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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
The history of computers is not all digital, from the humble slide rule to hydraulic models of the economy there is a rich history of both electronic and mechanical analog computers. Here are some of our favorite examples. These computers have certain advantages over their symbolic counterparts. They measure continuous variables in parallel and therefore their accuracy is limited only by the granularity with which their results are read and their speed is not limited by sequential operations.

Amazing Analog Computers

For no other reason than these things look slightly disturbing here a re a variety of devices to measure bits and pieces of your head, for quack or legitimate purposes or just to hold it still.

12 fetishy head frames

Flying helmets are interesting because they demonstrate the rate of technological progress over the 20th century, from primitive, almost medieval looking leather caps to sophisticated cyborg like devices packed full of electronics. They also show different air force cultures, from spartan Soviet styles to individualistic, decorated and painted US fighter pilot helmets.

flying helmets

As flat screen TVs become ubiquitous, vintage TVs look more and more interesting and unusual. From early mechanical TVs consisting of a spinning disk and lens (which look even better without an enclosure), to Sony's original transistor TV and portable LCD sets from as early as the 80s. Here are some of our favorites from collector sites around the web.

28 fantastic vintage tvs

A nostalgic look at the prime or earliest examples of truly revolutionary gadgets. Keep sending us tips, and vote for the ones that impacted you most.

18 world changing gadgets

Until very recently, dental surgery appears to have been carried out with carpentry equipment. In fact, quite literally, since early dental drills were adapted from woodworking equipment. Here are some of our favorites ranging from the beautiful to the macabre.

12 vicious vintage dental tools

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

Proving that expressions like point and shoot are not just mere metaphor. Here are some examples in the history of camera design that have lead for one reason or another to items which look exactly like guns, from early experimental cameras to sniper style Paparazzi kit to toys.

14 cameras that look just like guns

There is a saturation point where individual pieces of graffiti become a texture, when things are absolutely covered in graffiti. This tends to happen in places that are charged with emotional energy, such as the Berlin wall, however here are some less well known places. From the throne of England which is covered top to bottom in hundreds of years old carved graffiti and equally aristocratic Harrow School which features a wood paneled classroom where every inch is covered by pupils who have carved their names, including Winston Churchill to pop culture shrines such as U2's former recording studio and Elvis' Graceland and not so pop Oscar Wilde, whose grave is covered in kisses.

graffiti covered

Heart rate monitors connected to an ink plotted graph are a staple of movies and TV and they usually come in beautiful portable versions by companies such as Lafayette Systems, making them a classic spy suitcase gadget.Polygraph lie detectors are widely believed to be useless quackery, no more effective than a Scientology Dianetics machine, but they are commonly used by law enforcement and government agencies, usually in the US and are an anachronistic cultural legacy of the cold war.Today, the classic analog polygraph is being replaced by much less interesting computer versions.

10 Vintage Analog Lie Detectors

Sometimes, making things simpler makes things more complicated. Like telling the time on willfully minimalist watches. Watches can be minimalist and functional, but the examples here put form over function where the aesthetic gain may be questionable. There is one of these we actually really like, but we are not telling which.

Unreadable Minimalist Watches

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

If you are as persnickety as we are, then you also possibly fantasize about having lots of gadgets that are tiny and foldaway in beautiful, intricate transformer-like fashion.Here are our picks from big to small: houses, helicopters, cars, boats, beds, computers, coat hangers. even if you've seen these things before, there is something satisfying about putting all these things in one place.

collapsible gadgets

Bank vaults comprise the most impressive fortresses ever built. Their giant mechanical doors are supreme gadgets, as large as a truck but built with the precision of a Swiss watch.Working vaults range from the New York Federal Reserve with 5000 tons of gold beneath Starbucks on the corner of Nassau St. to the giant doomsday project seed bank vault in the Arctic. Reconverted vaults are used for an amazing array of items such as underground farms, dry cleaned garment stores, wine cellars, radioactive material storage and restaurants. There are even bank vaults which have survived nuclear explosions in both Nevada and Hiroshima. Here is a collection of some of the most celebrated or unusual vaults in the world

bank vaults

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

Welding goggles are a staple item for Burning Man and Steampunk fans, and the variety of welding masks and visors is impressive and iconic. They range from creepy leather hood "Monkey Masks" to hand held furnace mask derivatives, to sophisticated systems based upon racing helmets, with visors that darken instantly in a fraction of a second, and with customized paint jobs from kitsch to clever. Vote for your faves.

15 wonderful welding masks

Named after the famous cartoonist, Rube Goldberg machines are unlike ordinary gadgets in that they are deliberately inefficient, taking the maximum number of steps to achieve a goal. Last years winner of the Rube Goldberg competition took over three hundred steps to squeeze a glass of orange juice.To truly appreciate RG machines you need to see them in action. Here is a list of videos of our favorites. Vote for yours.

12 best Rube Goldberg Machine videos

Innovations in lighting design are often gimmicky or merely a case of LED everywhere. This list illustrates where lighting is sculptural and integral to architecture, from a night club made of glowing bricks, Daniel Libeskinds wireframe architectural chandelier, the amazing Lighthive exhibition at the Architectural Association and futuristic light sculptures by Kalle. Our LED example creates a grid of LED points that appear to float in mid air.

17 architectural light sculptures

Incredibly, automatic car parks have been around since the 30s culminating in the incredibly futuristic VW Autostadt. Here are some of our favorites.

12 robotic car parks

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.

8 inflatable military decoys

Climbing walls are both functionally and aesthetically fascinating. They often have beautiful abstract shapes reminiscent of Kurt Schwitters Merzbau or are just plain intricate and impressive.Included in our collection here are interactive musical climbing walls, enormous artificial ice towers, surreal climbing forms and a huge climbing wall inside a disused Texan grain silo. Vote for your faves.

Great Climbing Walls

What a tech bubble needs is bubble cars like these classics from the 40s to the present. Perhaps they should replace the Google bus with a 1958 Goggomobil?

Bubble Cars

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Most buildings are built to provide shelter from the natural environment for the maximum period of time. Rocket launch pads are designed to weather the extremely unnatural conditions of exploding kerosene fireballs for a short period of time, which makes them extraordinar.Here are ten that we found worthy of note. The list includes historical ones, such as the moon landing Apollo 11 or its predecessor, Wernher Von Braun’s Nazi V2 on a pad in America rather than Germany to the stunning architecture of the gantries of the twin shuttle pads 39a and 39b at Kennedy Space Center or the desolate surroundings of the Russian Buran Shuttle launch pad, and its surprisingly different design, considering the similarity of the vehicle.

Get into a car anywhere in the world and you are pretty much guaranteed that you will understand how to drive it. Cars have the ultimate user interface and Formula 1 cars perhaps represent the pinnacle of this UI, with the most demanding requirements.As recently as 1992, F1 steering wheels were round with 3 buttons (neutral, drinking water supply, radio), but since the advent of paddle gear changes there has been a sudden explosion of electronics and feature driven complexity.The complexity is ubiquitous, all 11 Formula 1 teams produce cars with more or less the same multi button design allowing adjustment and tweaks of traction and aerodynamics from the wheel itself. Unlike a road car, space and focus constraints mean that the entire dashboard is on the steering wheel. This is something that will no doubt be copied, unnecessarily, in consumer cars in future, but would that be a UI improvement?Given that all 11 F1 teams have converged on a remarkably similar UI, independently, you would think that dashboard steering wheel style was a rational design, however its complexity possibly caused Lewis Hamilton the 2007 F1 championship, when he accidentally pressed the neutral button (top left of the 2007 McLaren Mercedes wheel).We have gathered together as many of the modern style wheel designs that we could find and put a date to, to demonstrate the UI pattern. What is clear is that there is no clear accentuation of features (color, size) by how often the are used, merely by position. Even if drivers like Hamilton are experts and fully familiar with the UI, there is a tiny percentage chance of error. Our guess is that this trend in car UI would be a mistake if it filters through to everyday cars, and that F1 cars will revert to a more simple UI over time.

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.

The original wireless network used pigeons. One of the worlds largest information firms, Reuters actually started out as a messaging service with carrier pigeons, they were used widely for messaging during the WW1 and even for aerial photography. The famous psychologist, Skinner worked on a guided missile which was to be controlled by live pigeons.

Bang and Olufsen are famous for their superior design in electronics in the period prior to the 80s, yet there are no designers employed by the company. Instead, all design is traditionally outsourced and the Bang and Olufsen heyday, when their products were must have items for the homes of architects and designers is largely due to one man Jacob Jensen who designed a range of classic products between the late 60s and 80s.Like Apple today, Jensen obsessed with build quality and finish, and eschewed visible buttons wherever possible, using below glass illuminated controls and even proposing gesture based interfaces.Most satisfyingly, unlike current trends in design from double curved car shells to rounded corner boxes on web pages, Jensens trademark was ruthlessly squared off edges.

Science Fiction Movies and famous architecture have a particularly strong tradition, however the link is not always flattering. Since much science fiction deals with a dystopic vision of the future, architecture is often seen as part of the environmental cause, from Philadelphias abandoned, alienating, solitary confinement based, Quaker prison in 12 Monkeys to the architectural brutalism of Brunel University in the literally brutal Clockwork Orange.In the Truman show, the blandness and superficiality of Seaside in Florida makes a real location feel like a set, and the accidental neo-classical fascist style Ronald Reagan building in Washington is a perfect authoritarian backdrop for Minority Report.

The design of ski jumps is interesting because it is the most extreme form of a playground slide. It has recently produced excellent pieces of modern architecture from Zaha Hadid and MR2 but equally impressive are the bizarre temporary ski jumps at baseball grounds and football stadia.

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.


For some reason cities around the world are scrambling to build massive Ferris Wheels in the name of modernity. Which is odd because this is old fashioned technology and not much improved. The biggest wheel in the world is less than twice the size of the very first one in Chicago. Ultimately however, what is disappointing about the biggest Ferris wheels in the world, from Beijing to Berlin is that they are boring. Here are our favorite less ordinary Ferris Wheels.

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.

Magic Lanterns are essentially pre-electric slide projectors. They hold a unique position in the history of gadgets, being popular at the end of the nineteenth century when cheap mass produced decoration became available. They represent one of the last machines to be designed like furniture rather than gadgets.The dirty little secret of design is that good taste equals expensive - when everybody could afford decoration, minimalist design with expensive materials became a way to display wealth (the early modernist, Barcelona pavilion had stainless steel columns, onyx walls and travertine floors) contrary to legend, modernism was originally product for the elite, not the masses.Magic Lanterns are pre-modernist, richly decorated items that are very different from the design of todays gadgets, which look like their design is dictated by function, but in reality (like an expensive Porsche designed to travel at speeds which it is illegal to do so) is dictated by a fetishized culture of the machine.

Proving that expressions like point and shoot are not just mere metaphor. Here are some examples in the history of camera design that have lead for one reason or another to items which look exactly like guns, from early experimental cameras to sniper style Paparazzi kit to toys.

If there was one cassette deck to own, it was a Nakamichi. With the release of the model 1000 (its number reflected its high price) in the early 70s, reel-to-reel tape recorders were rendered all but obsolete, for consumers. With the release of the 700 Nakamichi created a functional and design classic.Because cassette tapes are in the gap between vintage retro and mere obsolescence, Nakamichis can be picked up for a reasonable price on Ebay.

A bus stop is perhaps the simplest form of shelter and therefore the simplest form of architecture. As such it is a surprisingly rich area for design innovation, from complex organic concrete shell structures to minimalist glass and steel modernism.

The first in a two part list. Here are a series of strange and unusual bus stops, including those with domestic or air conditioned interiors, odd structures and a variety of innovative integral advertising.

The lack of design innovation in an economic environment which excluded innovators meant that Soviet Russian technology often lifted concepts directly from the West. Not just little things like microprocessors and computers, but massive projects like Superfortress bombers, the Concorde and even the Space Shuttle.

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.

Nothing demonstrates a more interesting quirk in the history of bad user interface design than the calculator watch, which required cramming the largest number of buttons into the smallest space. So quirky are they that there is a certain nostalgia, for their distinctive styling, both for the collectible ones from the 70s and their mainstream counterparts from the early 80s.

What the list says - a collection of pod shaped enclosures from a health monitoring system, to a tree house, escape module, house, bed and office.

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.

Five of so architects have produced much of the most famous modern furniture. Here are 15 different chairs by 15 different famous modern architects. Vote for your faves.

Bicycles are very efficient machines, more efficient than legs! Here are some of the more bizarre bicycle powered objects from a washing machine, to a bulldozer, a centrifuge at NASA and even a rollercoaster.

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