History of the Machine

The Frivolous Engineering Company Inc. did not invent the Machine, it’s been around for at least 60 years.  And had we know the history of the machine when we first made ours, we never would have called it useless.

Marvin Minsky came up with the idea in 1952. Claude Shannon, who worked with Minsky at IBM liked the idea so much he built one.

Here’s a recent clip of Mr. Minsky talking about the Machine.

Arthur C. Clarke liked it so much he wrote about it at least twice:  in Harper’s Weekly, and in his book “Voice Across the Sea“.

I cannot leave Bell Labs without mentioning one more device which I saw there, and which haunts me as it haunts everyone else who has ever seen it in action. It is the Ultimate Machine–the End of the Line. Beyond it there is Nothing. It sits on Claude Shannon’s desk driving’ people mad…It is merely a small wooden casket the size and shape of a cigar-box, with a single switch on one face…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.

Arthur knew a good thing (and must have liked recycling too) when he saw it. He also described Marvin Minsky as one of two people he considered smarter than himself.

Unfortunately this idea was way ahead of it’s time.  Marvin tried to get his bosses at IBM to patent this marvelous invention and for some reason they didn’t.

At least one company tried to sell them but as far as I can tell not very many.  If you have one of these early versions, please contact me.

Then the idea of a machine that would turn itself off lay dormant for many years.

Eventually the internet came along.  The first mention about the machine I can find on-line is this posting at The Technium in March, 2008.  That’s where most of this history was gathered.

Shortly there after the idea of an Ultimate Machine came of age…or did it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>