September 15, 2014

The Useless Machine Concept Was Invented in 1952

The useless machine is now 62 years old! Yes, our Useless Can uses the same principle, but in a much more modern way. We have developed a circuit board that includes all the logic of the mechanism, so you don’t need a soldering iron to assemble the parts.

What’s a Useless Machine?

A useless machine is a device that performs a meaningless task, such as switching itself off, while performing no other practical function. Since The Useless Can comes in a DIY kit with 45 parts to assemble, it’s an excellent way for young people to learn the basics of building mechanical devices and learning about electricity.

Such a device may be a novelty toy, an amusing engineering “hack” or the focus of an existentialist discussion along the lines of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

The first useless machine have been invented by MIT professor Marvin Minsky, while a graduate student at Bell Labs in 1952. Sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke, after seeing it in Minsky’s office, wrote: “There is something unspeakably sinister about a machine that does nothing—absolutely nothing—except switch itself off.”

Since 1952, the useless machine has been available in the guise of various commercial products, but The Useless Can is the first time such a device has appeared in the shape of a can (and one that is so easy to assemble).

For more information about the useless machine, you can read the Wikipedia article here:

And for The Useless Can?