Crawlspace Warehouse Includes Midget Forklift

Meet [Cliff Stoll], producer and entrepreneur-extraordinaire of the ACME Klein Bottles. Years back he helped a friend program a glass oven to get the right temperature profiles for glass blowing. When asked how he wanted to get paid for his help, he asked if they could blow a Klein bottle — and so they did.

Excited at the prospect of his creation, he showed it around to some friends, and was surprised to find out that people wanted to buy it! The one he created took 3 days of sweat and tears to build, so he wasn’t about to start manufacturing them himself. Instead, he decided to call around to some glass manufacturers and see how much he could get Klein bottles made for… That’s when he discovered the power of buying in large quantities.

So what do you do with over 1000 Klein bottles? You build a mini-warehouse in your crawlspace — that’s what.

Yep, this guy made use of his low-ceiling crawlspace, and turned it into a storage facility for his Klein bottles. He even built a mini remote controlled forklift in order to move material around.

And for more videos featuring [Cliff] and his crazy collection of Klein bottles, don’t forget to check out the whole Klein Bottle playlist by [Numberphile]!

32 thoughts on “Crawlspace Warehouse Includes Midget Forklift

  1. This looks like an ideal project to use tracking lines on the floor and a database of “pallet” locations. It wouldn’t be that hard to automate, but would require some careful handling for the non-crate objects in the crawlspace as well as substantially more advanced handling mechanics.

    1. Hm, no edit button…

      Also very surprised that there was no mention of the NOVA documentary “The KGB, the Computer and Me” or the book it was based on “The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage.” Both very interesting retellings of tracing an unauthorized user through an early large system installation.

      1. Cliff Stoll. Now, there’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. He’s aged well.

        Not too big a market for Klein bottles, though…he seems to have a lot of unsold inventory. Maybe this will help.

    2. Kiva Systems does that with their automated warehouse robots. The robots track fiducials on the floor to know where they are and where they’re going.

      AFAIK Staples uses them and moved to a larger warehouse in their facility by just plopping more fiducials down on the floor leading from the one part of the facility to the next and told the robots to move themselves and magically overnight the entire warehouse was in another part of the building…

  2. A real hacker would have used only recycled floopy drives also they would be 6″ not 3 1/4″ humf . and what no arudions ;(


    This is why i come to had stuff like this where available parts are scavenged into useful creations right from the dumpster. extremely impressive rig and also nice solution to the crawl space problem it is now a “robots only” zone. my question is dose your fork lift place nice with other robots example romba ;)

  3. I thought of putting a “dirt” track in a friends crawl-space. With FPV driving in the rough dirt and pea gravel, it would be a blast! Not to mention termite inspection and general bug killing.

  4. Cliff’s a very interesting guy. Lots of energy. I got to eat lunch with him and spend an hour or so in the campus Ham Shack about 25 years ago. I don’t think he ever sat still, and always off on tangents. :) Also check out his TED talk where he measures the speed of sound!

  5. I have two of his Klein bottles, gifts from two different people. The accompanying documentation was hilarious. I even kept the box with the also humorous handwritten personalized notes on it. I read the Cuckoo’s Egg. There is a footnote in the book with a chocolate chip cookie recipe. I baked a batch and they were OK.

    I got to meet Mr. Stoll speaking about this very system at the San Mateo Maker Faire. He had one of the miniature forklifts with him. I was amazed how much time both of his tennis shoes were off the ground while speaking and tried to capture it in pictures.

  6. I left the following comment on YouTube but I see people wondering about the hardware here I’ll post it again here.
    The wheels on that (awesome) robot are not “junk.” Those are the works of art made by Parallax Inc..
    I’ve got a pair of those wheels on my (not quite so awesome) robot.
    (Warning it’s a pretty boring video of an odometry test.)
    Here’s where you can find those nice wheels (they’re not cheap):
    Now I just need to fill in 3/4 of my basement so I can have a crawl space too.

  7. So, does he actually sell them in quantity? Because how many topology professors are there really?

    And another question: How does he keep his crawlspace free of spiders and mice? A cat won’t work 100% I can tell you.

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