Posts Tagged Shannon
The earliest reference to the Ultimate Machine that I’ve found is by Arthur C. Clarke from the August 1958 issue of Harper’s Magazine article (also in his book Voice Across the Sea: p. 159, Revised edition, New York: Harper & Row, 1959 and 1974):
When you throw the switch, there is an angry, purposeful buzzing. The lid slowly rises, and from beneath it emerges a hand. The hand reaches down, turns the switch off, and retreats into the box. With the finality of a closing coffin, the lid snaps shut, the buzzing ceases, and peace reigns once more. The psychological effect, if you do not know what to expect, is devastating. There is something unspeakably sinister about a machine that does nothing–absolutely nothing–except switch itself off.
With this description in mind, Michal Zalewski has posted about his second build of an Ultimate Machine.
As he says on his build page Shannon’s Ultimate Machine, take 2, the goal was to build an Ultimate Machine that was “elegant, simple, and chillingly sinister”. It’s using an Atmega48P micro-controller and it has a display showing a count of how many times the switch has been toggled.
Like myself, Steve is fascinated with the concept of a machine with only one function: to turn itself off.
Steve’s article begins with a history of Ultimate/Useless Machines including links to other useless articles and goes on to review the two Useless Machine apps available for the iPhone/Pad. I’ve mentioned one of the apps in a previous post, but the second one is news to me.
For those interested in UM’s I highly recommend that you check it out.
If you’re wonder about the drawing to the left, it’s Steve’s favicon. For an explanation look here.
Concerning Useless apps, I don’t own an iPhone/Pad so I haven’t had a chance to try these programs. One is free, and the other costs a whopping 99 cents.
If Steve Jobs is listening, please know that I would gladly trade a handcrafted UM for an iPad. If Stephen Colbert can beg for an iPad, I don’t see any reason why I can’t! (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more…)
Nikki at FizzPop gave me a heads-up on this video: a Rube Goldberg device activating a Useless Machine. I bet Shannon and Goldberg approve!