least the 1930s (and probably much earlier) when Italian artist Bruno Munari began creating machines that were completely unproductive as a counterpoint to the future and a world controlled by machines. Clearly he fought a losing battle. Since then many have designed and built contraptions that exist for no other reason than to exist; they are there simply because they are there. Kind of like the Kim Kardashians of the machine world. Then in 1952 a guy named Marvin Minsky, working at Bell Labs, created what he called the “ultimate machine”, more commonly known as a Leave-Me-Alone Box, or Useless Machine. It’s sole purpose in being was, when turned on, to turn itself off. Which is a fascinating concept when one thinks about it, raising some pretty interesting philosophical questions.
Of course most folks didn’t think of it as anything but a curiosity and the concept attracted little interest. Then, in the 1960’s, apparently inspired by the television show The Addams Family, a version called “The Thing” was put on the market. But it was a mere flash in the pan and by the 70s both the Addams Family and “The Thing” were history – relegated to late night reruns and the attic toy trunk.
However, for unknown reasons, there has lately been a resurgence of interest, fuelled by the internet (of course), in building these types of useless machines. And after seeing one such post I decided I must build one. It’s not nearly as complex and sophisticated as some out there, but I wanted something simple in the nature of the original 1952 version and its 1960s cousin.
So, using an old cigar box I had lying about, some electronics components left over from other projects, and a small servo motor I cobbled together my version.