Software Development

Geek Gifts 2010: Time Machine clock

Fans of Rube Goldberg machines will like the Time Machine clock, but there is one major issue that you should know before purchasing it for a gift.

The joke in my house is that I'm software and my wife is hardware -- well, maybe it's not a joke and more of an observation. However, this lack of hardware talent doesn't mean that I hate hardware -- it just means that I have some odd ideas about how hardware should work. For instance, I see absolutely nothing wrong with a Rube Goldberg machine, which might be why I like the Time Machine clock.

Time Machine clock (Photo by Edmond Woychowsky)

The Time Machine clock uses ball bearings to tell time. The recommended age for this clock is 8 and up, which according to my wife and children might be a little mature for me. For some reason, my son muttered something about the Heimlich maneuver; I think he's keeping a close eye on me due to a potential choking hazard. (Jeez, I have one incident with Smarties, and they just don't forget!)

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: Can You Imagine
  • Weight: Under 5 pounds with four C batteries (which are not included)
  • Dimensions: 10 inches wide by 8 inches high and 6 inches deep
  • Price: $49.99

What's in the box

  • The clock
  • Ball bearings in multiple sizes
  • Transparent lid
  • Instructions
  • Packing material (but alas, no bubble wrap)

What I like

  • With the exception of ball bearing placement and batteries, it comes pre-assembled.
  • The Rube Goldberg nature of the clock.
  • It runs for three to four months on four C cell batteries.

What I don't like

  • The ball bearings are extremely noisy when in motion.
  • It's a choking hazard around little geeks (and, apparently, me).

Geek bottom line

The Time Machine clock is very geeky, but its noise could be a distraction to many people. While it really didn't bother me too much, the threat of physical violence made it necessary to remove the batteries at night. Regardless, it keeps excellent time, which is surprising in this era of digital watches and clocks.

Geek gift score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: ***
  • Geek factor: *****
  • Value: **
  • Overall: ***

Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2010.

16 comments
DNSB
DNSB

Anyone else here build the binary clock from -- I think it was Pop Electronics, could have been Radio-Electronics or a couple of others I used to read -- back in the 70's? Had it around for about a decade before it was destroyed in a move. I've seen a kit with blue LEDs advertised recently that seems to be quite similar.

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

I got one of these years ago as a Christmas gift and really enjoyed it. Drove the folks at the office nuts though, especially when they were in on a weekend, all by themselves, and they hear these strange noises. But, it is all made with plastic gears and not a great motor. It quit working after a year or two. I kept it around for several years, tried looking in it to see what might be wrong, but never figured it out. Finally tossed it, but I think I kept the ball bearings. They're cool y'know.

keith2237
keith2237

Got one of these as a kit when I was in High School. Loved it. However, it was AC powered. Also had complaints about the noise. Not sure what the folks ever did with it. It was fun to build and watch.

jlafleche
jlafleche

I remember this clock! I had one over 25 years ago. I loved that clock! I was so sad when it finally broke and I didn't have any way of finding replacement parts. I'm glad to see that it's still around. Now, if only I could talk someone into getting it for me as a Christmas present.

gseive
gseive

Looks fun to me... but being from outside the US I would really appreciate if you could also give the weight in Kg and the dimensions in cm. :) Thanks!

bhopper
bhopper

I, too, had an AC powered version of this. My wife and I collect off-the-wall clocks, and this was perfect for us. (One of my friends had one when I was a kid, and I'd always wanted one!) Now the motor has seized, and it's a paperweight. The biggest problem I had, once I got over the noise, was static charge build-up. All those steel ball bearings running over plastic, with a motor turning a plastic arm... The like charge between the bearings sitting at the bottom and the ones dropping from below would cause one or two to repel from each other, throwing off the clock. I ended up grabbing some spare wire to deal with the problem. I attached it to the bottom tray that holds the bearings for their ride to the top, curving it so that the bearings would touch it as they sat. I simply used electrical tape to keep it attached to the electrical cord. The other end of the wire I ran to ground. Problem solved, and the clock worked great!

Histrion2
Histrion2

...despite the provided link, CubeWarrior.com doesn't seem to carry them. At least the link comes up "no such product" and all my searches on the site have been for nought.

jstuart8
jstuart8

http://www.cyi.net/index.php?option=cyi-004&op1=cm-004j_p_q_-_25j_p_q_-_cm-006j_p_q_-_CM Under the MSRP there is a link which converts size info to cm -- but weight (of a whole case of these) stays in pounds! [23 lbs is approx 10.4 Kg -- the case apparently holds 6, so 1 of these would be less than 4 lbs, including the individual packaging and 1/6 of the large box - or nearly 1 3/4 kg] Amazon had them from $32-$50 (not including shipping) under Toys & Games (Amazon calls it: "Can You Imagine Time Machine Tabletop Clock")

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

1kilo is 2.2lbs 3cm per inch

zclayton2
zclayton2

google: english metric conversion.

khiatt
khiatt

I had the AC version back in high school that I had to assemble. Didn't notice the static problem (or maybe I don't remember) but I did have to make sure it was on a level surface or the balls would fall off. I dampened the noise a little by setting it on a thick doily. Found it 6 or 7 years ago, motor no longer working and few more cracks then I remembered, so it was out to the recycle bin. Picked up one of these newer ones at a science themed store in the mall a couple years ago. Just as noisy as ever, but I still like it.

DNSB
DNSB

2.54cm is 1 inch. By definition. Now if I'd read the next message before replying, I would have saved some electrons from being recycled.

brian
brian

3 cm to an inch will NOT DO. Actual conversion is 2.54 cm = 1 " from Sleepy

MaryWeilage
MaryWeilage

My apologies that the Cube Warrior link no longer works. The clock was still listed on that site when the review was published. I updated the review with this link. Thanks for providing it. Best Regards, Mary Weilage

service
service

This would be a great gift! Especially considering I can't pass a clock without buying it if it has a pricetag that doesn't induce heart failure. Anyone need my address?

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