rube_goldberg.jpg Reuben Garret Lucius Goldberg (July 4, 1883 - December 7, 1970) was an American cartoonist who received a 1948 Pulitzer Prize for his political cartooning.

He is best known for his series of popular cartoons depicting Rube Goldberg machines, complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways.

Some examples of his machines have an anticipation factor, as the machine makes slow but steady progress toward its goal.


An idea for dodging bill collectors
As Tailor (A) fits customer (B) and calls out measurements, college boy (C) mistakes them for football signals and makes a flying tackle at clothing dummy (D). Dummy bumps head against paddle (E) causing it to pull hook (F) and throw bottle (G) on end of folding hat rack (H) which spreads and pushes head of cabbage (I) into net (J). Weight of cabbage pulls cord (K) causing shears (L) to cut string (M). Bag of sand (N) drops on scale (O) and pushes broom (P) against pail of whitewash (Q) which upsets all over you causing you to look like a marble statue and making it impossible for you to be recognized by bill collectors.

Safety Device for Walking on Icy Pavements
When you slip on ice, your foot kicks paddle (A), lowering finger (B), snapping turtle (C) extends neck to bite finger, opening ice tongs (D) and dropping pillow (E), thus allowing you to fall on something soft!

Tee Up a Golf Ball

Picture Snapping Machine
As you sit on pneumatic cushion (A), you force air through a tube (B) which starts ice boat (C), causing lighted cigar butt (D) to explode balloon (E). Dictator (F), hearing loud report, thinks he's been shot and falls over backward on bulb (G), snapping picture!

Never Miss Putter

Keep You From Forgetting To Mail Your Wife's Letter
As you walk past cobbler shop, hook (A) strikes suspended boot (B), causing it to kick football (C) through goal posts (D). Football drops into basket (E) and string (F) tilts sprinkling can, (G) causing water to soak coat tails (H). As coat shrinks, cord (I) opens door (J) of cage, allowing bird (K) to walk out on perch (L) and grab worm (M) which is attached to string (N). This pulls down window shade (O) on which is written, "YOU SAP, MAIL THAT LETTER." A simple way to avoid all this trouble is to marry a wife who can't write.

Golf Invention

How to keep shop windows clean
Passing man (A) slips on banana peel (B) causing him to fall on rake (C). As handle of rake rises it throws horseshoe (D) onto rope (E) which sags, thereby tilting sprinkling can (F). Water (G) saturates mop (H). Pickle terrier (I) thinks it is raining, gets up to run into house and upsets sign (J) throwing it against non-tipping cigar ash receiver (K) which causes it to swing back and forth and swish the mop against window pane, wiping it clean. If man breaks his neck by fall move away before cop arrives.

How to keep the boss from knowing you are late

Simplified pencil-sharpener
Open window (A) and fly kite (B). String (C) lifts small door (D) allowing moths (E) to escape and eat red flannel shirt (F). As weight of shirt becomes less, shoe (G) steps on switch (H) which heats electric iron (I) and burns hole in pants (J). Smoke (K) enters hole in tree (L), smoking out opossum (M) which jumps into basket (N), pulling rope (O) and lifting cage (P), allowing woodpecker (Q) to chew wood from pencil (R), exposing lead. Emergency knife (S) is always handy in case opossum or the woodpecker gets sick and can't work.


Flame from lamp (A) catches on curtain (B) and fire department sends stream of water (C) through window. Dwarf (D) thinks it is raining and reaches for umbrella (E), pulling string (F) and lifting end of platform (G). Iron ball (H) falls and pulls string (I), causing hammer (J) to hit plate of glass (K). Crashof glass wakes up pup (L) and mother dog (M) rocks him to sleep in cradle (N), causing attached wooden hand (O) to move up and down along your back.

At 6:30 weight (A) automatically drops on head of dwarf (B), causing him to yell and drop cigar (C), which sets fire to paper (D). Heat from fire angers dwarf's wife (E). She sharpens potato knife (F) on grindstone (G) which turns wheel (H) causing olive spoon (I) to dip repeatedly into olives. If spoon does not lift an olive in 15 minutes, clock (J) automatically pushes glass-cutter (K) against bottle and takes out a chunk of glass big enough for you to stick your finger in and pull out an olive.


Another Interpretation


Using Flash create your own Goldberg-like device or animate one of the above illustrations.

If using a Rube Goldberg illustration:

  1. Drag one of the illustrations onto the desktop.

  2. Open Flash by clicking on the Flash Icon on the dock:

  3. Create a new document. Make sure it is Actionscript 2

  4. Save (+SHIFT+S) document in work folder:

  5. Drag the image from the desktop onto the stage.

  6. You need to convert the image from a bitmap to a vector. Select Modify>Trace Bitmap. Select 100 for the Threshold and 1 for Minimum Area

  7. If you want to make the image larger, select the transform tool and resize the image.

  8. Delete the background

  9. Break the steps down into movie clips by selecting the step or part of the step and converting it to to a clip (F8).

  10. In the Properties Inspector name each clip step1, step2, step3...

  11. Double click on the first step to go inside the clip.

  12. Add a new layer and open the ActionScript window (Windows>Actions).

  13. Add the following code:

  14. You can move the image around. Frame 1 will be the starting position.

  15. If you will make a motion tween, convert the image to a movie clip.

  16. Insert a keyframe at around 5 or 10.

  17. Either create a shape or motion tween

  18. In the last frame add the following script:
    Make sure you change the step name in each clip.

  19. Insert a new layer for sound

  20. Import your sound into the library

  21. Create a keyframe after frame 1

  22. Click on the keyframe and in the properties Inspector add the sound

  23. Each clip will look something like this

  24. Return to Scene 1

  25. Create a button. Select Windows>Common Libraries>Buttons

  26. Drag a button onto the stage. Name it in the Properties Inspector

  27. Insert a new layer and open the Actionscript window.

  28. Copy and paste the following code:
    function reset(){
    //do this for each step
    //reset the flag

If using creating your own:
Your machine must have at least 4 steps.
Here are some machine parts to inspire you
  1. Decide on a goal for your machine. The goal is the last step of your machine. It may be something useful, like how to turn off the alarm clock, or something silly, such as how to swat a fly.

  2. Think about a few things from around the house, in your room, from the kitchen or in a junk drawer. Balls, marbles, dominoes, string, toy cars, mousetraps, magnets, cardboard or tubes, etc. Because this will be an animation, dangerous items are okay (fire, explosives, etc).

  3. Using Appleworks or a piece of paper, write down any idea that pops into your head. No matter how crazy the idea seems, just write it down for later. Even if you don't use it, it may help you think of more things. Trouble brainstorming? Then try this. Write down 10 uses for a computer disk (other than what it is intended - to store computer files). It can be anything, as silly as you want! Or go through the alphabet, naming one machine part for each letter: Airplane, Balloon, Comb...

    You can develop at least a few parts of the machine around a theme:
    • Star Wars: use a collection of a tiny spaceship to drop down a string, bump a toy alien, push some "moon" rocks...

    • Farming: imagine a small tractor pushing a cow, triggering a mini bale of hay to drop into a small barn...

    • Sports: golf balls, mini racetracks, tiny tennis racket, and even use a baseball bat or golf club as a sturdy pole.

    • Cats: toy cat, mousetrap, catnip, ball of string...

  4. Once you get a few good ideas for your machine, make a list, in order, of the steps.

  5. If you get stuck at a certain step of your machine, why not try to work your way backwards? Start at the last step, and connect the part to it that triggers it.

  6. Maybe you've overlooked the most important element of an outstanding Rube Golberg machine: Rube saw the humor in every situation. His ludicrious cartoons were a satire on the American public for their complicated methods for solving a problem. A true Rube Golberg machine would be boring without some commom household items (old toys, toilet plunger, egg beater, mousetrap, typewriter...)

  7. Open Flash by clicking on the Flash Icon on the dock:

  8. Create a new document. Make sure it is Actionscript 2

  9. Save (+SHIFT+S) document in work folder:

  10. For each item in your machine create a new symbol:

  11. Add more symbols as needed

  12. Return to Scene 1

  13. Now play with the things! Arrange the clips in some order. You'll have to do some editting so that they fit together. The final machine may look different from your original idea. Try not to get frustrated, this is part of learning what works best.

  14. Continue following the instructions from here (Step 10).