Rube Goldberg Machine

Rube Goldberg Machine

Updated Sep 27, 2012 at 06:07PM EDT by Don.

Added Sep 27, 2012 at 03:02PM EDT by Don.

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Rube Goldberg Machine is a contraption that is meticulously designed to perform a simple task by triggering a complex sequence of chain reaction events. While the history of the device predates its online appearance, the machines have been prominently featured in a number of one take-style videos on YouTube, including music videos and commercials.


The original idea was conceived by the American author, cartoonist, sculptor and engineer Rube Goldberg while drawing cartoons for the New York Evening Mail in 1907. Some of the earliest schematics were illustrated through the inventions of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, a fictional character in one of Goldberg’s syndicated comic series (shown below). By 1931, the word “Rube Goldberg” had been recognized by the Merriam–Webster dictionary as an adjective, defined as “accomplishing something simple through complex means.”

In 1949, Purdue University held the first Rube Goldberg Machine Contest[1], in which college students built devices to complete a simple task in a minimum of 20 steps. The contest was held annually by the Theta Tau and Triangle fraternities until its hiatus in 1956, however, the event was revived for all Purdue students in 1983.


On May 1st, 1997, the website[2] was launched, which features Rube Goldberg machine-related news, media, machine contests and a merchandise store. In 2005, Something Awful Forums members collaborated to create a large Rube Golberg machine animated GIF called the “Blue Ball Machine”. Later that same year, the GIF collaboration project also went on to spawn numerous derivatives on YTMND.

On September 27th, PBS Kids[7] released the web-based flash game “Goldburger to Go,” which allowed players to create virtual Rube Goldberg machines. On February 22nd, 2007, the Internet humor site Break[8] highlighted a video titled “Best Rube Goldberg Ever” (shown below), which received over 2.3 million views within six years.

On May 3rd, 2008, Gawker[6] published a post titled “13 Greatest Rube Goldberg Machines”, which highlighted several YouTube videos showing the contraptions in action. On March 1st, 2010, the rock band OK Go released a music video for the song “This Too Shall Pass”, which featured a large functioning Rube Goldberg machine synced in time with the song’s music (shown below, left). Within two years, the video accumulated over 37 million views and 42,000 comments. The following month, entrepreneur Adam Sadowsky spoke at a TED[5] conference on how his team built the machine for the music video. On July 4th, the search engine Google featured a Rube Goldberg machine as a Google doodle on the site’s homepage in honor of Goldberg’s birthday (shown below, right).

On February 13th, 2012, the design news blog Inhabitat[4] published a compilation of notable Goldberg machines. On April 4th, Purdue University students set a new world record with the successful operation of a 300-step Rube Goldberg Machine (shown below, left). On April 10th, a video of the machine was featured on the Internet news blog Laughing Squid.[3] On September 13th, Verizon Wireless uploaded a video to YouTube featuring a Rube Goldberg machine in celebration of reaching three million fans on Facebook (shown below, right).

Notable Examples

Rube Goldberg machine “one take” videos have been prominently featured on YouTube, with both amateur (shown below, top) and commercially (shown below, bottom) produced examples.

Search Interest

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