Impossible Objects #40: The Ultimate Machine that turns itself off

Mention was made in the office the other day of Claude Shannon (topics of sporting failure and celebrity chat having been exhausted), and up came mention of the Ultimate Machine.

Claude Shannon - Ultimate Machine

Intrigued, I headed to YouTube optimistically hoping to see such a machine in action… and bingo! (I believe the device below was part of a Claude Shannon Exhibition at the Heinz Nixdorf Museum in Germany.)


According to Wikipedia:

Outside of his academic pursuits, Shannon was interested in juggling, unicycling, and chess. He also invented many devices, including rocket-powered flying discs, a motorized pogo stick, and a flame-throwing trumpet for a science exhibition. One of his more humorous devices was a box kept on his desk called the “Ultimate Machine”, based on an idea by Marvin Minsky. Otherwise featureless, the box possessed a single switch on its side. When the switch was flipped, the lid of the box opened and a mechanical hand reached out, flipped off the switch, then retracted back inside the box.

A fascinating man – I like the sound of a flame-throwing trumpet!

He apparently also built a device that could solve the Rubik’s Cube puzzle, and is also credited with co-inventing one of the first wearable computers for the purpose of calculating odds when playing roulette. And he applied his knowledge to make money in stocks and shares…

See also:




  1. This one is my favourite.

    It’s psychotic.

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