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.
The sight of a Zeppelin under construction must have been an awe inspiring experience. The hangers that were constructed for this purpose are the largest structures even created and the lightness required for the Zeppelin frames meant that their trusses consisted of sophisticated aluminum struts where each strut was in turn another truss. The overall effect is of incredible complexity and detail, like a gigantic high-tech whale set in a space that resembles a Piranesi engraving of a dungeon with enormous shafts of sunlight lit by dust. Because of their age, this technological look is combined with distinctly archaic elements, such as the gas bags which were made from thousands of cows' stomachs or the scaffolding and ladders which are wooden and rickety.
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.
Although current proposals for 4000 mph Maglev trains running in evacuated tubes, would offer New York to Beijing in less than 2 hours, built versions of pneumatic railways predate regular subways. Brunel built one, and an underground pneumatic railway was built by Alfred Ely Beach, in Manhattan, in 1869. The late 19th century stock market crash, depression and Civil War, destroyed the idea and little of it remains apart from the station, which features in the movie Ghost Busters II.
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.
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.
Why absurd? Well, there is something particularly vulnerable about a piece of military hardware that can be rendered inactive by a group of boy scouts laying an iron bar sufficient to derail it. At the same time, the ordinary look of many steam trains seemed more robust than some of these tin can efforts. I chose this list because they are a design backwater with unusual looking phenotypes.
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.
Just other industries from computer software to houses, ship building has been modularized with giant prefabricated modules being constructed and then assembled like Lego. The end result is that shipping is entirely modularized from construction to containerization of cargo. Our favorite example here shows how an existing cruise liner can be cut in half and a new module inserted, to make a stretch version (for proms and bachelorette parties, perhaps?)
Britain is probably the only country in the world where electric vehicle use is declining, due to the rapid disappearance of the electric milk delivery vehicle, or milk float.Until recently it was common place for milk to be delivered to almost every house in the UK, daily. Presumably in order to secure the national flow of tea. To achieve this a vast army of distinctive, cheap looking, sluggish, electric utility vehicles paraded suburban streets.Here are some different varieties, including new concept vehicles and milk floats from movies, all preserved for posterity.
At first sight these buses may look horrifying, like miniature cattle wagons full of children. But they are a feature of a type of culture that is different from America where yellow school buses shuttle children often over large distances. This culture, common throughout the world is one that has grown organically, where distances are short enough to be cycled (where litigation is minimal!) and where homebrew transportation is common.In some ways these buses are a marvel of practicality and an interesting Oobject.
If you thought the Bullet train was the fastest thing on rails, you would be wrong - more than 6000 miles per hour wrong. Rocket sled test tracks were originally designed for the V2 in WWII and can reach up to 6400 mph.They were made famous in the 50s when Lt. Col John Paul volunteered himself to test a 200mph track designed for crash test dummies, called the Gee Whiz. The test was intended to show the effects of deceleration in a plane crash, where it was assumed that nobody could survive more than 18G. Strapp survived an unbelievable 35G.More recently a rocket sled was featured in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.However, the lasting legacy of the Gee Whiz test is Murphy's Law, coined after a real engineer called Murphy who worked briefly at Edwards Air Force Base on the test track.
Something as utilitarian as a tractor is not usually designed any differently from any another tractor, unless there is a reason. But because tractors have a such wide a varied use, often very specific, such as towing aircraft or harvesting grapes, there are a huge variety of designs that are neither willful nor spurious. Here is a non-comprehensive selection of some of our favorite designs, from a Porsche designed coffee plantation tractor to the futuristic looking KLM tow tractor.
A list of unusual snow vehicles, from Sno Cats and bizarre Russian snow cars to the amazing antarctic snow cruiser which is powered by a aircraft which is literally bolted to its roof. Unlike regular snowmobiles, these vehicles shuttle groups of people around the barren wastelands of places like the antarctic.
The design history of snowmobiles starts with propeller driven sleds, including the amazing Russian combat version and migrates to half track vehicles with rear engines. Today's front engine vehicles were pioneered by Polaris, and are represented here by the Arctic Cat F6 600, which is driven by Sarah Palin's husband. This list of personal snowmobiles also contains two state of the art concept single track motorcycle style vehicles by Keller and Schlootz.
For high speed chase scenes or a low speed horse back rides, the film industry's cameras occasionally have to go mobile and when they do, they rely on specialist high tech. cars and trucks.Usually wearing intimidating matte black paint (to reduce glare) these vehicles are often engineering wonders, employing after market performance upgrades, elaborate electronics, exotic materials and even gyro-stabilizers to keep a subject in frame. With companies like Pursuit Systems, AP Cam Cars and a handful of others fulfilling Hollywood's high speed needs, the vehicles they create are rarely seen but hard to overlook.Here are some of out favorites including the amazing Go system, used for The Bourne Supremacy.Curated by Chris Hull
It is no accident that very few production gull-wing door cars have ever been built. It is a design gimmick that looks superficially interesting but is highly impractical. Most gull wing cars are concept designs, and the company that made the most famous of all, the De Lorean DMC 12, went bankrupt. The Mercedes 300 SL is a lone example of a wonderful looking gull wing car, but even that was deemed dangerous, and nicknamed 'the widowmaker'.The gull wing's marginally less impractical sister, the scissor door, has actually become a signature feature for Lamborghini. How fitting that a symbol of bad design should represent a, once great, car producer that has reduced itself to churning out expensive kitsch, since the mid 80s.Somewhere in between a scissor and a gull wing are the doors on the cheaper Toyota Sera, which is a car that looks like someone's grandmother trying to be cool.Vote for your very worst.
The styles here represent the prosperity of the post war years when the cold war space race influenced the concept of modernity. GM and Ford created a range of space age aircraft design inspired prototypes .The Corvette Sting Ray, is perhaps the culmination of this period, with Corvette stylist, Bill Mitchell's XP-87 forming the basis of the classic Sting Ray, one of the few cars in history to go into production without losing something of the impact of the prototype.
The hovercraft will be 50 years old next year. Like supersonic, interplanetary and deep sea travel, the demise of the world's largest hovercraft the SR-N4, joined Concorde, the Saturn V and the Trieste as examples of technological retreat.The SR-N4, which was operated by two companies, for many years, to transport people across the English Channel, could carry over 30 vehicles and 250 people. What made these hovercraft particularly unusual is that they represented an example of a design where the civilian versions were more extraordinary than those used by the military, which are still smaller, even today.
Fixed-gear bicycles, without gears or brakes were created for the controlled environment of a velodrome. This environment could not be more different from hilly San Francisco or car ridden New York, but their appeal as being both stripped down and minimalist as well as requiring considerable risk and commitment to learn to ride has made them fashionable in hip neighborhoods of large cities, such as New York's Williamsburg.This has lead to an interesting morphing of a classic post-war track bike design, to city fixies which inevitable become like beefier road bikes to be ridable and more recently to celebrity endorsed and/or fashion branded, limited edition products.The stunningly beautiful 1950's Cinelli, Italian team bike, best represents the classic track bike and the solid titanium saddle and merlin frame captures the road-bike-in-denial urban fixie (albeit, without the current vogue of sawn off straight handle-bars). The fashion house branded versions include graffiti artist, Futura's Colnago track frame, a Kid Robot bike a Fuji and Obey fixie and the surprisingly nice Nike AF1. The fashion bikes are particularly odd, because they are created by designers rather than bike enthusiasts and mix and match components purely on the basis of how they look. In this sense the transition of fixies from track to urban messenger to fashion designer is a continuous trend away from ergonomics to superficiality.Vote for your faves, ours is the 59 Cinelli.
Airstream was neither the first nor the only manufacturer of streamlined trailers with examples shown here, by Spartan, Silver Streak, Westcraft and Bowlus, among others, yet they are deservedly the best known and continue to thrive. Because of their futuristic design they have a unique place in the history of technology. An Airstream was used for quarantine after the first men returned from the moon and today takes astronauts to the Space Shuttle. Their iconic silver bullet shape still looks modern, yet it dates from the 30s and is based upon a prior streamline designed trailer, called the Bowlus. Here is a list of some of the most beautiful things to have ever been on the roads.
Henry Ford's car assembly line is a symbol modern manufacture, yet the town where it originated has become a ruin and Toyota is now worth ten times the value of both Ford and General Motors combined.Car manufacture moved to the next level with the widespread introduction of robotics, by the Japanese, however German car factories have recently created a truly futuristic vision of manufacture, where both architecture of the factory and the machinery within it, have become an integrated work of art.The Autostadt visitor center at the VW factory in Wolfsburg, which involved commissioning over 400 architects, features 200 foot tall robotic silos at the end of the production line (reminiscent of the people farms in the Movie, the Matrix), where customers can pick up their newly manufactured cars. In Dresden the VW assembly plant, designed by Hann is an eco-friendly, transparent building right in the center of the city, with glass walls and maple floors, where tourists are encouraged to view the cars being put together in pristine surroundings. Leipzig features possibly the world's most architecturally significant plant, a stunning building designed by the folks working at Zaha Hadid.
ts very hot today, so we are giving you some visual ice cream - massive railroad snowplows. These devices which are both terrifyingly impressive, when in action (as the video in the list shows) and dramatically beautiful to look at either in the fan-like rotary versions or the futuristic wedge shaped models. Some of these plows are still being used, having been built in the 19th Century.
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.
Everything from cars to cargo ships can be nuclear powered, not just aircraft carriers or submarines,. If you want a really wild motor for your vehicle here are some real examples of nuclear engines. To avoid more well known examples, we have not included carriers and submarines in this chart, and we have tried to link to images of the actual engines. Vote for your faves.
Although folding bicycles have seen somewhat of a renaissance, there has not been as much innovation compared to mountain bikes, because the market is smaller. This is a shame since although there are some great products such as Bromptons or the Birdy, there is, in our opinion, no ideal foldup. An ideal foldup would be one that folds so small and is so light, that you could take it in a backpack, just in case, like carrying an umbrella in case it rains. A couple of the concept designs here come close - vote for your fave.