On the windowsill in my office, up there with a small chunk of New Hampshire granite, a logo Slinky, and a tiny ceramic turtle-shaped planter (why do I have that?), I have a small red plastic box. It looks like a 1960s-era transistor radio, with a single speaker, a switch and a volume wheel.
It is a Buddha Machine, from FM3; "a little plastic box that plays music." In fact it contains two short loops of music that repeat in a drone that can be conducive to meditation, or intense work, or just weirding-out your co-workers.
I bought mine on-line a few years back after reading about it in The New Yorker. They are made by a couple of musicians in China -- one Chinese, the other a Westerner -- who also perform with groups of the machines as FM3.
Sasha Frere-Jones has written about the Buddha Machine again, both in the magazine and on his blog. I think it was his tip before that led me to the original. The news this time is that there is an updated version of the Buddha Machine, with more loops and options. There is also, apparently, an iPhone application.
Frere-Jones also points to a page with samples of some of the loops and to a cool site that offers a virtual wall of loop-playing machines that can be mixed and matched and played in dizzying combinations.
Think how much fun I can have with my office-mates now!