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The Most Useless Machine EVER!

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And yet everyone wants one!!!?

AKA:  The Ultimate Machine!

Get Your Parts Kits and Machines: FrivolousEngineering.com

Update Oct 31, 2012:

Now Available At the Maker Shed

"Weird Al" Yankovic Sez:  "I never realized till now how much I needed one of these."

AS SEEN ON TV!  Make Magazine's amiable editor-in-chief, Mark Frauenfelder demonstrated The Useless Machine on the Colbert Report!

Useless Machine Featured in Vol 23 of Make Magazine!

Thanks everyone for all the cool comments, suggestions and all the videos! Keep 'em coming.



 
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Step 1: Background

Picture of Background
Also known as The Ultimate Machine: Claude E. Shannon built the first one based on an idea by Marvin Minsky.

After seeing a video of such a machine I just had to have one of my own.

The only design I could find uses a PIC microcontroller but I consider this to be overkill (not knowing how to write code for micros may have had some influence on my humble opinion...).

Additionally, the microcontroller version really doesn't shut itself off. It's circuit remains powered even when the switch is in the off position.

Knowing a little bit about servos and basic electronics, I felt sure that I could build the machine using a simple analog circuit.

My main goal however was to have the machine REALLY turn itself off.

The machine in THIS instructable accomplishes that!
Ouranos4 days ago

What are the advantages of the dead bug?

Kelly0210 months ago
I want to try to make this!!
chatrooms Kelly022 months ago

Same here!

Equus4 months ago
Hi, my servo is going only "forward" until it's stopped by mechanic lock. I dont know what is wrong. And sorry for my english.
ArduinoDeXXX4 months ago
We simplify a circuit in the machine. Only a switch with two points is used. No chip, no servo, no spring and no additional switch are used. The movie below shows its structure and action.
http://youtu.be/3Pl0nNj8Q4s
bdimapasoc1 year ago
Newbie question: Why are there no resistors in the wiring (referring to the design which doesn't use the 555 timer)? Are the internal resistances of the servo, batteries, switch, and wires enough to prevent an overly large amount of current from running through the circuit?

If that's the case, then is there a way to get the numerical values for these internal resistances?
You are correct. If wired correctly it is limited mostly to the resistance in motor, and it's only a few ohms (it will vary from motor to motor, but lets say 5-6 ohms).

Ideally, the switches and wire should have no resistance, but in the real world they will add a tiny bit too.

The battery, you don't worry about it's internal resistance.

To measure the actual resistance, take the batteries out and measure the ohms across the + & - of the battery-holder.

So if the whole circuit is 6 ohms and you're using 3 volts, that's half an amp of current. Extra points if you can figure out how many watts that is!
P=IV=.5(3)=1.5W
surfcurve2 years ago
Just finished mine and it was a little more difficult than i thought it would be, but worth it. I used krazy glue to hold everything in place. If anyone has an issue with your servo not being strong enough to flick the switch like it did, U can take switch apart and change out the spring in the middle of the switch ( i used a pen spring instead of original spring inside of the switch and it works flawlessly now.) I went with the simple method with the 2 switches and a cigar box which already came with a center cut in the lid. Will now make a great conversation piece on coffee table. Good luck to everyone who tries to build one!!! Well worth the few hours of effort.
useless machine.jpguseless machine2.jpg
Thanks for this. I had to do the same thing. Works great.
Right on. Sometimes you can 'break in' a stiff toggle just be flipping it on/off a bunch of times but replacing the spring, that's a new one!

Thanks!
hohohe10 months ago
Built a couple of machines using solarbotics Gm2 motor, toggle and micro switch. They work fine, but they shatter one time when hitting micro. Any idea on what is really happening. Motor does have a little play
Chloe810 months ago
This is so cute! there must be some ways to use them.
What's the name of that song on the video?
Wow! This is great! Thank you so much!
Hi can you provide me the Circuit diagram and the PCB drawing as well as the ttemplates of the Ultimate machine please. I wish to make this for a school project but i need this infomation.
Thanks
Email to:yan0055@gwsc.vic.edu.au
Aaron10881 year ago
Hi I made a useless machine (the version in step 5) and I have a problem of the arm jumping on the off microswitch. basicly when it goes back in it hits the off microswitch and jumps up and down and up and down. It is not ment to do this and I dunno how to solve it. I know the micro switch is working to turn it off becuase if I press it by hand it works. any ideas?
The bounce-back problem can be eliminated by moving the micro-switch to a spot were the arm doesn't slam into it.

The Ultimate Useless Machine that I sell uses a 'cam' to activate the micro: http://frivolousengineering.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/06CUcam.jpg

Check the above photo to see how it's arranged. Instead of the arm crashing into the micro, the bump on the cam activates the micro and allows the motor to continue moving a few degrees before coming to rest.
for some reason.....i find this robot cute.....wierd......maybe because i find myself annoying too...

great instructable by the way!
deneen20001 year ago
Very nice! Reminds me of the mechanical novelty toy that was a small opaque black plastic box with a slit for a coin where your switch is....when you placed a coin in the slot a little hand would come up out of the box and snatch the coin. Fun!
exotictoad1 year ago
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slWr0rxb6OM&feature=related

i found somthing i think u copied
Click on the link "PIC Microcontroller" above, it's the web page of the guy who made the video you are referring to.

And btw, you are linking to a PIRATED version of the original video.

So yes, I did see the video, it's what gave me the idea. But as for me copying anything....I don't agree. The video you point out, it's definitely a 'copy'.

If you really want to give credit to the originator, you might try mentioning Marvin Minsky and Claude Shannon, who are the real inventors of this device.
OMG thinkgeek found you!!!
http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/ef0b/?cpg=43735351&msg_id=43735351&et_rid=797793665&linkid=43735351_headline_ef0b
Actually, it's not!

The 'Box' was a good first attempt at a kit.

Solarbotics sold 3200 with no hinges (you had to use scotch tape) before I stopped endorsing them.

Ten days later they magically upgraded the scotch-tape hinges to metal ones. And bumped the price up by $5.00...now that's innovation!
fessional1 year ago
Awesomely Useless xD
lukeyj152 years ago
I found something similar. Make sure you watch until the end.
it's the useless-inator... i thought doofenshmirtz gave up.
ah well...
LOLOLOLOL
get the sledgehammer
haha saw this a couple months ago, still funny!
dude this thing is sico!!!
RAGE!!!!!!
nice video
I saw this video two days ago, and made one yesterday using Lego Mindstorm, and saw this instructable today
The exorcist meets the most useless machine ever. lol

Thanks for the nightmare :)
lol
TheIdrees2 years ago
I am really looking forward to making this invention. However i am at a lack of anything electrical at the moment and hope to make the whole thing without the use of electricity. It would involve some counterweights and stuff but i think it is possible! I will post pictures up as I go! Thanks for the great instructable! I also added a link to my site (here) but if you don't want this to be linked on my site just tell me. Thanks again for the amazingly pointless invention!!
Meuryn2 years ago
Just a question about the wiring diagram, where the lead from the microswitch crosses over the lead from the the servo there's that 'bump' symbol. Is that just there to tell you the wires cross over or do I need to make a junction between the two wires or something different? Sorry, relatively new to all this.
mrmerino Meuryn2 years ago
Protip: the actual symbols for different things will vary according to who created the diagram, but basically, whenever you see that bump over the wire like up there, you can always assume that those wires don't connect.
Frivolous Engineering (author)  Meuryn2 years ago
It means the the wires are NOT connected, one just passes over-top of the other wire!
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