The Airform Archives presents the story of Charles and Ray Eames' Do Nothing Machine, a delightful solar-powered whimsy-maker from 1958.
in the late 1950's, as part of the alcoa company's "forecast collection", the eames office created the solar toy. this toy was unique in many ways; but the most unique aspect (particularly in light of the way things seem to be done today) was the fact that charles eames was interested in creating a toy that did nothing. in terms of "doing nothing" he didn't mean that it would be a static and mute object -he was interested in an object that didn't direct one towards specific answers (or in the case of the work of a designer, towards a specific "use"). it followed an ideology found in much of his works, where the power of play is valued as an experience that can be quite powerful in and of itself – and where a sense of wonder can lead to a depth of thought and a kind of expansive understanding (think powers of 10).
in alcoa's 1959 publication "design forecast 1" (the first image above is from this book), oscar schefler elaborates on the ideas behind the eames's solar powered "do nothing machine"…"there is little pertinence in asking what the toy is supposed to do. it is not supposed to do. it is supposed to be. its whole function is in its being." eames adds "we now have a moment in time which is very precious; but this is valid only if the toy does nothing".