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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 pigeon net

With the possible exception of the 1972 Munich olympic stadium, Beijings 'Birds Nest' stadium, designed by fashionable Swiss architects, Herzog & de Meuron, promises to be the clear winner, architecturally. Here is a list of all 16 post-war olympic stadia. Vote for you faves.

every postwar olympic stadium

As gas prices increase so do oil profits and expensive kitsch. There is a correlation between increase money made from carbon deposits such as oil and the availability of horrible diamond or Swarovski encrusted objects. One form of carbon (oil) is swapped for another (diamonds), in exchange for silver (money). Damien Hirsts $100 Million diamond skull doesnt make this chart on account of its priceless irony. Similar lists have been done by others, but we couldnt resist an updated version.

oil boom diamond kitsch

Ted Stevens was right, the Victorian Internet consisted, quite literally, of a ‘Network of Tubes'. Paris, London, Prague and Vienna had extensive networks of pneumatic tubes which delivered messages in capsules. In New York 5 million mail messages passed every day through an underground pneumatic system, and a network in Berlin delivered hot meals directly to people's homes suggesting that kitchens would no longer be needed in the future. Today these systems can still be purchased where they are used in places like hospitals where samples are passed between departments.

15 pneumatic message networks

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

There is something fantastically hellish about fiery steel manufacture, nothing seems more gigantic or obviously dangerous looking. The instruments used to transfer molten iron, steel and slag are massive solid items made of the same thing they contain in liquid form and are objects of wonder.Particularly interesting are the torpedo ladle railroad cars, which transfer hot metal from blast to oxygen furnaces. They are dramatic and interesting enough that despite their obscurity they are available in several forms for model railroads. Vote for your faves.

giant molten steel handling equipment

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

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.

12 examples of photo finish photography

Although this list has been done by others, we have spent an unhealthy amount of time looking for specific examples of massively long, futuristic tunnels and impressive stations to give a definitive list from specific vanatage points, including some more obscure examples.

definitive list of subway architecture

I normally try and avoid military stuff unless there's an ironic design twist, and there is here. Somehow, these crude, mechanical ‘remote control' rifles, used for shooting over trenches manage to emasculate the phallic nature of guns and turn them into something worthy of Rube Goldberg himself. Nevertheless, they are for killing people sneakily, something to remember, while admiring their weirdness.

12 periscope rifles

Flight simulation is quintessentially high tech, the inspiration for Virtual Reality, so I went looking for early examples and found some delightfully quixotic alternatives to modern day immersive environments. These include the wooden mockups of the Apollo capsules, the stunted Link simulator, used during WWII, which looks like a kids ride outside a supermarket and the very early pre-WWI training rig for the Antoinette aircraft, which principally consists of two half barrels on top of each other. But the best of all are the incredible Convair trainer which has an extra cockpit attached to its front and the celestial navigation trainers which are masterpieces of pre-electronic navigational complexity.

12 Retro Flight Simulators

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

A perfect example of nothing dating like the future, the garbage can robot is a retro-futuristic cultural icon. Some of these were cheap props for cheap movies, but others were serious visions of the future. If nothing else they demonstrate quite how imaginative the Metropolis robot that stands the test of time was.

12 primitive b movie style robots

There has probably been nothing like the sight of dazzle ships, before or since. So impressive were they that their patterns were used into WWII, after their efficacy was questionable, because they were thought to boost morale. Dazzle patterns were designed by modernist painters, in the modernist style, bringing about a very strange meeting of bohemian painters and military types.With no all weather camouflage for ships in WWI, these extraordinary designs were painted on ships to confuse rather than obscure. The sliced geometry meant that it was difficult to align split screen range finders, and fake bows made it difficult to gauge speed and heading.We are breaking our usual rule of showing actual objects rather than paintings or models, for two reasons: dazzle ships were very brightly colored, yet there are no color images of their WWI versions; many of the dazzle designs were by modern artists, and the famous painting of a dazzle ship was by one of the people who designed the camouflage itself, Edward Wadsworth.

dazzle ships

The interior and exterior of wind tunnels have unusual design requirements that often make them accidental architectural masterpieces.Wind tunnels range from the miniature wooden box that the Wright brothers used, to the gigantic full scale tunnel at NASA Ames in Silicon Valley which drains the power supply for the entire Bay Area, and tests actual planes and space craft. Air speeds within them can reach tens of times the speed of sound, requiring super heated air.All in all, they are definitely object to go ooh about.

Spectacular Wind Tunnels

Obvious the very word submarine implies something below sea level, so submarines on dry land are particularly weird. Here are some of our favorites, ranging from abandoned washed up submarines, like beached whales, to those which have been specially buried in the ground as museum exhibits.

10 dry land submarines

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 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.

12 light therapy devices

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

Diving helmets are beautiful objects. Here are our favorites from modern versions with amazing visors for undersea welding, to incredible Steampunk style ones that look more other worldly than something from Jules Verne.

18 diving helmets

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Architect of the Lego House built for Top Gear presenter James May, Barnaby Gunning, has sent us pictures of the construction progress so far. We'll post more as we get them.

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