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The Enigma is one of the most well known devices in the history of gadgets, being responsible for the birth of the computing industry, in attempts to crack it. This has largely overshadowed the plethora of other cryptographic devices, which are often overlooked. Here is a gallery of 20 secret message machines.

20 cipher devices

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

Vehicles that are actually driven by screws were developed as all terrain vehicles for places like snow driven Siberia. In the US there were several experimental vehicles including the Fordson snow devil, built on top of a tractor. Included here are as many videos of them in action, as I could find.

9 screw drivers

n honor of the Frankfurt Motor Show, record oil prices and the end of Burning Man - we're doing a non car list as a green alternative.Here are the strangest bikes we could find, propelled sideways, backwards, in reverse or by climbing up a ladder. Vote on your faves.

16 crazy bicycles

Bridge layers have to be about the closest thing in the real world to a Transformer, giant fold up, extendable instantly deployable bridges that are most often fixed to modified tanks. They have been around since tanks first existed, during WW1, and are one of the more bizarre and obscure forms of military hardware. There is also something incredibly circular about a vehicle that carries its own road.

12 mobile bridges

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

Manikins used for dental training are either deep into uncanny valley (creepy) territory if they try and look at all realistic, or just plain terrifying in their more abstract incarnations. A lot of this is just becuase (a) people are very good at interpreting faces and anything face-like seems possessed, (b) dental manikins have to bare their teeth so often have bizarre expressions. Anyhow, they are quite interesting, particularly the vintage metal ones which are a nastily grotty and beaten up.

12 dental training heads

Cargo holds are often impressive, cavernous spaces containing strange and interesting objects and equally interesting when empty, often displaying a stark minimalist beauty. They are iconic spaces which often feature in video games and in science fiction, perhaps most famously in Aliens. Here we show our favorites from the real world including giant cargo planes, ships holds that have been turned into a restaurant and a theater and, of course, the Space Shuttle cargo bay.

12 cargo holds

The monorail perfectly exemplifies that nothing dates like the future, it is a piece of anachronistic technology that is today largely relegated to theme parks and inter terminal airport transit. Although the archetypal image of a monorail is the 1959 Disneyland version, as this list shows, its design history traces back to the middle of the 19th century, with steam driven versions that share none of the futuristic aesthetic of the streamlined post war versions. In this case, although the pioneering system from a technical point of view was the 1952 German Alweg, the 1911 Boyes monorail prototype shows the origins of the futuristic look.

9 Vintage Monorails

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

One of the most odd objects we’ve ever seen these items are sometimes confused with spy gadgetry, but the truth is stranger. Jailers’ keys were apparently filled with gun powder to create a primitive gun that could be detonated if there was any trouble when opening a cell door. We found several original versions that back up this claim, dating from the 17th century and of various complexity.

jailers key guns

Some of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the world have a spiral stair as the final flourish. The spiral stair is an architects favorite, from Gaudi to Corbusier to Foster, but some of the most interesting spiral stairs are accidental pieces of architecture, such as those inside lighthouses or on giant silos and storage tanks. Here is a deliberately diverse collection of some of our favorites. Vote for yours.

most beautiful spiral staircases

Inflatable structures have the advantage of being able to be deployed very quickly, and the disadvantage that they are vulnerable to failure, over time. This makes them ideal for temporary shelters, from mine accidents to military deployment, festivals and even on the moon.

8 inflatable shelters

Considering what guns are actually designed to do, its pretty amazing how many other products and gadgets are designed to look like them. Here are a few of our faves. Vote for yours.

13 gun shaped non guns

Yesterday we managed to get into CERN and do some exploring. Our mission? Not to go to the Giant LHC experiments, such as Atlas, but to root around the campus itself, find the exact place where Tim Berners Lee invented the web, marked by a small plaque, and photograph it, license-free, since there seem to be no images of it that we could find. We went through several doors marked ‘radiation’, were told to leave one place, because ‘the beam was on’, saw the Grid data center and rooms with blackboards covered in equations – but we found it.

oobject search for web birthplace at CERN

Its strange to think that the now obsolete VCR or VTR has a half century history, from the giant Ampex and RCA machines used in TV stations to the multiple, competing format, consumer cassette players that culminated in the dominant VHS standard.Today you can by a DVD player for the same price as a DVD itself, due to the small number of moving parts and emerging market labor. However, VCRs were always relatively expensive because of their complex mechanisms, latterly involving gimballed rotating heads.In terms of design, aside from the robust utilitarian looking professional models, VCRs were ugly devices from the outside, but complex marvels inside.There are several great sites dealing with VTR history, including the excellent: http://www.totalrewind.org

a visual history of video recorders

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

What makes clay models so special, is that they are the one-off original designs. In theory they are the priceless, original works of art and the production cars are the prints.The traditional process of manually refining the design of a car using clay over foam formwork, is still used even today, when CAD has replaced most drafting. Clay designs are often produced directly from computer milling and usually tweaks are fed back into the CAD design

12 clay car mockups

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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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