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!)


  • 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.