Finally, A Differently Useless Machine

Traditionally, the useless machine is a simple one that invites passersby to switch it on. When they do, the machine somehow, some way, turns itself off; usually with a finger or finger-like object that comes out from the box in what feels like an annoyed fashion. Honestly, that’s probably part of what drives people to turn them on over and over again.

But [Bart Blankendaal] has managed to turn the useless machine on its head. When this machine is switched to the on position, unseen forces inside the box will spin the toggle switch around 180° to the off position.

What’s really happening is that an Arduino is getting a signal from the toggle switch, and is then rotating it on a ball bearing with a stepper motor driven through an H-bridge.

It shouldn’t be too hard to make one of these yourself, given that [Bart] has provided the schematic and STLs. If we weren’t living in such touchy times, we might suggest building one of these into your Halloween candy distribution scheme somehow. Sell the switch as one that turns on a candy dispenser, and then actually dispense it after three or five tries.

Many see useless machines as tangible examples of existential quandary. Here is one that takes that sentiment a bit further by snuffing out a candle.

32 thoughts on “Finally, A Differently Useless Machine

      1. A student team in my system design class built a traffic light system that when you pressed the ‘walk’ button repeatedly, it asked you to stop, then sprayed you with water if you didn’t. Not exactly “useless” but perhaps the ‘Annoyed Canadian’ version, eh?

      2. Arthur Dent: What happens if I press this button?
        Ford Prefect: I wouldn’t-
        Arthur Dent: Oh.
        Ford Prefect: What happened?
        Arthur Dent: A sign lit up, saying ‘Please do not press this button again.

  1. perhaps less than useless is that it can power something on say a fan light bulb etc for a quasi random period of time and while the person is distracted by the thing being on flip the switch (IE rotate it) then shut off. Oh also have a sound that makes a click that’s exactly like the switch being flipped.

  2. I recall seeing just such a switch many years ago. It worked like a household circuit breaker, but with a toggle type of handle as seen in the project above. For people, like puppeteers, the old manual-button cassette tape player was very useful, because when you re-pressed the play button, you could feel it lock into the play position. And when the tape stopped, the play button would pop back up. So, you had great tactile feedback.

    Nowadays, MP3 players are used, but there is no tactile feedback. If a sound cue starts with a period of silence, you don’t know for sure if your press of the play button actually worked. If you are uncertain, and press it again, it would pause the playback if it was actually running. Some MP3 players for DJ’s have a light to indicate if it is actually playing. But for puppeteers, they may be busy doing tings like putting a puppet onto one hand, while getting ready to open the curtain. It would be nice to make an MP3 player that worked like a cassette player with mechanical buttons.

  3. I’m going to be rich when I invent a useless machine that requires no batteries, no electronics whatsoever. It will consist of a toggle with positions “ON” and “OFF”, and a spring that keeps the toggle in the “OFF” position.

  4. This isn’t at all a useless idea. I like tactile switches. So do a few others. What about selecting function with a touchscreen menu, then rotate the switch to reflect that options current state and also let you change it? Only downside is that you really can’t have to many separate switches on a panel…

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