Make 23: Most Useless Machine: Simplest and Easiest Ever

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Make 23: Most Useless Machine: Simplest and Easiest Ever


current_Volume_bug3.jpgThe latest issue of MAKE, Volume 23, has the easiest plans yet for a machine that turns itself off, and does nothing else (except inspire a cult following). Flip the device’s toggle switch on and a wooden arm emerges, switches it back off, and then disappears inside again.

The article was based on a runaway hit Instructable and YouTube video of the “The Most Useless Machine.” The original Instructable used a 555 timer circuit to drive a hobby servomotor that’s modified to allow for continuous rotation. The Instructable was later revised to control the servo with a clever and even simpler arrangement of two switches.

The MAKE version simplifies the “Suicide-Bot 3000” even further by replacing the modified servo with an off-the-shelf Solarbotics GM2 gearmotor — no mods required, and at $7, the GM2 is also cheaper than a servo. The result is the end of the line: a truly minimal, dead simple assemblage of parts that, through its one dedicated act of self-negation, speaks volumes.

MAKE editor-in-chief Mark Frauenfelder showed the Machine on The Colbert Report — Colbert loved it so much that he took it home!

You can find an online version of the Most Useless Machine build on Make: Projects.

From the pages of MAKE Volume 23:

MAKE Volume 23, Gadgets
This special issue is devoted to machines that do delightful and surprising things. In it, we show you how to make a miniature electronic Whac-a-Mole arcade game, a tiny but mighty see-through audio amp, a magic mirror that contains an animated soothsayer, a self-balancing one-wheeled Gyrocar, and the Most Useless Machine (as seen on The Colbert Report!). Plus we go behind the scenes and show you how Intellectual Ventures made their incredible laser targeting mosquito zapper — yes, it’s real, and you wish you had one for your patio barbecue. All this and much, much more.

4 thoughts on “Make 23: Most Useless Machine: Simplest and Easiest Ever

  1. Rahere says:

    Reminds me somewhat of the organic version of the same, appropriate for the months to come. Take one fallen apple, one pocket squib, and one match, then use some imagination.

  2. meanmike says:

    how does it work???

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Paul Spinrad is a broad-spectrum enthusiast, writer, maker, and dad who lives in San Francisco. He hatches schemes at

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