Little Black Box

Little Black Box

This toy was designed by Poynter Products Inc in Cincinatti, Ohio, in 1980, and manufactured in Japan. It was available throughout the 1980s. It is a slightly philosophical toy this, and is also very energy conscious! The black box has a simple lever at the top. Throw the lever and there is a lot of noise from inside, the box rocks to and fro. Then a door opens in the top of the box, and a hand emerges....

The hand moves towards the lever and switches the toy back off again, before vanishing back into the box!

Peter Holliday e-mailed with the following information about the history of this device...

The physicist Eric Laithwaite gave a series of Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution in about 1967, entitled "An Engineer In Wonderland". One of the demonstrations/gags was an "actuator" - it was a box labelled "I Am An Actuator - Please Turn Me On". As you will have guessed, when you did so, a little hand came out and turned the switch off again.

I believe I am right in saying this machine was actually always "on", with an electromagnet holding the spring-loaded piston (with a doll's hand on) in place until the switch was operated; the hand then shot out, turned the switch "off", re-energised the solenoid, and retracted.

I used to have the book based on the lectures; it may still be available. Prof Laithwaite also performed some very ambitious electromagnetic levitations which came close to blacking-out the Piccadilly area.

Thank you Peter for that contribution.

It is also worth pointing out that there are a number of people who have made boxes of this type, some of which are shown at the LeaveMeAloneBox web site.