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The history of the pressure suit from its origins in the 30s for high altitude pilots to space missions is one which perfectly encapsulates (no pun intended) all of the aspects of product design from craft to science. Aesthetically, the first pressure suit, created by the aviator Wiley Post in 1934, looks more like a deep sea diving one, just as deep sea diving inspired the fictional aesthetic for robots and space men, until the space race. But the Post suit is where the two design styles diverge, culminating in the Apollo mission suits which were produced in craft fashion by the seamstresses of bra manufacturer, Playtex after their proposal outperformed those submitted by engineering contractors.Pressure suits don’t need to be air tight, apart from the helmet, because human skin is, they just need to be tight to stop your skin swelling. Those worn by pilots are usually different from astronauts, who also have to wear external layers of reflective insulation (separated by intermediate layers of non heat conducting material, exactly like modern loft insulation) and a protective skin against micro-meteors and abrasive dust. As well as all fabric pressure suits, there are rigid or partially rigid ones, such as some of the moon walk prototypes or space walk (EVA) ones which are hybrids of a rigid torso and flexible limbs. EVA and moon walk suits have a life support system as a backpack, while astronauts often carry theirs like a suitcase, as a backup in case cabin pressure fails.

pressure suits

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

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

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

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Design elegance: How USB took over the world.

April 20th, 2009 #link

Belkin released a trivial looking gadget today which demonstrates how USB has become the universal standard interface. It turns the car cigarette lighter, which in turn had morphed into a universal charging interface, into a USB one.

There are many features which made USB a successful standard but there are 2 which stand out and made it truly elegant:

1. software and drivers could be stored in peripherals themselves, and transferred, finally removing the headache of configuring external devices.

2. both data and power are carried across USB allowing things such as external drives to have one less cable and a lot less fuss.



6 Responses to “Design elegance: How USB took over the world.”

  1. Design elegance: How USB took over the world. | oobject - Daily … Says:

    [...] Here is the original post:  Design elegance: How USB took over the world. | oobject – Daily … [...]

  2. Ryan Says:

    Could do with a rethink, they are large and prone to damage and failure.

    But wooo! Go USBs.

  3. c-dub Says:

    From a formal point of view, the USB is a flawed design from the get-go. Having a connector with bilateral symmetry is daft: there’s no clear and obvious way to determine which way the connector should be oriented when plugging the device in. It’s Design 101: the orientation of any connector to its receiving socket should either be A) immediately intuitive, or B) immaterial. Considering the amount of creative thinking that went into the design of the USB, I can’t imagine how that was overlooked.

  4. admin Says:

    @c-dub. That’s a fair point, the symmetry is definitely poor from an ergonomics perspective.

  5. Ganderpoke Says:

    Guys, Gals, there is a suggested spec for USB plugs…. the USB logo goes on the Upper or outer side when its printed or embossed on a cable line plug. as for USB drives, the little thumb thingies, the side with the holes goes upwards and outwards. Or it SHOULD if the guys building the connectors followed the rules too. You can lead a horse to water but you cant make it wear a bathing suit.

  6. c-dub Says:

    Ganderpoke, you made my point for me. If you need a paragraph to explain how the parts mate, the design is inherently flawed.