The use of the term "machine" dates from early designs that used an electrical generator operated by winding a rotary handle or pushing down a T-handle. Modern blasting machines are battery-powered and operated by key switches and push-buttons, and do not resemble the older designs.
A typical "capacitive discharge" blasting machine works by charging a capacitor from a battery, then discharging the capacitor through an external circuit, called the firing line, to fire the blasting cap. While the machine is idle, an "internal shunt" is connected across the output terminals so that any stray voltages induced in the external circuit, for example by nearby radio transmitters, are harmlessly short-circuited without triggering the blasting cap. The machines also typically include an "abort" feature to discharge the internal capacitor without firing the cap.