A Rube Goldberg machine is any exceedingly complex apparatus designed to serve a specific function that performs a very simple task in a very indirect and convoluted way. Rube devised and drew several
such pataphysical devices. The best examples of his machines have an anticipation factor. The fact that something
so wacky is happening can only be topped by it happening in a suspenseful manner.
The term also applies as a classification for generally over-complicated apparatus or software. It first appeared
in Websters Third New International Dictionary with the definition, "accomplishing by extremely complex roundabout
means what actually or seemingly could be done simply." In Britain such a device would be called a Heath Robinson
contraption, after British cartoonist who also drew fantastic comic machinery, in his case tended by bespectacled men
in overalls. A related phenomenon is the Japanese art of useful but unusable contraptions called chindogu.
The Ideal Novelty and Toy Company released a board game called Mouse Trap in 1963 that was based on
Rube Goldberg's ideas.
(This game is currently being made by Hasbro.) Rube's machines are often featured on
television or in movies, too, for their ingenious nature and pure craziness. Sierra Entertainment released the computer
game The Incredible Machine on CD-ROM for either PC or Macintosh computers, designed around the Rube
Goldberg concept. Two other games in the series, Return of the Incredible Machine, and The Incredible Machine -
Even More Contraptions are no longer available.