Recent lists... view all »
oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
Bladerunner - so where are we now? Particularly where are all the artsy animated building facades?Here are 15 of our favorites, avoiding Vegas style tacky glitz. We have tried to include some of the more recent architectural projects where the media skin is part of the design itself, rather than merely a billboard. Media skins are often designed by specialist firms in concert with the main architect, such as Berlin's, excellent, Realities United, who worked on several of these projects.

15 Blade Runner Buildings

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

Skyscrapers produce great charts because they are long and skinny like the columns in a bar graph. They combine the nerdy attraction of big buildings with infographics and therefore at Oobject we are obsessed with them. Here we have collected a bunch of skyscraper style size comparisons, and not just of buildings, so that you can compare the empire state building with the Titanic, a deep salt mine, space rockets and a neutrino telescope under the antarctic ice.

skyscraper infographics

The Wienermobile is quintessentially American: pure, whimsical, 4-wheeled fun in the name of capitalism. It’s history goes rather like most design classics form Apple computers to the Coke bottle: 2 custom built homebrew prototypes (1936-40), a defining form (1958), a refinement of this to produce a classic, by a famous designer (1958, Brooks Stevens), variations on the same theme till now, with a novelty version in 2008.

all 10 wienermobiles through history

In 2006 and 2007 a new method of smuggling emerged, surface skimming, semi-submersible, home-made submarines were captured from Thailand to Spain to Colombia. In 2008 the number spotted has already reached the 2007 count. These craft often had sophisticated electronics for evading capture. To get some idea of the logistical scale of these things, a 100ft long Russian designed submarine was captured in Colombia's capital, Bogota, 7,500 ft above sea level. The voting for this list is obviously irrelevant.

drug smuggling submarines

After the furor over the potential Koran burnings last week, I had a look at the precedents, which it seems are everywhere, from Harry Potter to the Bible. For thousands of years, all religions and ideologies have been burning each others' texts.

14 other examples of book burning

The lack of design innovation in an economic environment which excluded innovators meant that Soviet Russian technology often lifted concepts directly from the West. Not just little things like microprocessors and computers, but massive projects like Superfortress bombers, the Concorde and even the Space Shuttle.

Top 10 Soviet Technology Ripoffs

The picture of people hunched over radar screens is the ultimate image of the cold war. Here are a collection of various radar consoles, from land air and sea and from round analog displays with orange, green or blood red displays, to today's computer monitor versions.

12 radar consoles

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

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

Forget the kinds of kitchen gadgets you see on infomercials, if you want the real deal you have to go to the pros. Who doesnt want a computer controlled Instant Noodle machine, a bagel production line, a 2000 piece and hour sushi robot or a 60 foot long mobile smoker. Vote for your faves.

14 extreme kitchen gadgets

All of these car commercials are from 1973, the last time the economy tanked because of oil. The embargo started late in 1973, at the point when family sedan's did less than 10mpg, were the size of a boat and often sloshed around on suspension that felt like you were at sea. While the Detroit manufacturers were pitching speed, horsepower or comfort, one relatively obscure Japanese import, was already selling based on fuel economy. Can you spot the odd one out?

oil crisis car ads

A tank has an iconic shape and when it deviates from that it looks strange, despite the fact that many of these alternative forms are equally viable. They include designs that are based on steam tractors, tricycles and cannon and ones where ordinary tanks are adapted for different tasks such as mine clearing. In the latter case, the Progvev T is particularly weird, where the gun has been replaced by a reverse mounted Mig fighter jet engine, in order to clear mines by blasting them with an afterburn.

12 strange tanks and armored vehicles

Tube testers are machines to test the notoriously unreliable predecessor of the transistor - the vacuum tube, or valve. If you are a hi-fi nut with a tube amp you might actually even need one of these.What makes them special as vintage gadgets is that they have that particular density of retro buttons and switches that spells complicated and releases Serotonin in male humans.The link to the Catalog for the ‘Supreme' brand on Steven Johnson's site is particularly fine. Tube testers can be picked up on Ebay, fairly often, for reasonable prices.

13 tube testers

The trend for dull or matt black motorcycles originated in 'Rat Bikes' as a reaction against stock vehicles with bright colors and overblown fairings. For the purist a rat bike is never washed and ridden till it falls apart, a purely practical and functional idea that ends up creating a particular look. Painting bikes matt black was originally part of this utilitarian idea but was appropriated by people who create 'Survival bikes'. These have a deliberately designed post-apocalyptic look that traces back to things like the Max Max movie series. The line between rat bikes and survival bikes is sometimes blurred as people who consciously create the menacing, industrial look of survival bikes borrow from distressed and naturally aged rat bikes.What made this list particularly interesting from a design curation perspective was how a simple thing such as the type of paint has come full circle through various subcultures and into the mainstream.The 2007 Triumph Speed Triple, shown here, is a production motorcycle that is available in matt black, with a look and feel inspired by rat bikes. It completes the design cycle where a reaction of something mainstream becomes a mainstream fashion.

black rat bikes

Seven US Presidents may have been born in a log cabin, but only one is shown here. Alongside are some of the more unusual ones, few were born in cities or apartments and few grew up in grand houses. Click through to reveal who was born where.Nothing symbolizes the concept of the rags to riches American dream more than Lincoln's enshrined log cabin.

12 US Presidential birthplaces

I've picked the most interesting selection I could find from the worlds largest gatherings. The largest anti war protest was in Rome in 2003, against the Iraq war, where more people gathered than for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Haj. In fact, Sao Paulo's Gay Pride festival is roughly the same size as the Haj, with 2.5 million attending in 2006 and the Haj isn't even necessarily the largest gathering in Islam, with 14 million people attending the Shiite Arab'een in Iraq. Religious ceremonies dominate, with a Papal mass in Ireland in 1979 resulting in a third of the population (1.25M) gathering in a single field, but paling in comparison with religious gatherings in India, including the Kumbh Mela which drew an unbelievable 60-70 million people over 45 days in 2007, making it the largest gathering in history.

images of the worlds largest crowds

Machines designed to smash large tough items into small bits, including a machine that eats trees whole, and yes, a real bone crusher, that makes fertilizer from animal bones.

Industrial crushing machines

Ever since the strapline ‘Nicholas Parsons is the neo-opiate of the People’ graced a concrete roundabout in Harrow in the 1970s, I’ve been a fan of sardonic or facetious textual graffiti. Sadly, my all-time favorite, the simultaneously mindless and profound spaying of the word ‘wanker’ above a bronze statue of Freud in London’s Swiss cottage, couldn’t be found, however here are 15 choice favorites from the many collections of these around the web.

15 witty pieces of text graffiti

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

Somewhere between a damp cloth and a full NBC gas mask lies the often unintentionally hilarious looking smoke hood.Promotional material for these items is a particular source of amusement, combining the creepy looking imagery of people wearing strange plastic bags on their heads with the utterly normal attire of office workers or suburban mums. The effect is like catching your boss wearing fetish bondage gear.

12 smoke hoods

Its October 2010 and Chinese property booms while most of the Western world's houses have shrunk to more realistic levels. In the US, homes have ceased to be ATMs to buy oriental barbecues, but in Britain, a crowded island with a cultural attachment to carving out a personal defensible space are Englishmen's homes still castles, with prices to match.As US housing prices adjusted, UK ones, faltered then regained their losses smack in the middle of the recession. This time things look different, with last month seeing the largest dip in housing prices in history. Perhaps prices in Britain will go up forever, or perhaps Britain will be like Japan, another crowded island which had the same phenomenon and where eventual capitulation resulted in a crash where property is worth less than a decade ago?One way to judge judge this is to look at what a million dollars gets you in London and its hinterland - a place where an apartment recently sold for a quarter of a billion dollars during the biggest downturn since the Great Depression.

depressing million dollar london property

oobject header image

Category: 'history of technology'

Money is like quantum physics, the more you think about it the weirder it becomes, from the completely abstract versions of credit to 4 ton limestone Yap island coins. Money is most often based on trust, the illusion that a promise has tangible value. Here are some of the most interesting examples of money we could find, the earliest coins, credit cards and bank notes and the largest coins and checks.

Skype is an idea that was conceived of by the Victorians, featured in movies in the 20s and became an icon for futurism, and yet the videophone has become ubiquitous independently of telecoms companies. How is it that an idea that could have been seen from such a long way off didn't get developed by phone companies, leading to the ridiculous situation where a phone call costs money but a Skype video phone call is free? Here's a visual history of early videophone concepts.

I started this list as a Thanksgiving homage to American innovation via its greatest inventor. Reading more about Edison and his strange obsession with things like filming electrocutions, using alternating current, of everything from small animals to people and even an elephant, just to try and put people off the rival AC system, managed to put me off him. So as an act of revenge here are some of his less successful, stranger inventions from concrete phonographs to what became the tattoo machine and a ghost detection instrument. Happy Thanksgiving anyway.

Scoping this list was more difficult than finding the items - I've tried to keep to electronic devices, the first transistor radio rather than the First radio, and products that were actually sold such as the Dycam Model 1 digital camera rather than the Fuji DS-1P.My favorite here is the first web server, it was one of 2 NeXT machines bought for Tim Berners Lee and nobody knows which one (they both survive) was the first to serve a web page. The NeXT was a beautifully designed machine that Steve Jobs built to show what a personal computer should be, after being ousted from Apple. Berners Lee specifically needed a NeXT to be able to build the web and had difficulty getting approval.You could argue the first web server is merely the machine that happened to perform a first role, rather than a device designed for a purpose, but the fact that Berners Lee needed the NeXT to be able to develop the web quickly and elegantly, shows that sometimes the development of the first example of something predates it actually being used for the pioneering purpose for which it is suited.

The history of photography starts at the human scale, with the first picture of a face in 1838 and moves in both directions, culminating in the WMAP cosmic background radiation image in 2003 and the first complete image of a molecule in 2009.

The same week that former underdog, Apple became larger than Microsoft, the company that it infamously portrayed as Orwellian in commercials for the launch of the Macintosh, Jon Stewart suggested that it behaved like Big Brother towards Gizmodo, with police searches and assorted high drama. All over a leaked iPhone prototype.This roundup of a dozen examples shows that gadget leaks are commonplace, except for Apple (although even the iPhone prototype that is causing such brouhaha appears to have been leaked in Shenzhen). This secrecy is partly understandable as few companies innovate in terms of design the way Apple does. Most of the example below are either highly derivative of Apple designs (Dell tablet, Motorola Tao etc.) or non-groundbreaking (Lenovo T400s, Blavkberry Pearl 9110).Perhaps Apple should take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book, going forward. Instead of trying to keep things secret, Microsoft are rumored to have a strategy of creating multiple fake decoys, leaving it impossible to know whether a leak is the final version.

The image of former Rodeo performer Slim Pickens riding a nuclear bomb as he would a wild horse in the 1964 movie, Dr Strangelove, is a cinema classic, but it has a long history.For decades, people have posed, sitting astride dangerous bombs. It’s a strange thing to do, but extends, sense-of-irony free to kids toys, like the image shown here of a hobby horse bomb.Most people think that the image of Pickens riding the bomb comes from WWII pinup straddled bombs on airplane nose cone art, however, the Comiccoverage blog has put together a great list of comic book covers, showing that they were using this iconic image before the US entered WWII, most notably with Captain Marvel in 1940.

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.

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.

The urbane Thomas Jefferson is alleged to have invented everything from the Folding Bed to Macaroni and Cheese, while his pragmatic gentleman scientist counterpart, Benjamin Franklin, is credited with the invention of a multitude of items from the Odometer to Swim Fins. None of these were actually pioneered by them, however Franklin did invent both Bifocal Glasses and the Lightning Conductor and it was Jefferson who ironically invented the geekiest device of all, the disk cipher. George Washington, on the other hand, lent his skills to farming and invented the splendidly bucolic 16 Sided Threshing Barn.

The original wireless network used pigeons. One of the worlds largest information firms, Reuters actually started out as a messaging service with carrier pigeons, they were used widely for messaging during the WW1 and even for aerial photography. The famous psychologist, Skinner worked on a guided missile which was to be controlled by live pigeons.

The lack of design innovation in an economic environment which excluded innovators meant that Soviet Russian technology often lifted concepts directly from the West. Not just little things like microprocessors and computers, but massive projects like Superfortress bombers, the Concorde and even the Space Shuttle.

Just when people are talking about banning the incandescent light bulb, designers are noticing how beautiful they are and making lamps which show of rather than hide bulbs. Here is an eclectic list of items in honor of the humble light bulb, including a couple of takes on other types of lamp, for good measure

A nostalgic look at the prime or earliest examples of truly revolutionary gadgets. Keep sending us tips, and vote for the ones that impacted you most.