Tim Hunkin

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Tim Hunkin
Tim Hunkin.jpg
Tim Hunkin in 2010
Timothy Hunkin

1950 (age 69–70)
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge[1]
Known forThe Secret Life of Machines
Under the Pier Show
Scientific career

Tim Hunkin (born 1950) is an English engineer, cartoonist, writer, and artist living in Suffolk, England. He is best known for creating the Channel Four television series The Secret Life of Machines,[2] in which he explains the workings and history of various household devices. He has also created museum exhibits for institutions across the UK, and designed numerous public engineering works, chiefly for entertainment. Hunkin's works are distinctive, often recognisable by his unique style of papier-mâché sculpture (made from unpainted newsprint), his pen and ink cartoons, and his offbeat sense of humour.[3][4]


Hunkin graduated in engineering from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.[when?][1]

Work and career[edit]

A water clock in Covent Garden built by Tim Hunkin and Andy Plant

Hunkin's Under the Pier Show[5] at Southwold Pier, England is a penny arcade featuring a number of humorous, coin-operated machines of his creation. Attractions include the "Autofrisk" (a device that simulates the experience of being frisked by multiple, inflated rubber gloves), the "Bathyscape" (a device that simulates a brief submarine adventure) and a somewhat rude sculptural clock. Hunkin has also opened Novelty Automation, an amusement arcade in Holborn, London, which has a more satirical tone, of which Hunkin has said "I don’t think political art has an enormous effect, but in the short term it is satisfying to reinforce people’s disrespect of the villains."[6]

Many of his other projects are large-scale and theatrical, including gigantic clocks of unconventional designs, bonfires and pyrotechnic displays. In 1976, he designed the flying pigs and sheep for rock band Pink Floyd's In The Flesh tour, promoting their Animals album.

"My Nuke" arcade game at Novelty Automation

His displays are also featured in episodes of The Secret Life of Machines and relate to the machine covered by the programmes. These included a mountain of flaming televisions; flying vacuum cleaners fitted with rocket motors; a carhenge; a ballet of self-propelled portable radios; and a bizarre "pilgrimage" of an internal combustion engine carried, shoulder high, on a bier into the centre of Carhenge. The Pink Floyd inflatable pig was also featured in the vacuum cleaner episode. Other displays featured in the series were more informative, such as a free-standing central heating system and a "human sewing machine." The programs also include his cartoons in voiced and animated form.

In 2013 he created a large, unfolding clock for the San Francisco Exploratorium.[7]


Hunkin has published several books in his distinctive cartoon style. His first was a children's book, Mrs Gronkwonk and the Post Office Tower (ISBN 978-0207955006) in 1973, which he recently made available again at Lulu.com. In 1988 he published Almost Everything There Is To Know [8], a compilation of his comic strip The Rudiments of Wisdom,[9] first published in The Observer. He is also the author of the book Hunkin's Experiments [10][11] which describes a variety of science-based pranks, games, and curiosities. Content from both books is freely available online.


  1. ^ a b "Tim Hunkin: The Seaside Inventor". YouTube.com. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ "The Secret Life Of Machines Home Page". Secretlifeofmachines.com. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  3. ^ "Tim Hunkin home page". Timhunkin.com. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  4. ^ "B3TA : INTERVIEWS : TIM HUNKIN". B3ta.com. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Under the pier show arcade, southwold/alternative coin operated machines". Underthepier.com. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  6. ^ Weaver, Matthew (17 November 2016). "Housing Ladder arcade game has players dodging buy-to-let investors". Theguardian.com.
  7. ^ "Exploratorium - Tinkerer’s Clock, created by tinkerer Tim Hunkin..." Exploratorium.tumblr.com. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  8. ^ Almost Everything There Is To Know. ISBN 1-871307-43-0.
  9. ^ "The Rudiments of Wisdom Cartoon Encyclopedia". Rudimentsofwisdom.com. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  10. ^ Hunkin's experiments. ISBN 978-0954226602.
  11. ^ "Hunkin's Experiments (over 200 home experiments)". Hunkinsexperiments.com. Retrieved 22 January 2019.