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Northackton and the Useless Machine

When time permits I really enjoy attending Northackton, a local hacker / maker group. Last Monday I took my middle son, Sam (8 years old), along to a meeting advertised as a "geek santa" session - an opportunity for attendees to build a geeky gift for a loved one in time for Christmas.

We were all there to make useless machines - wonderfully quirky devices imagined by Artificial Intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky and first built by the father of information theory, Claude Shannon.

Between ten to fifteen of us turned up to be greeted by friend-of-Northackton Martin Raynsford. Martin provided us all with kits (also available via his website), instructions, encouragement and a helping hand when required. After a couple of hours we were all the proud owners of a working useless machine! Sam was especially pleased because he had a go soldering and the other attendees were very patient (and welcoming) by answering all his inevitable questions. He was also very impressed with the well provisioned tuck shop (lots of chocolate and crisps!).

But, what is a useless machine..? I'll let Sam explain...

If you ever find yourself in the Northampton area and at a loose end on a Monday evening, visit the Northackton website and check if there's a meeting, come along and say "hi". You could also follow the group on Twitter.