Lego recreation of the "Most Useless Machine"

YouTube user Invisibules recreated Minsky and Shannon's "Most Useless Machine" (a box with a switch on it; switch it on and a hand emerges from the box and flips the switch to off) using Lego: 'The hardest part was probably getting the flap to operate easily and smoothly, and to open and close at the correct parts of the cycle. Careful design of the "pusher" allowed the hole to be fairly small in the later prototypes. There were probably around ten partial or complete prototypes before I found a reliable method and layout. I use the latest prototype(s) as a reference for the next, so I try to have enough bricks around to keep several on the go at once.'

The Most Useless Machine Ever Made in LEGO (video) (Thanks, stagueve!)



        1. Maybe I’m thinking of Italian…although that would probably be leghi. Damned legoes, octopodes and cactii!

          Or did you mean Lego NES?

        2. The Plural is ‘Legos’.
          LEGO is short for danish ‘Leg godt’ (play good/nice) as far as i remember.


  1. Very well done. I like how it can be taken apart so that one can see the mechanism at work. Very well done.

  2. Dude! for god’s sake put the box on it’s side and orient the switch to be like a light switch. Then it makes sense for someone to flick it on, and then some being pops out and quickly switches it off by pushing it back into the down position… So much more expressive and interesting. Like the being inside is trying to get some sleep and doesn’t want the light on.

  3. I once saw a story (on boingboing?) about a machine that consisted of an open box which, as anyone got close, it closed itself. When you moved away it re-opened. I’d like to find that story (and the box) but have been unable to find the words that would lead me there. This is close, does anyone else remember the other box?

  4. It is definitely not useless. In electronics it’s called an monostable multivibrator or “one-shot”.

  5. This is way similar to the novelty piggy bank that you put a penny in a slot and it has a small hand that steals the penny. Too similar.

    However, that one isn’t quite useless. It steals pennies from you.

  6. That’s great!

    I’m a little disppointed that that the switch-off mechanism isn’t pure Lego powered by the flip of the button, but I can’t even imagine how one creates a mechanical delay without a spring, clutch or flywheel of some kind.

  7. > The Plural is ‘Legos’.

    In America, yes. Not in Australia or the UK.

    > LEGO is short for danish ‘Leg godt’ (play good/nice) as far as i remember.

    That’s what I’ve heard.

  8. @ friendpuppy, I thought it was silly when the wood box creation was releleased a while ago. But finally! the Lego version elicits the truth! I didn’t even think of it as being a one shot, but you are absolutely right. The electronic parallel is indeed a one-shot. Nice!

  9. I (originally from Africa, since this seems a dialect issue) always thought of “Lego” as a substance: something was made of Lego.

  10. I guess somebody should make one that is normally on, the hand comes up, turns it off, then it springs back to life. Oscillator!

  11. It would be cooler if the user flipping the switch also wound up the mechanism such that the extra step wasn’t needed.

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