Teaching Machine Designed by B.F. Skinner

Teaching Machine Designed by B.F. Skinner

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This gray and silver-colored machine has a metal base with a hinged metal cover over the back section. Inside this is a metal and plastic mechanism driving a paper tape. The machine was designed to teach arithmetic and spelling to grade school students. A plastic window in the lid reveals a question on the paper tape. On the base of the machine there are ten columns of holes; each column is labeled along its side with "+", "-", the digits from 9 to 0 and then the letters from a to z. A student enters answers by moving a lever down the appropriate column to the desired number or letter. A light bulb is on the right of the machine, above the paper tape (entering the correct answer may light up the bulb). A counter is inside the machine and a handle on the side advances the paper tape. A rubber cord with plug extends from the back of the machine. According to the donor, this is an improvement on the machine he demonstrated in Pittsburgh in 1954.
Compare 1981.0997.01.
Accession file.
Currently not on view
Object Name
teaching machine
date made
after 1954
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 40 cm x 42 cm x 58 cm; 15 3/4 in x 16 17/32 in x 22 27/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of B. F. Skinner
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Teaching Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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