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Useless Machines

A pointless guide to the most useless machines possible.

Wanna hear a joke? My redstone machines. They blow up in my face, drop me into lava, and undo hours of careful block building. I try to make helpful machines that can improve my daily chores, but they prefer to completely undo my work instead. All is not lost for me, though! It turns out my talent for terrible engineering suddenly has a purpose now, and that my machines have become something cool. 

Recently, the Minecraft community on Reddit has been purposefully building the most useless machines they can come up with. But they’re not just useless in any old way. Specifically, these machines have no purpose other than to turn themselves off.

You can build everything from honey block conveyor belts to magical hidden doors in Minecraft, but no, people prefer to make pointless contraptions instead. As the self-proclaimed leading expert on dreadful devices, I have nothing but respect for that, so let me be your official guide as to why and how these useless machines are built.

It’s just so beautifully pointless!

The first one I came across was created by Vampyre. As you can see in the Reddit video of their ‘Perfectly useless’ machine, it works by having a hidden piston pushed out of a wall to destroy the lever that activates it. 

It was inspired by Sethbling’s ‘Useless Lever’ from back in 2013, but Vampyre didn’t want to just recreate it. “I tried to give myself a challenge to create one where the lever was not right next to the wall, as every model before mine used a lever flush with the wall or something coming from the floor or ceiling,” they tell me.

In their build, the hidden piston moves out two block’s distance from the wall before returning to its starting position. It looks simple enough, but it’s far more complex than any mere machine-making mortal might think, as seen in the images below.

The idea seems to have caught on as a number of variations on the useless machine have hit Reddit recently. One person who put a lot of effort into it is IOWZBOI, who created several useless machines, each of which have a different way of destroying the lever – ranging from falling blocks to streams of water.

Others that stand out for me are those that put a comedic spin on the concept. Rather than use a piston, Leeuwe’s useless machine literally shoves a Creeper into the mix, which blows up the button that activates it. Another take on this explosive idea comes from BiC_MC, who does without a Creeper altogether, instead launching TNT at the lever to take it out. Genius!

Comedy aside, the main reason for many people to create useless machines is to take the idea to new extremities. This is typically done in two ways: showing off the complex circuitry behind the scenes, or making the piston move even further to turn the machine off.

Both can be seen in feliser’s ‘The Ultimate in Useless Machine Technology’. Part of this machine is made out of glass so you can peek inside as its components work together to push the piston a total of seven blocks. “For me, the appeal in useless machines is the challenge of seeing how far I can push this idea,” feliser tells me. “I went through many iterations to get to the one I have today and every time I make a useless machine I try to get a little more ridiculous.”

Someone who knows the appeal of pushing useless machines as far as possible is MrHugster, whose ‘Useless Box’ features an impressive 12x piston extender. Yes, it pushes a block a total distance of 12 blocks using pistons, and then brings it all the way back to its starting position after it destroys the lever. Making this machine was no easy feat, but MrHugster has provided some instructions below for anyone looking to give it a go.

“The first step is very easy, you just need to power the first piston which will push everything one block forward, then use a repeater set to two ticks to power the second piston and continue using repeaters set to two ticks to eventually power all the pistons,” MrHugster explains. 

“The second step is much more difficult because you need to power all the pistons at the exact right moment and you need to power them 12 times. Once again, you use repeaters, this time set to one tick, to power the pistons and you need a fast redstone clock in order to power all repeaters 12 times.”

Got all that? No matter if you didn’t. What’s great about useless machines is that you can appreciate the complexity they hide without having to understand it. That’ll almost certainly be the approach you want to adopt as we have a look at the final stop on this wonderful tour of uselessness. 

Back in 2018, YouTuber Mumbo Jumbo took it upon himself to create ‘The MOST COMPLEX USELESS MACHINE in Minecraft’. He certainly succeeded.

The principal is the same as all the other useless machines we’ve seen until now: pull a lever to activate a machine that then destroys that lever before going back to its starting position. But he made a machine that randomly selects one of eight different ways to do that. Lava falls on the lever, water washes it away, an anvil lands on it, or it may be one of many hidden pistons that breaks the lever. It is a ridiculously complex device.

Why did he do this? “Useless machines epitomize what I love most in redstone creations,” Mumbo Jumbo tells me. “They are decently complicated from a wiring perspective, incredibly satisfying when built well, and totally pointless. This trifecta of attributes is what I look for in my favorite builds (with pointlessness being the most important).”

He’s got a fair point. If we’ve learned anything today, it’s that even if something is useless, that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. These machines may be functionally useless but they can teach us a lot about becoming better builders. Give it a go yourself and see if you can come up with a new spin on this useless pursuit.

Written By
Chris Priestman

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