Most useless machine ever

The most useless machine ever has rapidly become the internet’s first viral hit of the New Year. Essentially, it’s a little wooden box with a switch, but you’ve got to watch the video to see it in action:

But, of course, it’s anything but a useless machine, it’s the embodiment of at least one principle of information, a combination of Boolean logical statements (you know those AND, NOT, NOR, OR things). When x = 0 we have the NULL statement. Nothing happens. But, IF x = 1 THEN an action is taken that sets x = 0. It’s also the embodiment of bits and entropy as defined by Claude Shannon and predicted by Arthur C Clarke, of course.

As ever, nothing new under the sun, and although Instructables has had a hit with its little wooden box, there was apparently a toy “way back” in the 1960s that had this same functionality and Shannon himself apparently demonstrated the exact same world’s most useless machine on TV in the 1950s.

The irony of such a device will not be lost on those who have suffered a computer hang and been presented with an obscure dialog box that has only a cancel button…

9 thoughts on “Most useless machine ever

  1. Hi David, Megalomania, I recently released uselessmachine.nl after viewing the video, laughing and then buidling a prototype. I actually created a serie-production for it, visitors and orders are rising…

  2. I could also write a comment with double double words or a shitty word and it might also delete.

  3. @typofi For sure. I saw it several times too. Still thought it was fun enough to re-embed the video, and like I say in the post it’s actually something Arthur C Clarke described and no doubt many before him…

  4. As you said, you have to appreciate the irony of such a device.

    But this time I got to admit that I don’t understand the logic of this viral meme. I’ve been receiving the same link today from several directions. Nobody seems to care that it’s not a new gadget, and not a new joke. Usually the web is full of bitter commentators about “how that’s so last season”. If you bother to google with Shaude Clannon original title “The Ultimate Machine” you will find several of these.

    Perhaps the best lesson is that anything (even old stuff) can become a great viral if it just hits the right people, right channels. (twitterists with influence etc.) As said by smarter people than me, meme’s (or gene’s) success is not dependent on whether it is a good meme but just in the replication efficiency.

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