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After having spent most of the last month or so playing with our iPhones, we've reached saturation point, hankering after the good old days when a man was a man and a phone was a phone. So we've trawled ebay for the coolest examples of retro phones we can find.

10 coolest vintage phones

In the Avengers, Steed carried a sword cane. A sword cane was only one of a variety of gadget or system canes that were made popular in the Victorian era when everything from automatons, whiskey flasks, pipes, lighters, guns, umbrellas and golf clubs were combined in these antique gadgets.Here are some of the best ones we could find. Vote on your faves.

10 sword and gadget canes

Bel Geddes is the industrial designer most associated with the streamline style, an aerodynamic form than was as much about aesthetics as wind resistance. These designs actually look better than more aerodynamic forms and as such were used by Geddes for things that didn't have to move at all, such as his streamlined school desk. Geddes started out as a theatrical designer then made a series of model cars and prototypes for trains and planes, including the incredible airliner number 4 - a 1929 proposal for a transatlantic boat plane carrying 450 passengers and an army of staff including a musicians and entertainers. But the other thing that Geddes created was his daughter, who was Miss Ellie in the TV series, Dallas.

12 Norman Bel Geddes creations

In the mid 50s an small Japanese electronics company, Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, created an American sounding brand name, Sony, for a series of portable all-transistor radios. The product design was similarly American influenced, with wide spaced serif lettering, like that used on Amtrak trains or even Raymond Loewy's original Air Force One, but with a flair and attention to detail that was distinctively Japanese. Half a century later, Sony, is still a consumer brand which is associated with superior design. Here are 12 of our all time favorite classic Sony Designs.

12 classic sony designs

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.

9 nail houses

The invention of the digital watch made accurate timekeeping a cheap commodity. This meant that expensive watches were a quixotic anachronism in terms of pure design. However, this very fact meant that designers were free to innovate timepiece designs for fun. In addition, the development of watch sized miniature electronic gadgetry meant that the wrist watch form factor could be used for other gadgets. For things like phones and MP3 players this has proved to be a failure, however included here are some interesting concepts for other uses for wrist devices such as insulin dosage, braille watches and health monitoring

16 concept watches

Some people take paintball very seriously, and the boundary between harmless fun, unintentional irony and plain creepy is blurred. Here are paintball teams that look like outright militia, and some are. They include a church team in full combat gear a German group that re-enacts LAPD swat team offensives, and three very disturbing teams: a Japanese paintball re-enactment of the Yugoslav civil war complete with Serbian militia uniforms; an US vs Iraq shoot em up in Jordan and a sinister third Reich Team with Eagle T-shirts. Vote them down.

12 very disturbing paintball teams

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.

First images from atoms to the universe

A roundup of video clips of some of our fave products at CES.

CES Video Roundup

Atomic clocks are accurate to within one second since the period in time when humans and apes diverged. These clocks are literally what makes modern civilization tick, but few people ever see one. Their accuracy is necessary to overcome potential errors caused by relativistic effects in GPS satellites, for example. Here is a gallery of some of the more interesting atomic clocks. Vote for your faves.

12 amazing atomic clocks

As I write this, I am surrounded by custom designed furniture and lighting, and the only thing that ruins the overall effect are the ugly power strips. A ubiquitous gadget which is often very cheap and badly designed. Here are a collection of well designed power strip ideas from sliding, plugin-anywhere systems, that have been available for high end office design for decades but haven't been available in consumer markets, to a $3500 audiophile power strip based upon quantum Resonance technology.

10 best power strip designs

While we trawl though the web, we invariably find extremely interesting things that don't fit into any particular list we are working on. Every so often we'll release a list of out favorites, starting from today. Vote for your favorite for this month.

miscellany october 08

A gallery of products using radioactive materials.Because radiation was seen to be new and powerful, at the beginning of the 20th century radioactive material was used in products such as face creams, mineral water and medicine, by equating power with rejuvenation. For similar reasons it was even used in items from spark plugs to condoms. Although many of these items are from an age when the dangers of radiation were not known, radiation is obviously useful as a healing tool for cancer therapy, but it is still used in legal Chinese remedies, which are respected more because of their age rather than efficacy and quack homeopathic medicines which are tolerated while unproven, because they are harmless water.Vote on your fave examples.

14 radioactive products

This year the MIT class ring, the Brass Rat, hides a hackers' diagram of a subterranean campus wide tunnel network.Networks of secret passages and tunnels have been built on a giant scale, from components of the Maginot line to the Viet Cong Cu Chi Network. Others perform a peacetime function, such as the half mile tunnel network H.G. Dyar built under his Washington home, as a hobby, the passageways under Disney's Magic Kingdom or the unbelievable 5000 year old Lizard People tunnel network under Los Angeles that the L.A. Times published a diagram of during the depression.Here is a collection of our favorite tunnel network diagrams, drawings or models.

12 of the worlds most fascinating tunnel networks

From giant wind blown animal sculptures to an armored mechanical shark. The number of possible entries in this list is huge. Here is a selection of some of our faves, vote for yours.

Mechanical Animals

The distinction between early anatomy lecture theaters which dissected the dead and later operating theaters, which attempted to cure the living, is blurred. Both were used for teaching, in broad daylight where lecturers clothes became stiff with blood and the air thick with germs.With highly unusual steep raked galleries these were literally theaters, and the name has stuck. The earliest rooms were often heavily decorated such as the beautifully restored 16th Century wood paneled anatomy theater at the University of Bologna to the crudely utilitarian 19th century dedicated operating theater at St. Thomas', London.

10 unoperational operating theaters

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.

12 football helmet designs

When I was a nipper… boy's pockets were filled with bits of old string a couple of bits of candy and perhaps a penknife.Now, apparently you could find anything from a DVR to a miniature helicopter in there. As part of a series about everything small, here is our pocket sized chart. Vote for your faves.

8 cool pocket sized gadgets

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.

15 Dr Kellog Contraptions

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.

12 times times square over time

Despite the appearance of permanence that historic buildings create, many if not most of the worlds famous cities have been almost entirely destroyed either by war, property speculation or Ayn Randian architects. They have been rebuilt, either as replicas (Warsaw) or even in the image of the culture that destroyed them (Hiroshima). Here are images where either we or others have matched up locations for incredible before and after shots.

12 unrecognizable before and after views of cities

Todays welding is a long way removed from the video included here of forge welding at the beginning of the 20th century., where dissimilar metals were headed and beaten together with hammers. State of the art robotic welding machines can perform an intricate ballet of hi tech gadgety bravado, including the incredible remote welders which are shown spot welding materials several feet away, with laser beams.

12 videos of welding machines

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