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.

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