Martin’s Marvelous Marble Machine — The Wintergatan YouTube Channel

This is the first in what I hope will be a long series of blog posts highlighting my favorite YouTube channels. Note: you can click on the links in this blog for other related content such as Wikipedia pages and other YouTube videos, channels, and playlists that I chose not to embed in the blog itself.

Today we are going to feature a YouTube channel called Wintergatan that is one of my favorites of all time. It contains about 200 videos and I would speculate that over the past 4 years I’ve watched all of them. Click here for Wintergatan on YouTube.

Who is Wintergatan

Wintergatan is a somewhat obscure Swedish folk electronic band from Gothenburg, Sweden that has only released 1 album and 14 singles. Amazingly they have 1.69 million subscribers and a video that boasts 135 million views. Playing only instrumental music, the band’s ensemble includes vibraphone, synthesizers, theremin, base guitar, drums, and occasionally a typewriter as a rhythm instrument. They also have a homemade music box that uses punched paper tape to play music. Some of their songs are a bit ethereal or mystical sounding but most have a rather upbeat or happy beat to them that makes you want to tap your foot or perhaps clap your hands along with them. Here is a video of a live performance of their song “Starmachine 2000”.

On their channel you will find a playlist of 6 live performances as well as the audio from their entire first album on a separate playlist.

Although they’ve had a presence on YouTube for many years and a small following of fans of their videos and live performances, they would have to admit they are a fairly obscure group.

Enter the Marble Machine

All of that changed in March 2016 when they uploaded a video titled “Wintergatan – Marble Machine (machine instrument using 2000 marbles)” seen below. We suggest you watch it now.

That amazing video has been seen over 135 million times and skyrocketed them from relative obscurity into one of the most popular YouTube channels available. As mentioned before, they now have 1.69 million subscribers and boast over 4000 paid members and Patreon supporters.

For a computer geek like me this amazing Marble Machine is very reminiscent of the “Animusic” computer animations that were popular in the 1990s. In those videos, robotic machines would drop marbles onto musical instruments and play complex melodies. These videos were immensely popular in their day because they were not only interesting visually and musically, they demonstrated the state-of-the-art of computer animation long before companies like Pixar even existed. There videos were sold on VHS and DVD. By the way they do have their own YouTube channel here. It consists of just 11 videos and nothing new has been uploaded in 7 years. However if you’ve never seen one of their videos we recommend “Pipe Dreams” available here.

Back to the real Marble Machine… it was constructed by band member Martin Molin and documented in a series of a few videos between December 2014 and March 2016. Here is a playlist of 14 videos about building the Marble Machine.

The machine was built out of hand cut plywood with a few metal parts and the programming wheels were made out of Lego technics pieces. Martin later admitted that the machine barely worked at all. They struggled to get it to play the now famous “Marble Machine Song” all the way through in order to make that famous video. Although a marvel of handbuilt engineering, it just didn’t have sufficient precision to hold up to repeated performances.

Martin had always had the dream that he could take the Marble Machine on the road and perform with it live on a world tour. It was obvious the machine just wasn’t up to the task. So in January 2017 he endeavored to build a new machine called the “Marble Machine X”. This new machine would still be built mostly of plywood, augmented by some metal frame parts. Rather than hand cutting the pieces, he purchased a computer-controlled CNC router to cut the pieces. The entire machine has been meticulously modeled in Fusion 360 CAD software. It is such a complicated model that it has pushed that software to its very limits. He has even created a video where he consulted with developers from AutoCAD on how to more efficiently use Fusion 360 for such complicated designs.

From January 2017 until now he has created a series of weekly videos that chronicle the building of the new Marble Machine X. It is a weekly series called “Wintergatan Wednesdays”. These construction videos are amazing. They chronicle the daily struggle of trying to design and build and sometimes redesign and rebuild various components of the machine. We journey along with him as he slowly masters CAD design, tig welding, and other fabrication techniques. Here is a playlist of the entire 120 videos titled Building Marble Machine X.

In the past year or so he has brought on board dozens of volunteers to assist with the project. Engineers, designers, fabricators, musical instrument makers, project management specialists, and just plain fans of his work have all stepped up to contribute to the project despite the fact that some speculate the machine will never be finished. Personally I think it will be completed. I would guess he is about 90% complete at this point after over three years of construction. If his promised world tour ever comes to Indianapolis I will definitely be buying a ticket.

The videos present an interesting dichotomy between this lone maker now living in France and working out of his home workshop as well as the team effort of people around the world who have contributed materially and financially to the project.

The videos themselves are extremely entertaining. They are accompanied by his amazing musical compositions and sprinkled with lots of humor. It’s not just some boring videos of a guy assembling pieces of some weird machine. Case in point this week’s video is illustrating the entire path that the marbles take through the machine and how he had to redesign one section because it was unreliable. But the entire video is in the form of a sporting event that he narrates as the marbles race around the machine.

The weekly videos are so popular that they average over one half million views each week. There are also nearly 5000 paid members to his channel and Patreon supporters. Martin released sheet music of a piano version of the Marble Machine Song for free. Fans of the Marble Machine have honored him by making their own cover versions of the famous Marble Machine Song. He put together a video of himself watching these tribute videos and his reaction is quite heartwarming. I can’t imagine what it would mean to a person to have that much fan support and devotion as he spends countless hours alone trying to create the new machine. Here is his reaction video to all of the other Marble Machine tribute videos.

The description of that video includes a link to a playlist of all the tribute videos used in the compilation.

Music Machine Mondays

In addition to all of the videos about building the Marble Machine X, Martin also produced a series of videos called “Music Machine Mondays” in which he tours a number of museums that feature other mechanical music machines. Most of the videos were shot at the Speelklok Museum in the city of Utrecht, Netherlands. Here is a playlist of those videos. It includes someone playing a clock tower carillon version of his Marble Machine Song.

Here’s another collection of 21 fascinating videos from that museum featuring different instruments. Martin recently visited another museum of mechanical musical instruments and promises more upcoming videos in that series.

Final Thoughts

The saga of Wintergatan and Martin Molin is an inspiring story of what one person with an undying vision can accomplish. We see how his singular vision to create this fantastic musical instrument has inspired millions of followers and thousands of contributors who want to see him complete his dream. There are lessons to be learned in his journey. Spend some time watching these videos and I think you will find these videos as entertaining and inspiring as I have.

Introducing My YouTube Favorites

Those who know me know that I’m addicted to TV. I watch way too many TV shows and I get so far behind on watching some of them that I am often nearly one year behind on several shows. I’ve had to create a Google Docs spreadsheet to keep track of which episodes of which shows I’ve seen.

Not only am I addicted to the broadcast networks, cable networks both basic and premium, I also watch streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon prime, CBS All Access, Apple+ and Disney+.

As if that was not enough, I’m also addicted to YouTube. I currently subscribe to 445 YouTube channels. Obviously that doesn’t mean I watch all of them every day. Many of them only rarely post content. But some of my favorites post new content at least once a week and sometimes several times a week.

With many of us stuck at home oo out of work because of the pandemic, I thought I would do a new feature on my entertainment blog where I would highlight some of my favorite channels. I will try to stay away from niche channels that are closely related to my hobbies such as electronics or 3D printing but I may do one review that gives an overview of my favorite 3D printing channels or favorite maker channels.

Where most people are familiar with YouTube and may occasionally watch a YouTube video posted on Facebook or other social media, my guess is most people don’t really take advantage of all the features of the site that make it easy to keep track of your favorite channels and save links to your favorite videos so that you can show them to friends and family. It’s sort of like that commercial for Goodwill Stores where the guy says “To shop you just need a cart… But to compete you need a strategy!” In this blog post I’m going to give you some instructions on how to get the most out of YouTube. I will describe some of his features just for those who want to watch. How to create and upload videos for YouTube is an entirely different topic that we won’t be handling today.

Everything that we are demonstrating today assumes you are watching YouTube on a computer using a browser. We will be using Google Chrome but the screens should look similar on Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge or whatever you might be using. We will not be describing how to do these things on a phone or tablet because the apps might look different for different platforms and we don’t have access to all of that. We suggest you set things up using a browser and then most of these features should be available on your phone or tablet in some way shape or form.

Creating a Google Account

If you really want to get the most out of watching YouTube, you should create a YouTube account. YouTube is owned by Google so if you already have some sort of Google account then use it to login to YouTube. Examples of Google accounts include a Gmail email account, Google drive storage, Google Play store for purchasing apps for an android phone or tablet. If you don’t already have a Google account it’s easy to create one. If you already have an account you can skip this section.

Start by going to and you will see the YouTube homepage that would look something like this:

Note: you can click on any of the images in this blog to see a larger version.

In the upper right corner click on the button that says “Sign In” and you will see a screen that looks similar to the one below. Because I’ve already used this browser to log into 2 different Google accounts it gives me the option to click on one of those but if you need to create a new account you should click on “Use another account”.

That will bring up the following screen. If you hover over the “Create account” button there will be a drop-down to choose if the account is for personal use or business. We will click on “For myself”

You will be asked to give a first and last name, an email address, and a password that you will use for all of your Google accounts not just YouTube. This should not be your email password or any other password you use. It should be unique for Google services. Then click on “Next”.

You will be emailed a six digit verification code that you will enter into the next screen and then click on “Verify”. Next you will be asked to optionally give your phone number. I see no need. You will also have to enter your date of birth because some Google services are age-restricted. You will also be asked “Gender” but you can choose “Rather not say” if you don’t want to. Then click on “Next” and you will be taken back to the YouTube homepage logged into your new account.

At this point you can browse around YouTube, see what’s on the homepage as recommended. In the upper left corner click on “Trending” which shows you the most popular videos currently showing. Or you can click in the search box and look for any topic or channel name that you want. To the right of any video you will probably see a list of recommended videos based on topics that you have watched before. Of course Google/YouTube keeps track of everything you watch so it can make these recommendations and send you targeted advertisements. That’s just the way the Internet works. Actually it is quite useful because I’ve discovered some great content through these recommendations.

How to Watch Videos

I almost didn’t include this section because most of the videos you just click on them and they play automatically. However there are a few tricks and tips that should help you enjoy the videos even more. First of all, most videos are accompanied by advertisements. There is usually a countdown timer in the lower right corner of the video such that after 5 seconds you can click on “skip ads” and get straight to your video. Sometimes longer form videos have ads in the middle of them and you can similarly skip some of them after 5 seconds. There are also banner ads that pop up at the bottom of the screen and there is a tiny “x” in the upper right corner that you can click on to close them.

There are also a number of very handy keyboard shortcuts that you will find useful. For example pressing the spacebar will pause or play your video. Pressing “m” will temporarily mute or unmute the volume. Pressing “c” turns captions are off and on. Some videos have professionally produced captions but YouTube also has a speech to text feature that will automatically create reasonably good captions for videos that don’t have specific captions or subtitles already created. Click here for a complete list of keyboard shortcuts.

There are also tiny icons in the lower right corner of the video available when you hover your mouse over that area. It allows you to increase the size of your video to something called “theater mode” or to make your video full-screen. There is a slider bar across the bottom of the video when you hover over it that allows you to skip to any section of the video.

How to Subscribe to YouTube Channels

One of the most powerful features of YouTube is the ability to “subscribe” to channels. These subscriptions are free. All it really means is that you are making a list of your favorite channels so that you can see the latest videos from each of them in one handy place. After you have subscribed to a channel, you also have the option to sign up for notifications. That is explained below.

Anytime you’re watching a video there are a number of options in the lower right just below the video that look like this:

If you have not already subscribed to this particular channel you will see the red “SUBSCRIBE” button. If you click on it or if you have already subscribed you will see:

Next to the gray “SUBSCRIBED” button is a little bell icon. If you click on it, you will get notifications every time a new video is uploaded to that particular channel. Only enable notifications on the channels that you really want to be on top of continuously. You will get a pop-up message on your browser and you will get an email telling you about new uploads.

In that area you can also click on a thumbs up or thumbs down icon to express your like or dislike of the video. We will talk about the “SAVE” option later in the section on “Playlists”. The “SHARE” button gives you the option to share the video to Facebook, Twitter, other platforms or just copy a shortened URL address. You also have the option to share it beginning at a particular start time if you only want to call someone’s attention to a particular section of the video. You cannot specify an end time.

Let’s look at the YouTube homepage again. In the upper left corner the third item down is “Subscriptions”. If you click on it you will see a screen that looks like this:

This shows you the latest videos from all of your subscribed channels with the newest videos at the top. Actually if any videos are live streams they will be shown first and then other uploaded videos in chronological order from newest to oldest. So each day when I want to watch YouTube, I go to this page and it shows me everything which is new in one handy place. As I scroll down, once I see something familiar I know that I’ve reached the end of everything that was new since the last time I visited. In the lower left corner you will see a column “SUBSCRIPTIONS” that shows you all of the channels to which you have subscribed. Any channels showing live videos will appear at the top with a red icon. The rest of the list is sorted in alphabetical order by channel name.

About Playlists

If you think of your Subscription list as a favorite channel list you also have the ability to make multiple lists of favorite individual videos. These are called “Playlists” but you should really just think of them as folders to store your favorite videos. You can name these playlists anything you want. Some of my playlists are “NASA and Space”, “Maker Projects”, “3D printing”, “Radio Controlled”, “Science”, “Math”, “Music”, or “Comedy”. Others are more specific for example I have so many favorite videos for TV shows such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones etc. that they each have their own playlist. Other playlists include “Marvel” and “DC comics”. When you click on the “SAVE” button you are given the option to save it to one or more of your existing playlists or to create a new playlist.

Playlists are a great way to organize your favorite videos in case you want to watch them again or show them to your friends and family. It would be nice if they would let you nest your playlists like you can nest folders on your computer hard drive. For example it would be nice to be able to have “Music” and then within that “Classical” and “Rock” etc. but unfortunately you cannot do that. You cannot have a list within a list. But as mentioned before a single video can be added to multiple lists for example I might add a video to both it and “3D printing” and “Assistive Technology”.

Professional and Commercial YouTube Channels

My upcoming reviews will focus mostly on channels that are independent efforts of a single person or a small group of YouTube creators. But there are also many channels related to your favorite networks, TV shows, and musical artists. We suggest you do a search for your favorite shows or artists and subscribe to those channels first.

All of the late-night comedy shows such as Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, James Corden, Trevor Noah, and John Oliver have YouTube channels. Significant portions of their comedy routines such as Jimmy Fallon’s hashtags, thank you notes etc. appear on YouTube. Seth Meyers famous “A Closer Look” political commentary is often posted in the early evening before the show even airs. Videos also include some segments of the monologue and excerpts from guest interviews. John Oliver’s weekly show on HBO is a 30 minute show but the major portion of it is about a 20 minute rant on a particular topic of the week. It amazes me that he puts these entire rants on YouTube for free considering that HBO is a premium cable service. It’s been especially fun to watch the YouTube videos these comedians have been posting from home during the pandemic. Be sure to check them out.

I also subscribe to channels for various networks like AMC, BBC America, CW and FX because they include lots of behind the scenes videos about my favorite genre shows. HBO had some great videos behind-the-scenes of the making of Game of Thrones. Other shows such as Doctor Who and The Orville just to name a couple have their own YouTube channels for trailers, interviews, and behind-the-scenes content.

My favorite artists such as Sting, David Gilmore of Pink Floyd, Blue Man Group and others have their own channels. If your particular artist doesn’t have a dedicated YouTube channel, look for a channel from their record label. Some comedians such as ventriloquist Jeff Dunham have their own channel. He recently did some live streaming of him creating a new dummy character for his act. That was very interesting.

Supporting Your Favorite Channels

Creators of YouTube content are supported by ads. However in order to qualify to receive money from the advertising you have to have a minimum of 10,000 subscribers to your channel and I believe there is also a minimum amount of traffic that you have to have before you can share in the revenue that YouTube makes from all videos with ads.

YouTube creators however often have difficulty getting individual videos to qualify for advertising. For example if you are covering a controversial topic, YouTube might choose to de-monetize your particular video. There are also severe restrictions on monetization of videos aimed at children. Because it’s difficult to make a living off of advertising alone, there are other ways you can financially support your favorite content providers. Some channels have a “membership” button that allows you to financially support your favorite channels directly through YouTube. YouTube also gives you the ability to make spontaneous donations during live stream videos.

There is also a site called “” that allows you to pledge money on a per video basis to your favorite creators. Typically creators who use this service will encourage you to support them by this method and/or they will thank those who have already supported them through patreon. Some creators provide exclusive content to their Patreon supporters. Channels are also often supported by selling merchandise such as hats, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and posters related to the channel.

Note also that there is a premium YouTube service called YouTube TV that provides premium content such as TV shows and movies similar to the way other streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu work. I believe YouTube TV also occasionally supports cable channels and even local TV channels. I’ve never used it so I can’t really say. YouTube TV is not to support your favorite ordinary YouTube channels. It is all professionally created content from networks, cable channels etc.

My Reviews

Immediately after this blog post I will begin posting reviews of some of my favorite YouTube channels. You can click on the links in my blog to get to the channel and to see some of my favorite videos from those channels. And if you like them you can click on SUBSCRIBE to add them to your subscription list or perhaps add particular videos to one of your playlists. I’m going to be posting several reviews probably one every other day for the next several days to get you through your pandemic quarantine. I will then attempt to write perhaps one per week after that.


Late Night Comedy Does Work-from-Home

Last week both Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon attempted to put on a show with no audience. Both attempts were funny only because they were such terrible failures. On October 29 and 30, 2012 David Letterman did shows without audience just before and after hurricane Sandy as seen here. Telling a joke with only Paul Schaefer with his signature annoying laugh just didn’t work. Colbert’s audience consisted of about 20 staff members. Part of the way through his monologue he asked “Is this going okay?” And they all cheered and applauded. He thanked them and then reminded the viewers “Of course I pay these people so who knows.” Another good line was he said “Each night in my mind the show is perfect. All of the jokes are hilarious. And the only thing that goes wrong is when an audience shows up and proves me wrong. Tonight with no audience to disprove it, this show will be perfect.”

Seth Meyers and James Corden went to reruns rather than go audience free.

Now the late-night comedians have taken to YouTube to do 10-20 minute monologues. Here’s a sampling. Suggest you subscribe to their YouTube channels to see remaining episodes. It’s sort of reminiscent of amateur YouTubers who haven’t quite yet figured out how to do lighting and audio in a home environment. Click on the show title to get to their entire YouTube channel. And then click the links on individual shows.

The Late Show Was Stephen Colbert

March 17 Colbert broadcasts from his bathtub

March 18 Colbert in his backyard fire pit. Includes a very funny parody of “Danny Boy” and a nice piano concert by bandleader Jon Batiste.


Jimmy Kimmel Live

March 17 Quarantine Minilogue. Discovers by staying at home that he actually has children. Says that they watched Frozen 2 more times than the animators who created. Apparently first in a series.


Late night with Seth Myers

March 12: A Closer Look. Seth Myers canceled his Thursday night show but went ahead and recorded his “A Closer Look” segment that they had already written the night before. He hasn’t done any additional YouTube since then.


The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon

March 17 Home Edition (The First One). Shot by his wife on an iPhone apparently from his kids play room. Wonderfully amateurish 🙂


LastWeek Tonight with John Oliver HBO

March 16: Did his regular show without an audience. Could not do it in his regular studio because it had been contaminated by someone who tested positive. Clearly the most successful non-audience show of the group.


The Late Late Show with James Corden

He is showing reruns on broadcast and has not contributed anything to YouTube



Overall I’m giving the entire collection a rating of “I’m watching”. It’s really nice that I don’t have to record the entire show and fill up my DVR. I could just watch these monologues on YouTube whenever they come up. Hope you are staying safe and healthy during this crisis.

“Devs” is a Creepy Reflection on the Nature of Reality.

A new sci-fi thriller called “Devs” is available on Hulu. This eight part miniseries is released under the branding of “FX on Hulu” however the series doesn’t appear to be available on FX network at least as of yet. Nick Offerman plays a billionaire genius Forest who runs a computer company that has made major breakthroughs in quantum computing. If you’ve not heard of quantum computing it’s a new type of computer processor that takes advantage of some of the bizarre properties of quantum mechanics. Pundits currently claim that it has the potential to create the most powerful computers we’ve ever seen. It could be a disruptive technology that could unlock any current encryption techniques rendering all computer security obsolete. In real life quantum computing has yet to deliver on its promises but in this series it has delivered way beyond expectations.

The story follows Lily Chan played by Sonoya Mizuno works for a computer company called Amaya along with her boyfriend Sergei. Sergei gets promoted to the company’s top-secret division known as “Devs” but disappears the next day. She goes on a quest to uncover what really happened to him and to try to figure out what’s really going on in the company she works for.

The entire show has a very creepy feel to it. The Amaya company campus is in a wooded area featuring a giant 60 foot statue that looks like a two-year-old girl dressed in a dress. It sort of looks like a giant baby doll. No explanation is given why they have this bizarre monument. We get lots of creepy looking shots of this figure towering above the trees. The soundtrack that runs continuously beneath the show also adds a very creepy feeling to the entire thing.

At this point I will just say that after 3 episodes I’m really enjoying it and giving it a strong rating of “I like it“. It is being described as a miniseries of 8 episodes so don’t expect a second season. If I’m going to continue to talk more about it I really need to get into some spoilers. If you read on, I don’t think it will ruin your enjoyment of the show but some people are especially sensitive to any spoilers so if that’s you… stop reading now and go watch the show.

spoilers below




In the opening episode, Sergei is taken on a tour of the Devs facility by CEO Forrest played by Nick Offerman. It is housed in a completely separate building on the Amaya campus. A giant quantum supercomputer is housed in a vacuum sealed building that hovers inside the building using magnetic levitation. The entire thing is completely sealed from the outside world. Sergei is invited to sit down at a workstation, look at the code they are developing and then he will realize what the Devs project is all about. After several minutes of staring at the screen he suddenly jumps from his seat, runs into the restroom, and vomits violently.

We don’t have to wait long to find out what disturbed him so much. Forest explains to him that indeed this quantum computer has proven that the entire universe is deterministic. Every event in the world is the inevitable consequence of chemistry and physics working on the conditions prior to that moment. Everything is total cause and effect. Essentially free will does not exist. Everything that we do is 100% the inevitable consequence of what has happened prior to that. So this computer has the ability to accurately predict the future as well as run the equations backwards and look into the past.

In subsequent episodes we see them looking in on the crucifixion of Jesus, the burning of Joan of Arc at the stake, and then more personal items such as Marilyn Monroe having sex with her husband Arthur Miller. The latter was done so in violation of company policy and earns the programmers a reprimand. One of the female scientists Katie played by Alison Pill bemoans “Why do male techs always feel the need to caricature themselves? Step one: Create a new technology that reinvents the nature of human existence. Step two: Use it for porn.” Personally I would’ve gone for Marilyn and JFK.

One of the other consequences of the revelation that the universe is completely out of our control means that the enigmatic CEO feels no sense of guilt over anything. If one is not responsible for one’s own actions then one can do whatever they want because that choice is not theirs. It is inevitable.

The main part of the story is Lily trying to uncover Sergei’s disappearance. She is shown a video of him committing suicide but she doesn’t believe it’s real. She comes to discover that he is in fact an industrial spy for Russia. She had no idea. This furthers her feelings that everything isn’t what it seems to be. I’ve only seen the first 3 out of 8 episodes sort remains to be seen how deep the conspiracy goes or where the story will turn after this.

The questions raised by this strange technology and the bizarre revelation that the universe is not what it seems to be along with the mystery of the boyfriend spy and a hidden agenda of the company make this very compelling viewing. As stated before it gets a rating of “I like it” and if you like creepy technology shows sort of like Black Mirror then I highly recommend it.