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In the movies, spook equipment equals high tech and futuristic, but the reality of the external product design design is often anything but. Product design will eventually no longer be an issue. This is one of those lists where as technology improves the items become less interesting, to the point where they disappear, as encryption technology becomes software only, as with the NSAs secure version of Google's Android OS. Nonetheless standard secure phones are still provided to government officials, by the NSA, the latest model being introduced in 2008 and with hardware that looks distinctly antiquated compared with consumer technology such as an iPhone. The odd one out in this list is the US/Soviet hotline, which is arguably as much a reaction against the time it took to decode secure messages, being introduced after the delays in doing so during the Cuban missile crisis.

9 secure phones

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

Imagine a gas powered desktop publishing system that weighed several tons, leaked oil, had thousands of moving parts, its own boiler full of molten lead and a keyboard where you couldn’t see what you had typed and which looked a thousand times more strange and complicated than any deliberately anachronistic Steampunk PC casemod.

This is how the machines that laid out the pages of newspapers were till the 80s, and to give some idea of how recent this technology was used, they were manufactured until after the release of the Apple computer. Linotype had a virtual monopoly on the typesetting of newspapers for a hundred years and their design is a superb example of an endlessly refined solution to what became an anachronistic problem. Linotypes were unlike any keyboard driven device, before or since.

linotypes from hell

If Apple is all about the product which then sells itself, then Ron Popeil’s Ronco was the exact reverse. Popeil took the kinds of things that work well with a hard sell: knives, peelers, dubious hair loss products that looked like spray paint, created a new twist rather than an invention per se and made them from cheap materials. These were then the subject of the archetypal infomercial, progenitor of the term O-matic and popularizer of the phrase ‘as seen on TV’.Popeil represents the quintessential salesman and as a result is seen with affection rather than derision, an iconic part of American popular culture and capitalism. Her are 9 videos of Popeil products.

9 ronco gadgets

Solar cookers are reflectors which focus sunlight enough to heat food, but they are a simple eco-friendly gadget that happens to look interesting and comes in a large variety of interesting forms.Because solar cookers are shiny and look like satellite dishes, they have a particularly futuristic appearance which often creates an extreme contrast with the surroundings where they are used, as some of these testify.

15 Solar Cookers

Jean Nouvel created a spectacular facade, based upon electronically controlled camera iris shaped devices in the style of decorative Arab screens, for the IMA in Paris, 20 years ago. For some reason, mechanical facades have recently started cropping up here and there in architecture. Here are some of our favorites.

12 moving building facades (videos)

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Wonders of Jurassic Technology: Bartini Beriev

April 24th, 2009 link to (permalink)

The Bartini Beriev is one of those objects that scores on every level of Jurassic technology fetishism: highly unusual experimental design (check); looks like something from science fiction (check); Soviet (check); abandoned and rotting (check); looks like an enormous frightening bug (check).

Although only prototypes were built, in the 1970s, the Bartini was a revolutionary hybrid vehicle. It was designed to take of vertically - from water! To fly as a real plane at high altitudes and to use the Wing in Ground Effect to skim the water somewhere between a hovercraft and a plane. This gives it another delicious feature: cool name: (WIG) vehicle, flarecraft, sea skimmer, ekranoplan. The Bartini is all of these.

The image above shows it with the main wings removed (below is the original configuration).


From a design perspective it demonstrates the extreme difference between the boring flying cigar design of commercial aircraft and military planes.

Commercial planes occupy a single species, very stable ecosystem with little evolution of form. In the military, a literal arms race creates a more varied environment, resulting in all sorts of shapes, sizes and functions of planes. The Bartini is a very good example of this, being a world apart from a Boeing or Airbus airliner.

Head over to where they have more images of the Bartini.

2 Responses to “Wonders of Jurassic Technology: Bartini Beriev”

  1. Wonders of Jurassic Technology: Bartini Beriev | oobject - Daily … | ClassyComp.Com Says:

    […] Here is the original: Wonders of Jurassic Technology: Bartini Beriev | oobject – Daily … […]

  2. Vlad (Small Business Blog) Says:

    I don’t even remember seeing this in any of Russian literature when I was a kid – and I grew up in 70s – 80s. Amazing :)

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