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Thanks to an intrepid group of urban explorers, some of the most magnificent hidden engineering triumphs that lie, hidden, beneath the streets of the worlds cities are being recorded and posted on underground (no pun intended) websites.Here are some of our favorite sewers and drains, from Paris tourist attraction sewers to Londons Escher-like, arched, Victorian Gothic drains, to still working ancient Roman systems and the infamous giant storm drains beneath Tokyo. Vote for your faves.

Spectacular Sewers

There are plenty of interesting unbuilt projects for some of the world's most famous cities, but there is something particularly unsettling about alternatives for things that were build. Some monuments are so iconic that their alternatives seem like sacrilege.Included here among various alternatives for Tower Bridge, the Washington Monument, The Chrysler building and St. Paul's Cathedral are proposed extensions to the White House, a 5 million tomb alternative to London's famous Victorian cemeteries and a particularly uninspiring second place entry for the Sydney Opera House competition. My personal favorite, however is the Triumphal Elephant which could have capped off the Champs Elysees in Paris. If someone could only find the rejected competition entry for what became the Eiffel Tower, which consisted of a giant replica of a Guillotine.

12 alternative versions of famous monuments

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.

people riding bombs

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

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

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

If you want to re-model your home in the style of an Apple store, here are links to the suppliers of the actual items they use.The designs of the Apple stores may not be particularly original in terms of architecture, however they break new boundaries in retail design with an attention to detail that is normally only found in major public buildings. The principal inspirations for Apple's interiors range from Norman Foster's Mediatheque in Nimes, with its central glass staircase and I.M. Pei's entrance to the Louvre which is the inspiration for the fifth avenue store. Although the cube itself (particularly when it was shrouded in black) is more like the Kaab at Mecca, proving that Apple is a religion after all.Many of the fittings they use, such as Erco lighting are used by people like Pei and Foster (where I used to work) and the exterior panels are made by the same firm that provided the panels for San Francisco's greatest modern building - the De Young Museum.

25 items to build an apple store

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

What passes for interactive clothing often consists of a button to control your iPod from your sleeve.Here is a roundup of some more interesting interactive clothing ideas, including a jacket whose fur stands on end like a scared cat, a bikini whose breast pads inflate as a life saver and a jacket with a digital organism that grows as you wear it. These are alongside some more serious ideas such as a medical monitoring clothing and a robotic jacket to aid the paralyzed. Some are fairly well known, but others are hopefully new to you.

22 best interactive clothes

To recreate the General Lee from the TV series the Dukes of Hazard, you need: 12 cans orange spray paint; one 1 sticker; one 1969 Dodge Charger. This is what you get if you just have the sticker and the paint. Vote for the worst.

worst general lee

Today, prosthetics are a world apart from these pre-digital age examples, using advanced robotic and cybernetic technologies and tools such as 3-d printers for mass customization. As such vintage prosthetics often have the particularly strange look which is both creepy and fascinating and accompanies technological obsolescence.Early prosthetic limbs date from ancient Egypt and Rome, however examples from the middle ages appear more regularly, being made of armor. The were later replaced by non articulated wooden prosthetics, of the caricature style normally worn by pirates. The tragically large number of amputees in the Napoleonic Wars led to the development of the 'Clapper', named after the sound made by its articulated toes which were controlled by artificial tendons. This prosthetic became the model for the 'American Leg' which was developed during the American Civil war. Wooden prosthetics were heavy and were not improved on till the development of lightweight alloys, during the first World War.

15 vintage prosthetic limbs

It seems like oil cleanup includes some of the most basic and advanced technologies, from literally hoovering it up, to skimming it and burning it, using oil eating bacteria and swarms of Roomba style oil cleanup bots.

oil spill cleanup technologies

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

A perfect environmental nightmare, these hellish looking open faced mining machines have been largely decommissioned. Luckily some are being preserved as they are staggeringly impressive. The Ferropolis in Germany has many of these machines on display and forms an industrial park which host the famous MELT music festival. There have been several images of these floating around blogs, including the infamous pictures of the bucket wheel excavator that swallowed a full sized bulldozer, however we have tried to find as large a variety as possible.

16 giant bucket excavators

The earliest ejector seats were designed to save your life, but broke your back. Today the ultimate ejection seats are described as zero zero seats able to operate at zero altitude and zero airspeed. Ejection seats are interesting because they are the most extreme form of a commonplace design item - a chair.

12 ejector seats

People sometimes make fun of the Swiss, since all they are famous for inventing is the Cuckoo Clock. Which is not really fair, because they didnt - the Germans did. Here are some post modern alternatives (both intentional and accidental) to the classic Black Forest Cuckoo Clock.

13 post modern cuckoo clocks

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

New York, a city which is defined by its skyline, existed as a metropolis well before skyscrapers and has gone through several distinct architectural phases.I’ve picked this collection to demonstrate these, from the earliest known photograph of New York in the 1840s which shows the Upper West side as rural, to the Brooklyn Bridge dominated skyline of the mid nineteenth century.A postcard from 1904 is labeled ‘New York Skyscrapers’ but shows very few of what we would call skyscrapers today, consisting of the early steel framed buildings epitomized by the flatiron.Between the 1920’s and 1930’s the machine age skyscraper city of masonry-clad, art deco splendor grows at breakneck speed and remains similar in texture until the emergence of curtain wall, glass and steel buildings in the 1950s, after the completion of the Seagram in 1958.The 1973 opening of the iconic World Trade Center coincides the building of other inferior block like buildings along the periphery of lower Manhattan, notably at Water St., which destroy the hill like collection of spires.

evolution of the New York skyline

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

A gallery of incredible streamline design. No other period in product design is more important to American history than the Streamlined period. Here are our favorite gadgets and vehicles from the Sky Captain World of Tomorrow.Ironically the streamlined shape is less aerodynamic than it looks. It came from the high speed steam trains designed by people like Raymond Loewy or cars by Norman Bel Geddes (the father of the actress who played Miss Ellie in Dallas) and still exists in kitchen and bar-ware and the 40s style Airstream trailers which escorted the Astronauts off the Space Shuttle today and still look futuristic.

24 Sky Captain gadgets & vehicles

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Category: 'military'

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.

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.

Metal plate armor is one of the few technologies that emerged, disappeared in the 18th Century then re-emerged briefly during World War 1. Because of the this, WW1 armor has a particularly creepy, anachronistic look, from chain mail fringed splatter masks to body armor which looks decidedly Roman.

Bunker architecture is often better by accident than the deliberate attempts to create an aesthetic based on massive elements, through brutalism. Paul Virilio famously published a book of some of the more extreme versions of the 12,000 bunkers that formed the Atlantic Wall in WWII and Albania has an incredible 700,000 bunkers in a population of 3M, created by its mad leader, Enver Hoxha. Perhaps the strangest of all are the concealed bunkers that litter the Swiss countryside either as fake chalets or as mountains that literally open up to reveal jet fighters.

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.

From the ground, these inflatable tanks, missile launchers and planes look like children's toys. Yet from the air, these objects are almost indistinguishable from the real thing, complete with accurate thermal signatures over areas such as windows. Think what fun you could have playing havoc with Google Maps and some of these.

Papercraft, knitting, gardening and weapons.

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.

No other chair extracts more money than the one you sit in to have teeth extracted. Dental chairs have become a testing ground for high tech wizardry and ergonomics, evolving from decorative Victorian models worthy of Dr. Frankenstein's lab., to space-age pods with insect-like composite limb attachments.

The most claustrophobic places in the world. Imagine sleeping in a space smaller that a jail cell, deep under water, with a very large live bomb. This is what the business ends of submarines look like. Brass or steel hatches, like the eyes of a metal insect, peer out on a tiny Jules Verne-like space covered in buttons, gauges and levers, which often contains bunks right next to the torpedos themselves. Torpedo rooms are one of the strangest man made spaces on earth, or rather below it.