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Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich donated money for a giant tunneling machine to build a tunnel between Russia and Sarah Palin’s house, when he was governor of the adjacent region to Alaska. The Wikipedia entry for Tunneling Machines and the entry for Civil Engineers in the UK Yellow Pages have something in common, they both read: ‘see boring’. Doubly ironic, since boring is one of the most interesting projects for civil engineers, and the machines used to do the job are spectacular. The set here includes a variety of shield tunnel boring machines, TBMs, including those for celebrated projects such as Yucca mountain or the Channel Tunnel. Perhaps the most ironic of all is the Air Force TBM, a machine for digging deep underground, owned by the people who defend the skies.

20 interesting boring machines

The fact that Intel had to produce a concept reference design for a laptop to show what could be done, gives some idea of what a depressingly poor choice there is for laptops.These are very personal items, something that usually stimulates value-added qualitative design rather than bigger and better CPUs drives and screens. But the fact is, unlike the multitude of smaller hi-fi equipment manufacturers, the number of people making laptops has reduced massively in the last few years. Laptops look pretty much the same, product design wise (not feature wise), as they did almost a decade ago and none come close to other areas of high end consumer electronics in terms of design flair.So here is our list of recent laptops you can currently or will shortly be able to buy that are subjectively well designed. There are no real surprises other than the ones we chose to omit.

15 only laptops to buy

Today is the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, here are some of the other lesser known Soviet satellites.Soviet space gear looked different to NASA space gear. There was something alarming about this, since it meant that there was a cultural and aesthetic aspect to the type of their design that we expect to be based purely on rational criteria.These days the variety of satellite design does tend to reflect their function more than their provenance, however here are our picks of the ones that were quintessentially Soviet. Vote on your faves.

13 soviet satellites

All of these car commercials are from 1973, the last time the economy tanked because of oil. The embargo started late in 1973, at the point when family sedan’s did less than 10mpg, were the size of a boat and often sloshed around on suspension that felt like you were at sea. While the Detroit manufacturers were pitching speed, horsepower or comfort, one relatively obscure Japanese import, was already selling based on fuel economy. Can you spot the odd one out?

oil crisis car ads

Jet engines undergo a variety of tests shown here, from chucking water, sand and flocks of dead birds into their gaping intakes. They are also tested to see what happens when a fan blade is destroyed while the turbine is spinning, with an explosive charge, not something to try at home. But the best tests of all are those involving jet engine afterburners and the best of the best has to be those with vector nozzles.These are real oobjects, objects that make you go ooh. Vote for your faves.

jet engine test videos

Some of the most beautiful mechanisms ever produced, here is a gallery of old and new mechanical movements of planets and their moons, the entire solar system and tides and eclipses. Orreries, Planetaria and Tellurions, respectively.

18 mechanical planetary models

oobject header image

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.