My first encounter with a Chaos Machine (aka a large conglomeration of Chaos Toy sets, along with other additions) was at Penguicon 5.0 (2007). Steve Jackson brought his Chaos Machine, and it took up a third of one of the ball rooms. I ended up spending at least a quarter of the convention fiddling with the machine, improving its reliability or engineering new stunts.
My second encounter was at Penguicon 6.0 (2008). Steve couldn’t make it, so Penguicon bought 2 or 3 Tower sets and some extra parts, and set people to work in the hotel lobby. Due to the space available, this time the machine had to go vertical, so we built it in stages, and then carefully lifted the top stage onto the bottom stage. The result was over 10 feet high, and I spent 3-4 hours standing on a step ladder, making sure everything was working.
A couple of months before Penguicon 7.0, I got involved with hobbyist micro-controllers, and ended up volunteering to build some accessories for the Chaos Machine (specifically, a ball counter and micro-controller controlled switch). Towards that end, I bought my own Tower set, so that I could build and test my accessories. After a lengthy develop-test-modify cycle, I took my Chaos Controller (Mark I) to Penguicon 7.0, where it was a qualified success. This year, the Penguicon Chaos Machine was built straddling a knee wall, so once again I spent way too much time balancing on a 6″ wide ledge.
Shortly after returning from Penguicon 7.0, a friend of mine stopped by to give me a find from Goodwill find: a Chaos Toy Starter set in excellent condition that he picked up for $5. While I was busily examining the new (old) set, my wife Carrie was browsing the web, looking for deals on used Chaos Toy sets. Courtesy of eBay, and other sources, I now have a Starter set, two (2) Intermediate sets, four (4) Master sets, an Explorer set, a Builder set, and two (2) Tower sets.
And thus begins Craig Trader’s Chaos Machine. This site will be used to document the history of Chaos Toy, the parts that make up a Chaos Machine, and all of the wonderful, crazy, and bizarre things that people will think up. Here’s to Rube Goldberg, and the spirit of weird invention!
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