> It might not be relevant for patent purposes, in some views, how the builder got the machine to behave the way it does, just that the machine does.
See, this right here is the real problem. Before the advent of general-purpose computer and software--and software patents--a patent did only cover a specific implementation: how the machine or process works, not the end product. You don't get a patent for steel; you get a patent for a particular process which produces steel. You don't get a patent for "devices which do X", you get a patent for "a specific, non-obvious design for a device which does X". Accomplishing the same end by sufficiently different means does not infringe the patent.
How a machine works may not be relevant from a *consumer's* point-of-view, but when it comes to patents the machine's inner workings are the entire point of the exercise. There is simply no *point* in granting a patent which monopolizes the end result without revealing anything non-obvious about how that result was achieved; such patents are 100% public cost with no public benefit.