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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
The Oobject Rotten Apple Award. To mark this week's 10th anniversary of the death of the Newton we have picked some of the products from Apple, that we'd rather forget.We could have picked many more from the years when Jobs was in the wilderness and Apple attempted to be market driven rather than design driven, under Sculley. Reactive rather than pro-active. One problem, the gallery would have been a sea of similar, anonymous items. For the Sculley era machines, assume that we mean every product in the range.(update: Apple's earnings are just in and they are blow-out. After hours trading shows that as of today, Apple is worth more than IBM.).Vote for your all time worst product.

19 all time worst apple products

Identified Unidentified Flying Oobjects. A list of some real flying saucers, from the US and Soviet military, a video of the amazing Moller M200x, some flying saucer inspired architecture and a patent for a nuclear powered flying saucer from British Rail, bizarrely. Vote for your faves.

flying saucers

Last week we did a roundup of quirky and interesting toolboxes. In the process of searching for these we came across a variety of beautifully designed ones. Why toolboxes? Because there is a history of superior design surrounding tools, because of their inherently ergonomic and utilitarian nature and this extends to the boxes to put them in. Some of these units are kitchen cabinet-like, except that they are better made than any kitchen unit, and if I was designing a kitchen I would use high end tool containers.Here is a list of the best designed toolboxes money can buy.

the best designed toolboxes

The excitement over commercial sub-orbital space tourism masks the reality of real commercial space venture through orbiting satellites. Obviously these are splendid complex objects to drool over, but you only get to do that while they are being assembled on the ground. Here are some of our favorite images including the giant clean rooms where surgeon-like technicians in white overalls piece them together.

12 satellites on the ground

A collection of ‘personal helicopters' and flying machines.As the T-shirt says - 'the is is the future, where is my Jetpack'. It seems that Jetpacks are basically dangerous, and since the appearance at the Los Angeles Olympics, nothing much has happened. Still, there are two manufacturers that will actually build one for you, for $250,000, and you can buy a glorified fan that will propel you on an ice rink at the same speed as a puck.If you want rotor blades rather than rockets, the current options are a bit cheaper and more practical, but are still less cool than the Soviet Fold-up helicopter, from the Cold War era.

12 flying machines

As technology companies oozed slowly from San Jose to San Francisco, the architecture morphed from purely university campus, to a hybrid between this and a South of Market warehouse, complete with loft living accoutrements such as foosball tables. The new Facebook HQ is a perfect example of this, looking something like a Wholefoods, whereas Google looks more like the place full of plastic balls that you leave your kids when shopping at IKEA.

technology hq architecture

Named after the famous cartoonist, Rube Goldberg machines are unlike ordinary gadgets in that they are deliberately inefficient, taking the maximum number of steps to achieve a goal. Last years winner of the Rube Goldberg competition took over three hundred steps to squeeze a glass of orange juice.To truly appreciate RG machines you need to see them in action. Here is a list of videos of our favorites. Vote for yours.

12 best Rube Goldberg Machine videos

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.

12 pairs of dueling pistols

The first in a two part list. Here are a series of strange and unusual bus stops, including those with domestic or air conditioned interiors, odd structures and a variety of innovative integral advertising.

bus stops as art

From a skyscraper's lights that can be controlled by passers by, to the legendary rock set design of Mark Fisher and Jonathan Park here are some examples of the worlds largest screens. Vote for your faves.

20 giant screens

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.

12 unusual cameras

Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich donated money for a giant tunneling machine to build a tunnel between Russia and Sarah Palin's house, when he was governor of the adjacent region to Alaska. The Wikipedia entry for Tunneling Machines and the entry for Civil Engineers in the UK Yellow Pages have something in common, they both read: 'see boring'. Doubly ironic, since boring is one of the most interesting projects for civil engineers, and the machines used to do the job are spectacular. The set here includes a variety of shield tunnel boring machines, TBMs, including those for celebrated projects such as Yucca mountain or the Channel Tunnel. Perhaps the most ironic of all is the Air Force TBM, a machine for digging deep underground, owned by the people who defend the skies.

20 interesting boring machines

The most impressive neon districts in the world include Tokyo's Ginza and Shibuya, Osaka's Dotonburi which was the inspiration for Blade Runner, the worlds largest shopping street, Nanjing Road in Shanghai and, of course, Vegas and Times Square. Bangkok's Soi Cowboy district (named after an American who opened one of the first go go bars in the 70s) deserves inclusion on account of its unpleasant strangeness, with live elephants paraded up and down the pink neon streets.Most dramatic of all, however is Hong Kong where the entire skyscraper cluster is animated for 15 minutes as part of the worlds largest light show.Vegas and Times square deserve double mentions as they are more famous for iconic signage which has since been demolished or taken down. We have included footage of both past and present.Although the classic welcome to Vegas sign by Betty Willis has been preserved, many of the famous signs lie in the Vegas neon boneyard and we have included a movie made by urban spelunkers who broke into the yard to explore it.

The 10 most important examples of neon signage

Teasmades possibly represent the nadir of industrial design, combining Rube Goldberg, or more appropriately, Heath Robinsonesque unnecessary mechanic complexity with technological denialist styling and often capped off with horrid little lampshades.Appropriately enough, these diabolical devices were pioneered by a brand called Goblin, and were rendered obsolete after unfashionable UK Prime Minister, John Major’s wife Norma confessed to having one in Downing St. Sadly, someone is making them again.

9 diabolical teamaking contraptions

This year is special, in theory it is the first year since 1982 that keytars have not been mass produced as musical instruments, and that would have been something to celebrate if Guitar Hero and Rock Band hadn't brought them back, with a vengeance in the form of game guitars.This list is a warning reminder of what people really look like when they play Rock Band. It features keytars from their earnest debut to parody, to some kind of post-post-modern resolution with self aware but not-really-joking keytarists like Ben Folds.After the Moog Liberation was introduced in 1980, a variety of performers from Thomas Dolby to Jan Hammer made keytars a staple of 80s music, with Devo being the first to seize the ironic potential. Later weird Croation keytarist Belinda Benekovic became an internet meme and more recently Flight of the Conchords took a jab at a Roland Axis player.Her are some videos of keytars in action from classic 80s synths to circuit bent toys. Vote for your worst.

worst keytar (videos)

The Segway took the idea of the two wheeled vehicle and made it require thousands of dollars of electronics to remain as stable as an ordinary two wheeled bicycle. The Apple Newton was a personal organizer that required a personal assistant to carry it around for you.The common thread in the choices here is people mistaking sophisticated engineering for sophisticated design. Many were and still are technical triumphs.The Space Shuttle, for example, still bathes in the reflected glory of the Apollo missions, yet its design was largely a mistake based upon the PR potential of a plane-like craft, rather than practicality. Its replacement will look much more like a Saturn 5 rocket and it forms part of the hardware for what Nasa refer to internally as the ‘crude missions'.Below is our chart of the biggest all time tech. failures. Vote for the biggest loser or suggest some alternatives in the comments.

10 biggest tech product failures

Some machines that punch, stamp, strike or print money. What everyone needs these days, and what central banks will be using a lot of. You may be amused to find out that even the J-98 Bank Note printing press is made in China.

10 money making machines

Such was the propensity for the Soviets to put fighter jets on plinths dotted around the empire that they are sometimes referred to as Migs on sticks. Other people did this, of course. In the US, Phantom jets were a favorite and some of these Migs are in places outside the Soviet Union, like Somalia, where Russian jets were bought. The trend also intended to a variety of other planes such as the particularly ungainly looking Tupelov monument, in this list. But there is something about a Mig on an angled concrete base that is reminiscent of Soviet graphic design, crass and muscular with people leaning forward in earnest. Comic like, but deadly serious.

soviet fighter plane monuments

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

When I was an architect, it was common for structural engineering books to have this image of two people effortlessly supporting a third to demonstrate the cantilever principal of the famous Forth Rail Bridge outside of Edinburgh. When I was looking for this picture, I noticed that the people were different. It turns out that this iconic image is not unique and here are the three variants I could find, making this the shortest (and one of the more obscure) oobject list to date.

3 forth bridge demos

Ray guns originated in the US in the 30s, from shows like Buck Rogers. What makes them a particularly interesting object is that despite, for all practical purposes, having never existed, there is an almost endless variety of designs for toy ray guns, from around the world.Here are some of the best we could find. Most are for sale, and are posted without description, since the images speak for themselves.

23 stunning ray guns

Here is a roundup of collectible boomboxes, currently being auctioned on ebay. The mannerist nature of 80s ghetto blasters could not be more different from today's minimalist trends in consumer audio gear, lead by Sony and Apple. Because of this, these devices now look obviously obsolete and different and are starting to become collectors items. Ugly, but interesting, and representative of their time, some are perfect examples of pointless feature driven design, something which still plagues software.

12 monster 80s boomboxes

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

oobject header image

Category: 'computing'

Soviet computer manufacture had a promising beginning with devices such as the MESM, which when it was produced in 1950 was the first universally programmable computer in continental Europe. By today's standards, you'd have to fill the Empire State Building full of MESMs to have the same processing power as an iPhone. Later Soviet block computers were invariably based on Western counterparts with a myriad of Sinclair Spectrum clones, an Apple II based machine, PC compatibles and later on, Vax based systems from Robotron in East Germany. of the consequences of the Wii and the iPhone is that the market for useful haptic (or force feedback devices) has become real. In some ways, an ordinary cellphone on vibrate, or a rumble pack are examples of haptic devices, however, the recent focus on the physics of interfaces means that haptics are soon going to be much more sophisticated. The reason for this list is actually to show how limited the scope of haptics is currently, despite the opportunity with systems that resemble the primitive virtual reality fad that coincided with the birth of the web. With a bit of imagination, however, some of the possible applications of haptics are shown.

One of the most cliched images in technology is that of someone wearing a burka-like clean suit holding a raw silicon wafer, like a trophy.To complete the cliche, a favorite science photo shoot lighting effect, consists of a deep blue, purple or green background. No labs actually look like this. In reality, they tend to be shadowless environments, awash with white light, like something in between a drug store and the spaceship entrance in Close Encounters, but for some reason, pastel lighting indicates hi-tech.Vote for the most cliched image in the list.

There have been four core audiences for Apple along the years, the original Mac for graphic designers and Desk Top Publishing, the OSX based machines which lured developers, the iPod which brought Apple into the consumer market with lifestyle apps, and the original Apple II which became a computer widely used in schools.Looking at these old commercials from the late 70s and 1980s, including the first ever Apple ad (which was a store ad not produced internally), you can see how much they were aimed at kids. Even then, there is a faint glimmer of the artistry of later Apple ads which aimed for high ideals and changing the world

The history of computers is not all digital, from the humble slide rule to hydraulic models of the economy there is a rich history of both electronic and mechanical analog computers. Here are some of our favorite examples. These computers have certain advantages over their symbolic counterparts. They measure continuous variables in parallel and therefore their accuracy is limited only by the granularity with which their results are read and their speed is not limited by sequential operations.

Watching Wii time lapse is a socio-anthropological experience, if Warhol were alive today perhaps he would be making videos like these. A collection of our favorite videos, proving that not everyone gets off the sofa, and that Wii is so addictive some people will continue to play it while holding their new born child. Vote for your fave.

iCandy - the best Apple concept mockups. Despite the huge number of 3d rendered mockups of Apple products on the web, few even come close to genuine Apple design. The exceptions seem to be Isamu Sanada and Yann Le Coroller, who between them account for the majority of well executed 3rd party concepts. Here are our favorites, and why we chose them. Vote for yours. have just released their updated list of the worlds most powerful supercomputers. In June all of the top 5 were in the US, now only 2 are, with India, Sweden and Germany appearing.Here's an interesting thing, you can make it into this list for less than the cost of a family house in Manhattan.The fact that a Swedish Military computer is at number 5 indicates that either the Swedish military require the world's most powerful computers, or they are just unusually unsecretive, and that there are many machines we don't know about.Here are the top 15, with pictures of the actual machines, where they have been built. Although the IBM Blue Gene has a simple and striking case, only the Barcelona Computer Center and Leibniz Rechenzentrum are contained in rooms that are at all impressive. Vote for which ones you think are worthy of note.

The Oobject Rotten Apple Award. To mark this week's 10th anniversary of the death of the Newton we have picked some of the products from Apple, that we'd rather forget.We could have picked many more from the years when Jobs was in the wilderness and Apple attempted to be market driven rather than design driven, under Sculley. Reactive rather than pro-active. One problem, the gallery would have been a sea of similar, anonymous items. For the Sculley era machines, assume that we mean every product in the range.(update: Apple's earnings are just in and they are blow-out. After hours trading shows that as of today, Apple is worth more than IBM.).Vote for your all time worst product.