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Rube Goldberg Machines Prove Complication is Fun

2 Minute Read
Jan 6 2021

Rube Goldberg Machines – because turning on your toaster should take no less than 50 steps and 10 minutes to accomplish!

Reuben ‘Rube’ Goldberg was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist and engineer most known for his drawings of zany inventions. His first job was with the San Fransisco Chronicle and became a household name for the work he did at Hearst publications. He produced an astonishing 50,000 cartoons in his lifetime. Goldberg is the only person ever to be listed as an adjective in Merriam Webster Dictionary. You can learn more about him and how the tradition of his multistep inventions has endured here.

Those cartoons have inspired a lot of over-engineered, one task machines that are a heck of a lot of fun to watch. This one from Joseph Herschel (a kinetic artist based in Brooklyn) is really reminiscent of Goldberg’s machines in form, function, and style. He talks about his work with Erik Olsen of the NYT here.


2D House has created several machines for advertising projects. This is an expansion of Goldberg’s self-portrait taking machine. You can check out more of their work here.


Bob Partington is an inventor and artist that’s created fun gadgets like secret graffiti briefcases, a 300-pound garlic crusher, and a 200-pound tomato slicer. He takes a few minutes to talk about the process behind his slow machine here.



Cog was used to promote the 7th generation of Honda Accord in 2003. The spot was directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet, and built with a large team of engineers and artists. Rumor has it that the 606th take of the continuous shot was the one that made it to televisions across the UK.


Melvin the Machine takes the idea a bit further and passively interacts with its audience – it takes pictures and video, and creates its own march in the form of posters and t-shirts, during its process.


And finally, my personal favorite (behind the scenes)…


Have you seen any Rube Goldberg machines you really like? Share in the comments!


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