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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
Here are a range of videos of some bizarre automated drawing machines, from an instrument that draws mushroom clouds from the dust from nuclear test sites, a large industrial robot used to automatically draw what it sees and a variety of increasingly odd contraptions.

bizarre drawing contraption videos

This list covers the period from 1920 when the Harding - Cox election results were first broadcast by radio, to the present day when presenters have to interact with a virtual reality zoo of giant, artless, real-time animated charts.The first live TV election broadcasts were produced in the 50s, employing professional sign writers would have to paint charts, live. Static and very basic sets were used well into the 70s, as can be seen from the spartan US military set in South Vietnam for the 1972 Nixon election.Despite the technology behind contemporary broadcast sets, they are all unimaginatively dull, with identical patriotic, red white and blue color schemes and similar color blends and soft shading. These are the TV equivalent of a hideous blue-white blend default Powerpoint template.

election broadcast technology through history

If there is one kind of hammer that you don't want to get your thumb stuck under, its a steam hammer, a giant hellish machine that defined the industrial age.There are several claims to its invention in the mid 19th century, to hammer steel into shape and smash out impurities. One of these is Creusot, who exhibited a version at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1878.Looking at the Creusot Hammer, I would argue that it was the inspiration for the Eiffel tower, ten years later.Here are a variety of hammers including the mechanical or hydraulic versions that replaced steam, but still have the same titanic look.

10 massive steam hammers

Our top burglar alarms include an array of guns with trip wires or trigger mechanisms, designed to scare off thieves, including the hellish looking device from a London dock warehouse, a clockwork 19th century doorstop burglar alarm, and a device from the 1930's which dialed an emergency number and played back an alert message from a gramophone record. Vote for your faves.

top 10 unusual burglar alarms

With the notable exception of Apple, America has largely ceased to be a design culture, yet from Art Deco to Mid-Century modern, the US once ruled the world. There is no better example of a quintessentially American product designer than Raymond Loewy, who combined the exuberance of consumer culture with the asceticism of modernism and applied this to elements from pencil sharpeners to locomotives.Like Apples lead designer, Loewy was not from America. He was born in France and travelled to New York after WWI, wearing only his officers uniform and carrying $40. Here are a dozen of our favorite examples of Loewy designs.

12 Classic Raymond Loewy Designs

Historically, military rations, comprised, in significant part, of cigarettes and alcohol, while the quantity of food was far less than today. Current US army field rations are ready to eat and focus on high energy foods including caffeine-infused gum, they must cost less than $7.25 per meal, survive for 3 years at 27 degrees C and after a 100 foot drop.Civilian rations are often far less bountiful, such as WW2 food rations current Cuban rations or the tiny hunk of bread that Gulag prisoners were given. Vote for which items are most striking.

12 different food rations

A gallery of some of the most impressive control rooms, including the original NASA mission control, the Beatles recording studio, the NORAD nuclear war room, what is left of Chernobyl reactor 4 control and control rooms for TV, traffic, subways and particle accelerators.

control rooms of all types

Zoetropes, Phenakistoscopes and Praxinoscopes were the machines that formed the basis of modern day movie making. Here are some movies of these amazing machines in action, complete with some great modern interpretations.

Movies of moving picture machines (videos)

The fetish aspect of external, insect-like skeletons has made them a staple of science fiction. However, the utility is real, from the incredible Japanese Enryu rescue exoskeleton, which looks like a loader from the Aliens movie, to brain controlled limb enhancers for the para or quadraplegic.


Complex dangerous machinery isn't the first choice for a home-brew project, unless you are rural farmer, apparently. Some of these look like remnants of a cargo cult, and most of them received stern warnings from the relevant civil aviation authorities to not even try firing them up, but a couple actually flew.

homemade helicopters

Babel is interesting because it represents the ultimate in imaginary architecture, a skyscraper of the mind. The Tower of Babel is the archetypal image of a giant tower, a man made hill, yet nothing like our idea of it has ever been built. The closest are possibly Mont Saint-Michel or perhaps the downtown Manhattan cluster, yet one is a natural mound and the other an apparent hill created from many buildings.The idea of Babel traces back to ancient Sumerian stories from the time of 5000 year old Mesopotamian Ziggurats, to the reinterpretation of these myths in the book of Genesis. In the 16th century the ironic obsession with Babel among 16th century painters in hill-less Lowland Europe, created the most well known imagery, but it evolved further with the unbuilt Palace of the Soviets or the imaginary babel in the retro futuristic skyscraper cities of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

towers of babel

At first glance you think, wow a tie camera, a camera in a case, mirror, plant, cigarette packet, cell phone. How cool would that have been when I was a kid? Then you think, hmm …cell phone. Cell phones already have cameras, its a pretty dumb place to put a spy cam.The progress of technology has overtaken the mystique of the hidden camera such that we have been invaded by a million spy cams embedded in wholesale crap.Vote for the silliest. Oh, and do check out the rather great antique watch camera which is from the days when spy cams were actually impressive.

16 odd spy cams

Bicycles are very efficient machines, more efficient than legs! Here are some of the more bizarre bicycle powered objects from a washing machine, to a bulldozer, a centrifuge at NASA and even a rollercoaster.

12 bizarre pedal powered things

There is a saturation point where individual pieces of graffiti become a texture, when things are absolutely covered in graffiti. This tends to happen in places that are charged with emotional energy, such as the Berlin wall, however here are some less well known places. From the throne of England which is covered top to bottom in hundreds of years old carved graffiti and equally aristocratic Harrow School which features a wood paneled classroom where every inch is covered by pupils who have carved their names, including Winston Churchill to pop culture shrines such as U2's former recording studio and Elvis' Graceland and not so pop Oscar Wilde, whose grave is covered in kisses.

graffiti covered

As people blow each other to pieces, daily, on the planet below, the silently floating Hubble telescope seems to represent everything great about humankind. Here are our other favorite telescopes.Update: Have been in continuous operation since 1963, the Arecibo project is in danger of closing due to cuts in funding. Jonathan, who is a researcher working at the Arecibo dish has posted a link in the comments to its website where you can donate or voice your support.

16 most wonderful telescopes

Alain Robert, known as Spiderman, climbs the tallest buildings in the world, without ropes. Last summer he famously scaled Frank Genry's new tower for the New York Times, in Midtown Manhattan. Here is a list of video footage of him climbing a dozen different structures.

12 videos of spiderman climbing real skyscrapers

Unintentional comedy is one of the consequences of Moores Law (that computer power doubles every two years) and almost any claim made in a computer ad more than a decade old. Included here are claims that compared to the Macbook Air that I am writing this on, a computer with 2 million times less RAM will "satisfy your lust for power"; that a computer a thousand times slower will give you "answers fast" for demanding applications and that a computer with several thousand times the volume is "compact and mobile".

16 hilariously unimpressive computer ads

Manikins (the alternate spelling, mannequin, is usually used for the store window variety) which are used for medical training are extremely interesting devices with accurate and working anatomical elements. This list is larger than usual since the number of interesting items meant that we kept on looking.

medical manikins

There is nothing more exciting than a space rocket launch. Here we've pulled together a dozen of our favorites from famous missions to unusual angles. Our personal fave is perhaps the least dramatic but the most unusual, the view of a Shuttle launch from a commercial airliner.

12 Space Rocket Launch Videos

Five of so architects have produced much of the most famous modern furniture. Here are 15 different chairs by 15 different famous modern architects. Vote for your faves.

15 architects 15 chairs

Ironically, airports are one of the few things you often don't get to see an aerial view of since you don't get a cockpit seat. Here are a dozen of our favorites, purely in terms of their abstract graphical layout. See if you can guess them.

guess the airport from the aerial view

Spot the man made fakery from the bizarre but real. For April Fools Day Oobject becomes Zoobject and is all about animals rather than machines, with a cunning cryptozoology quiz. Vote for your faves and click to see which are real or fake.

zoobject cryptozoology quiz

oobject header image

“Around San Francisco, that mecca of art and technology, Oobject has become a favorite gadgety diversion–and inspiration”

Oobject is like a digital Wunderkammer comprising visual lists of man-made objects. Oobject may look like yet another, crappy, weird things site, but delve in, I’ve put an unhealthy amount of effort into it. –


Tourbillon watches are the most expensive in the world often costing $500,000. They became fashionable in the last decade as non-forgeable status symbols for billionaires, but that is now being threatened by Chinese imitations.The style of these devices is baroque in the truest sense, but becuase their aesthetic derives from the rational world of mechanics the style jars and they are, to my mind, as grotesque and kitsch as their diamond encrusted counterparts in the luxury watch market.After facing the existential threat of digital which made accuracy cheap, the Swiss watch industry turned to making high end jewelry either directly with diamond encrusted gold watches or indirectly via those that fetishised complex mechanics for the sake of it, such as these. Ironic, since the origins of Swiss watch making came from the ban on jewelry in Calvanist Geneva.These tourbillon (whirlwind) watches are the most extreme example of complex analog mechanics, the most expensive clockwork items in the world, costing between $100,000 and $500,000, they all share a rotating escapement which theoretically leads to better accuracy (even though that does not compare to a $50 swatch).This mechanism is very difficult to make and fascinating to look at, so most tourbillon watches directly expose their intricate mechanics, which originally only the Swiss could make. Recently, however, Chinese watch makers have brought tourbillon watches to market, for a tenth of the price, threatening their cache as a status symbol which is difficult to fake.

One of the negative things about technological progress is when something that was originally intricate and mechanical becomes a ubiquitous piece of cheap technology. This happened in the 70s with watches and more recently has happened with cameras.A modern day spy camera is not that interesting, but the miniature ones here are, similarly the wide range of hardware solutions create much more design diversity in early cameras, from the giant 900lb box camera to the bizarre miniature ones developed for carrier pigeons, from gun like trigger activated shutters to a propeller powered film advance mechanism for a camera mounted below an early aircraft.

Around the same time Roy Lichtenstein copied comic books for the New York chattering classes, Papua New Guinean tribesmen did the same for their battle shields. These items are real, used in tribal warfare after prototypical lycra-clad American comic book hero The Phantom somehow struck a chord with traditional cultures in the Western Highlands. They are possibly one of the most bizarre items of popular culture’s infiltration of the far corners of the world.

Nail houses have become emblematic of the accelerated rate of development in China. They are buildings whose owners have resisted selling to developers and which remain standing in the middle of new construction all around, like stubborn nails which can't be beaten down with a hammer. Here are 9 examples including ones in the US and Europe.

We've trawled the web to fine genuinely special objects for this gift guide, from a Cray super-computer, an original Apple Lisa, a calculator used on the Mir space station, some classic Dieter Rams objects and the most beautifully futuristic car ever made, the Citroen SM.You can buy any of the items via the links to the sites where they are listed. If anyone bought me anything from this list I'd be very, very happy.

P.J. O’Rourke observed that when someone digs up Manhattan in 2000 years, they’ll wonder what kind of hideous torture the civilization inflicted on people there because of the amount of gym equipment. The same could be said of this stuff which, despite its bizarre appearance, is generally quite benign.Most interestingly, these devices were the work or Dr Kellog, now better known for his breakfast cereals which were part of his health regimen as medical head of the Battle Creek sanitarium.A big thank you to John EverBlest at who provided me with these pictures from his wonderful collection.

If Apple is all about the product which then sells itself, then Ron Popeil’s Ronco was the exact reverse. Popeil took the kinds of things that work well with a hard sell: knives, peelers, dubious hair loss products that looked like spray paint, created a new twist rather than an invention per se and made them from cheap materials. These were then the subject of the archetypal infomercial, progenitor of the term O-matic and popularizer of the phrase ‘as seen on TV’.Popeil represents the quintessential salesman and as a result is seen with affection rather than derision, an iconic part of American popular culture and capitalism. Her are 9 videos of Popeil products.

The tanning devices here may not be perceived as light therapy devices, but the concept of sun bathing morphed from scientific and quasi scientific light treatments at the end of the 19th century, where people would immerse themselves in light baths - hence the term sun bathing.Abuse of sun bathing as recreation has created a backlash, masking its genuine benefits in moderation and how it is perceived has obviously changed over time, as witnessed by my favorite item here which shows four congressmen in suits bathing in the light shower baths of the Turkish baths of the House of Representatives.

Times Square is the worlds most visited attraction. More people visit this crossroads in Manhattan every year than there are Canadians. It used to be called Longacre Square after the same area in London which was also the center of the carriage trade. Then the New York Times created its headquarters on the south side in 1904, and so the area was names after it.The Times building was completely remodeled in the mid 60s as the Allied Chemical building, then again more recently, to the point where it is basically a giant billboard support with only one tenant - the people who drop the famous ball at New Year.For this Times Square set I've chosen images all looking south towards the former Times building, from 1880 to 2011, through the first neon billboards, the decline in the 80s, the Christo project to wrap it 1 Times Square in 1985 and its refurbishment in the 1990s as something more like the Vegas strip.

Movies originated from animated still images, either through a rotating slit (zoetropes), a faceted mirror (praxinoscopes) or a rotating drum with flip cards in the case of the mutoscope. Here are some sample videos of the machines themselves, from antiques to modern day installations based on them.

There are plenty of interesting unbuilt projects for some of the world's most famous cities, but there is something particularly unsettling about alternatives for things that were build. Some monuments are so iconic that their alternatives seem like sacrilege.Included here among various alternatives for Tower Bridge, the Washington Monument, The Chrysler building and St. Paul's Cathedral are proposed extensions to the White House, a 5 million tomb alternative to London's famous Victorian cemeteries and a particularly uninspiring second place entry for the Sydney Opera House competition. My personal favorite, however is the Triumphal Elephant which could have capped off the Champs Elysees in Paris. If someone could only find the rejected competition entry for what became the Eiffel Tower, which consisted of a giant replica of a Guillotine.

Inflatables are an obvious choice for space vehicles and satellites, a small sized payload than can be inflated once up, yet for some reason they aren't the norm.The first passive communications satellites were inflatable spheres, such as the Echo series, which mylar was developed for, and early prototypes for space stations were inflatable. More recently, funding for the inflatable replacement for the habitat unit on the space station was cancelled and a private company Bigelow Aerospace is now the pioneer in the field, having successfully launched an inflatable unit.My favorite in this list, however, is the grid sphere satellite which replaced the Echo ones which didn't stay up long becuase the suns heat would deform them and slow them down. A helium inflated plastic balloon expanded a signal reflecting hollow geodesic mesh, with the plastic then dissolving under the suns rays. The mesh could then stay up for 11 years or so.

Dueling pistols are strange, beautiful and ironic. Gadgets to shoot each other in the face with, crafted with the delicacy and decorative extravagance of expensive jewelry.They appeared in the 18th C, as faster firing versions of flintlock guns replaced swords. Their use dwindled in the 19th C, while duels were still fought in the Western US states where the less rich would engage in gouging, similarly prearranged combat, with the aim of plucking out the opponent’s eyes.Dueling pistols were designed for the upper classes, for the preservation of honor, used illegally by generals and poets (Pushkin was killed in a duel), several US presidents (even Lincoln accepted a challenge to a duel)and even presented, with no sense of irony, as diplomatic gifts.

Photo finishes are made using strip or slit scan cameras. They are an assemblage of slices of something as it passes a certain point, such as a finish line. The same y axis at different points in time rather than different points in an x,y plane at an instant. As such they produce sometimes beautiful or plain weird distortions, from the arched backs and smeared limbs of Olympic cyclists and runners to pictures of aircraft propellers which appear impossibly separated from the nosecone.

The Olympics has become surreal, an athletic event which manages to roll up some of the world's least popular sports and make some of the world's most popular, such as soccer, capture less interest. It's all about the opening ceremony and the 100M, so the entire multi-billion dollar affair centers on 3 hours of introduction and 10 seconds of meaningful competition. It's an event where the organizers earn tens of times that of the athletes, evade taxes and create new criminal laws to prosecute those who challenge sponsors who peddle things that are bad for your health. Added to this is the absurd level paramilitary security.It used to be worse however. The security used to be an event, with Military Patrol being a sport in three games. Shown here is the rather disturbing image of the German medal winning Military patrol team, between WWI and WWII. Other dubious shooting contests included killing pigeons (as well as racing them) and dueling, where two competitors would try and shoot each other in the face with wax bullets.Several of the demonstration sports are straight from Monty Python territory: Fire Fighting, Cannon Shooting and Kite Flying. But my absolute favorite are the little known arts medals. Walter Winans was one of 2 people to win both sports and and arts medals, for sculpture and deer shooting and Brooklyn's Marine Park was the subject of Charles Downing Lay's Olympic silver medal in Town Planning in 1936.I seen several sites doing a similar list to this, however I spent a long time trying to pick up the best selection including a few that were missed elsewhere. Enjoy.

Unlike today's universal cigar shaped commercial airliners, early aircraft took lots of design forms as people experimented with different principals. This is a normal trend in design, however the image of multiplanes (those with many wings) collapsing as an icon of naive understanding of flight masks an ironic truth.The most ridiculous looking items in this list are the three flying ‘venetian blinds', constructed by Horatio Phillips between 1883 and 1907, the last of which, with more than 50 wings, looks more like a wooden building frame than an aircraft. Phillips, however, was the first person to truly understand the science of flight and aerfoil shapes, so these mark one of the more rational developments in aviation history.

Football kit (American football), has changed dramatically over a relatively short history, such that early football helmets look positively medieval and the latest anti-concussion helmets are fully fledged gadgets in their own right.The first football helmet designs were soft shell lattices that resemble those still worn by rugby players. Unlike rugby, however, contact can be made when you don't have possession of the ball, so helmets became progressively more robust and elaborate. Around the 1920s helmets were clearly inspired by Roman army ones, only made of soft leather and occasionally with full face-masks. These 'executioner' helmets are the most sought after collectors items, today.The first metal face masks appeared in the 30s although they did not become commonplace until the 50s, when the modern helmet took shape, eventually becoming a hard plastic or composite shell.

The blackboard is a somewhat legacy item that has disappeared from classrooms and meeting rooms, to be replaced by screens and whiteboards, except that is for physicists and Hollywood movies. Walking around CERN and peeking into rooms many still have blackboards covered in equations.In celebration of the Higgs, here are 15 physicists in front of their blackboards. The apotheosis of ‘blackboard craft' is possibly John Wheeler who used to pre-prepare very elaborate boards filled with colored diagrams. In the list I've tried to pick those which have some relevance to the development of the standard model: Feynman; Gell-Mann; Glashow or the eventual discovery of the Higgs, such as Higgs himself or important CERN luminaries such as my personal hero, John Bell, author of what has been called the most profound theory in physics: that if quantum theory is correct, then either things communicate instantly at a distance, or they don't exist when they aren't being looked at or both. Brownie points if you can say what the equations on the blackboards are, in the comments

Escape pods are a ubiquitous element of science fiction but surprisingly rare in real life. The ones I found are largely for high speed jet fighters or ships, submarines and oil platforms, but my absolute favorite is the patent drawing for a gigantic detachable commercial pod in a regular commercial airliner which floats passengers gently to the ground via an array of parachutes. In the massively unlikely event that this ever is realized, I will fly forever with any airline that adopts it.

The first early warning systems were large concrete dishes which focused the sound of incoming Zeppelins towards listeners wearing stethoscopes, during WW1. Today's nuclear attack early warning systems are largely satellite based infra red detectors and airborne dishes, mounted on planes and helicopters. They have made a vast array of geodesic domed, Cold War radar installations obsolete, where they remain abandoned in some of the most isolated places on earth such as Greenland and Northern Canada.

Amazingly, the existence of the unsuccessful Soviet moon landing program was secret until the fall of the USSR. It consisted of three principal components: the N1 rocket; Soyuz 7K-L3 orbiter and LK lander.The first stage of the N1 is the most powerful rocket every built, it never launched successfully and when it blew up, it resulted in the largest non-nuclear, man-made explosion in history. All of the hardware looks similar enough to be familiar, but different enough to be slightly alien, such as the bug like lander, of which there are 5 left. All that remains of the N1 itself are a few scraps in a children's playground in Kazakhstan, but its engine type is still in existence, used by the company that formerly owned the satellite system used by Google Maps.

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