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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
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

Nothing less than human made lightning. The massive fields generated by resonance between pairs of stepped up induced capacitors create potential differences greater than the resistance of air between the coil and a nearby conductor. This allows fractal currents to flow as the air itself conducts and ionizes.Although Tesla coils are largely created for fun by dedicated enthusiasts, they originally had a real purpose in mind. Tesla figured that he could create a wireless electrical grid and went as far as to build a tower on Long Island that would be its first transmitter. The idea was never realized, however in Russia really large scale wireless power networks were actually tried, as can be seen in this list.Vote for your faves.

16 crazy tesla coils

The Olympics has become surreal, an athletic event which manages to roll up some of the world's least popular sports and make some of the world's most popular, such as soccer, capture less interest. It's all about the opening ceremony and the 100M, so the entire multi-billion dollar affair centers on 3 hours of introduction and 10 seconds of meaningful competition. It's an event where the organizers earn tens of times that of the athletes, evade taxes and create new criminal laws to prosecute those who challenge sponsors who peddle things that are bad for your health. Added to this is the absurd level paramilitary security.It used to be worse however. The security used to be an event, with Military Patrol being a sport in three games. Shown here is the rather disturbing image of the German medal winning Military patrol team, between WWI and WWII. Other dubious shooting contests included killing pigeons (as well as racing them) and dueling, where two competitors would try and shoot each other in the face with wax bullets.Several of the demonstration sports are straight from Monty Python territory: Fire Fighting, Cannon Shooting and Kite Flying. But my absolute favorite are the little known arts medals. Walter Winans was one of 2 people to win both sports and and arts medals, for sculpture and deer shooting and Brooklyn's Marine Park was the subject of Charles Downing Lay's Olympic silver medal in Town Planning in 1936.I seen several sites doing a similar list to this, however I spent a long time trying to pick up the best selection including a few that were missed elsewhere. Enjoy.

12 absurd olympic events

Most of these are either clearly dangerous, such as the shoe fitting x ray machines that were popular until the 50s or show a bizarre Alien-like (as in H.R. Geiger) aesthetic that is a world apart from current medical equipment. Bug-like metal castings in place of ubiquitous white plastic.

9 vintage x ray machines

In the pre Pirate Bay days of analog transmission, pirate radio stations were setup in the most bizarre places, to avoid being shut down. Many of these were offshore, in boats, lighthouses, disused forts, or even balloons or planes.The idea for outlaw stations came from the US military who broadcast from B 29 bombers, over Vietnam, ships off the coast of Soviet states and continue to broadcast to Cuba from balloons. Israel is the last remaining country to have pirate radio ships in operation, where they broadcast ultra conservative religious programming.

Weird Outlaw Radio Transmitters

The view straight down from a bridge tower, a skyscraper creates a perspective which we looks surprising. Cars look like models and the base of something like the Eiffel tower looks tiny and distorted. That and the fact that these views are absolutely terrifying. Here are a dozen of our favorites.

12 dramatic views looking down

Historically, military rations, comprised, in significant part, of cigarettes and alcohol, while the quantity of food was far less than today. Current US army field rations are ready to eat and focus on high energy foods including caffeine-infused gum, they must cost less than $7.25 per meal, survive for 3 years at 27 degrees C and after a 100 foot drop.Civilian rations are often far less bountiful, such as WW2 food rations current Cuban rations or the tiny hunk of bread that Gulag prisoners were given. Vote for which items are most striking.

12 different food rations

This is a video roundup of currently available or prototyped 3D printers, a gadget which has been sitting on the sidelines for a while, but hasn't become mainstream yet. 3D printing machines are fairly simple in their operation, building any 3D shape, no matter how complex, as a series of contour slices which are hardened as a printer head slides back and forth across. But the results look like magic, real objects, in color, with moving parts, direct from a CAD model. The main reason that 3D printers, still remain a professional niche product, used by design firms rather than end consumers, is that their output is small and slow. In addition, more people know how to create text files for 2D printers than a CAD design, and this is unlikely to change in the near future. As a result of this small market, some of the marketing videos of 3D printers shown here look distinctly old fashioned for such a futuristic product. We long for the day when we will be able to print a full sized chair in ten minutes.

video list of 3D printers in action

Manhattan is an antique modern city, dark, decaying, malevolent and at the same time wonderful. The most recent screen versions of Batman have captured this dark feel perfectly. Here are our picks for the buildings and elements of Manhattan that make up the real Gotham city.

real gotham city

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.

bad design gull wing cars

Obvious the very word submarine implies something below sea level, so submarines on dry land are particularly weird. Here are some of our favorites, ranging from abandoned washed up submarines, like beached whales, to those which have been specially buried in the ground as museum exhibits.

10 dry land submarines

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.

the pigeon net

Heavy lift ships can carry loads of tens of thousands of tons, including oil platforms, other ships and even dry docks. The are often semi-submersible so that they can sink below the water line to let their cargo slide off. The sheer size of their cargo often looks impossible, as these items suggest.

12 ships with impossibly large cargo

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.

12 cargo holds

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.

9 Vintage Monorails

Although we previously did a list on diving helmets, the variety of strange diving outfits warranted another list. Having spent hours pouring through these to pick my favorites, it occurred to me that the inspiration for early science fiction robots and space suits, before the age of actual space travel, clearly comes from this pre-space age technology.Deep sea diving equipment needs to be solid and heavy it has a very different aesthetic from aviation and space equipment which needs to be light, so there is a market difference between the look of space things in science fiction, between the 50s and 60s.

12 diving suits

Balloons formed the origins of what became the USAF, have been used for stratospheric parachute jumps, bungee jumps and even to test nuclear bombs. Vote for your faves.

12 interesting balloons

There have been four core audiences for Apple along the years, the original Mac for graphic designers and Desk Top Publishing, the OSX based machines which lured developers, the iPod which brought Apple into the consumer market with lifestyle apps, and the original Apple II which became a computer widely used in schools.Looking at these old commercials from the late 70s and 1980s, including the first ever Apple ad (which was a store ad not produced internally), you can see how much they were aimed at kids. Even then, there is a faint glimmer of the artistry of later Apple ads which aimed for high ideals and changing the world

apple II commercials (videos)

Old shoes doesn't sound interesting but I managed to find some fine examples, from the incredibly short and tall Venetian Chopines which had 2 foot soles for courtesans to wade through sewage lined streets to the opposite shaped long skinny medieval Poulaines which had toes stuffed with moss. Interestingly the worlds oldest shoes come from the New World, or Oregon to be exact.My personal favorite are the Roman shoes from the time of Constantine, whose style show just show eastern or to our eyes, Arabic, the Empire would have felt at that time.

old shoes

RIP Google Phone, long live concept phones. A roundup of the best cellphone concepts and prototypes. Vote for your fave.

22 best concept cellphones of the consequences of the Wii and the iPhone is that the market for useful haptic (or force feedback devices) has become real. In some ways, an ordinary cellphone on vibrate, or a rumble pack are examples of haptic devices, however, the recent focus on the physics of interfaces means that haptics are soon going to be much more sophisticated. The reason for this list is actually to show how limited the scope of haptics is currently, despite the opportunity with systems that resemble the primitive virtual reality fad that coincided with the birth of the web. With a bit of imagination, however, some of the possible applications of haptics are shown.

12 haptic interfaces

There is something intensely creepy about submarines, not least because, as we found out from the two that had crashed into each other recently, they carry a thousand times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb in a claustrophobic metal sarcophagus powered by the same stuff as the bombs. Because of this, and because of their featureless exteriors which hide immense complexity they provide the same kind of kick that a complicated gadget in a smooth case provides. Just like gadgets its interesting to see how they work when they are being assembled or taken apart. Here are our favorite views from the science fiction like decommissioning of Soviet attack subs to rotting reactor cores to components being wheeled through English roads.

submarine construction and decommissioning

I've picked the most interesting selection I could find from the worlds largest gatherings. The largest anti war protest was in Rome in 2003, against the Iraq war, where more people gathered than for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Haj. In fact, Sao Paulo's Gay Pride festival is roughly the same size as the Haj, with 2.5 million attending in 2006 and the Haj isn't even necessarily the largest gathering in Islam, with 14 million people attending the Shiite Arab'een in Iraq. Religious ceremonies dominate, with a Papal mass in Ireland in 1979 resulting in a third of the population (1.25M) gathering in a single field, but paling in comparison with religious gatherings in India, including the Kumbh Mela which drew an unbelievable 60-70 million people over 45 days in 2007, making it the largest gathering in history.

images of the worlds largest crowds

oobject header image

From legendary conceptual architects Haus Rucker, who created mind expanding fly head like human cocoons and inflatables, in the 60s, to Lawrence Malstaff who does brilliant installations today, including a real typhoon in a cylindrical pod to humans shrink wrapped between to pieces of plastic, with a breathing tube. Here are a range of beautiful, filament like, cocoon structures produced by artists and architects.

Giant projected images on buildings have been iconic examples of futurism since the movie Blade Runner. More recently they have become a lot more sophisticated via projection of animated 3d computer models onto quasi 2 dimensional surfaces such as building facades. Examples here range from the skyscraper projections for Nokia in London, to guerrilla activist projections of Al Weiwei on a Chinese Embassy and the Occupy Wall street ‘bat signal' on the Verizon tower in Manhattan.

Nothing makes architecture quite as gadget like as if it folds up into a kit or a box. Here are 12 examples of rooms in a box by various designers. Many of these are actually purchasable, which is sometimes rare for conceptual architecture. Click through the links for their sources.

For the last decade, Apple have absolutely dominated gadget design, bringing modernism to the masses in a way that architects never did. Yves Behar, the Swiss born (but not Swiss) designer is the first person to really challenge Apple's hegemony, he designed the original Slingbox and Paypal's recent attempt to compete with Square, but is becoming well known because of the superior design of the Jawbone headset and Jambox wireless speaker. Here are our favorite Behar designs.

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.

Aside from the POV Parkour here, non of these videos involve super human skills, Spidey Senses or Red Bull addiction. I actually prefer the seemingly bland but interesting ones such as strapping a GoPro to a dog, hula hoop, time lapse of the view out of a commercial flight or RC car in Walmart to endless surfing videos

Manikins used for dental training are either deep into uncanny valley (creepy) territory if they try and look at all realistic, or just plain terrifying in their more abstract incarnations. A lot of this is just becuase (a) people are very good at interpreting faces and anything face-like seems possessed, (b) dental manikins have to bare their teeth so often have bizarre expressions. Anyhow, they are quite interesting, particularly the vintage metal ones which are a nastily grotty and beaten up.

Such was the propensity for the Soviets to put fighter jets on plinths dotted around the empire that they are sometimes referred to as Migs on sticks. Other people did this, of course. In the US, Phantom jets were a favorite and some of these Migs are in places outside the Soviet Union, like Somalia, where Russian jets were bought. The trend also intended to a variety of other planes such as the particularly ungainly looking Tupelov monument, in this list. But there is something about a Mig on an angled concrete base that is reminiscent of Soviet graphic design, crass and muscular with people leaning forward in earnest. Comic like, but deadly serious.

The telescopes chosen for this list are largely based on how they look, from a design perspective, rather than their scientific importance. Their unusual requirements create interesting structural engineering approaches. However, the Holmdel Horn Antenna is possibly the most interesting from both points of view, its highly unusual shape is like a gigantic ear trumpet sticking out of a garden shed, but it also happens to be the device which discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation - the echo of the big bang. I've included a view beneath the mesh of the gigantic Arecibo dish, just because I always wondered what that space was like. For the rest I've chosen ones which best display the spiky, high tech look of giant scaffolds and space frames or which are attached in impossibly top heavy ways ancillary buildings, like the giant upturned umbrella of the Parkes telescope.

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.

New York's retro futurism is particularly interesting becuase the city itself is an anachronistic view of modernism - an antique skyscraper city. Each one of these proposals is not just a past vision of the future, but a past vision of the future which is now in the past itself.The 15 items here, range from the purely conceptual work of Italian 60s architects, Superstudio, who designed a continuous monument around the earth, crashing through lower Manhattan to Lindenthal's serious proposal for an absolutely gargantuan bridge across the Hudson, with towers bigger than some of the tallest skyscrapers and where the keystone, still exists today.Along with Buckminster Fuller's well known idea for a geodesic dome over mid-town Manhattan, is his lesser known one for an array of huge, cooling tower like housing projects in Harlem, each holding 40,000 people. There are a couple of representative engineering projects showing plans to dam the Hudson or drain the East River and an array of transportation concepts, including Raymond Loewy's idea for a helicopter pad covering Bryant park, 10 storys above ground.Weirdest of all is the proposal for a spherical nuke proof 2nd city, below ground.

Attempts by architects to create utopian communities usually have one distinguishing feature - they are not utopian and they fail. As such, they make great settings for dystopic fiction, such as the slightly kitsch and creepy Portmeirion in the Kafkaesque Prisoner TV series or Seaside, Florida in the Truman show.Some uptopias have been built and failed, such as Soleri's semi-inhabited Arcosanti and some were only half realized, such as Disney's Progress City, which ended up being watered down as Epcot. But possibly the most insane of all is Le Corbusier's utopian vision for Paris which consisted of bulldozing the city of lights and replacing it with what resembles the worst projects in the South Bronx. It says a lot for the profession that the vision of arguably the world's most famous architect was to destroy what is arguably the world's most beautiful architecture.

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.

Bel Geddes is the industrial designer most associated with the streamline style, an aerodynamic form than was as much about aesthetics as wind resistance. These designs actually look better than more aerodynamic forms and as such were used by Geddes for things that didn't have to move at all, such as his streamlined school desk. Geddes started out as a theatrical designer then made a series of model cars and prototypes for trains and planes, including the incredible airliner number 4 - a 1929 proposal for a transatlantic boat plane carrying 450 passengers and an army of staff including a musicians and entertainers. But the other thing that Geddes created was his daughter, who was Miss Ellie in the TV series, Dallas.

I combined two types of concept plan in this list that are very different but share the fact that they show an alternate universe where airports weren't giant fields on the edge of cities.On the one had there are the airports that literally float on water, and although these have become a reality with projects such as Kansai or military aircraft carriers, some of the original designs are for runways floating on rivers right in the middle of cities. Here the concept overlaps with the other type of floating airports: those that metaphorically float above the city on stilts - or over rather than on a river, via a structure like an overhead railroad.These concepts are not as unpractical as they appear, by using short-takeoff, quiet planes, London city airport is very close to the financial center of London and its a shame that aircraft haven't been developed to allow some of these magnificent, early ambitions to have become a reality.

Diving bells were originally just that - an upturned church bell with enough trapped air to stand in while reclaiming things from shipwrecks in relatively shallow water. As such the engraving of Edmund Halley's 18th century diving bell is one of my favorite images on oobject, because it shows gadgetry from an age prior to machines. There's a guy walking around the sea floor in what looks more like a velvet courtier's outfit that a divers suit. This list is a collection of images of diving bells that evoke that same sort of weirdness, as best I could find

Although we previously did a list on diving helmets, the variety of strange diving outfits warranted another list. Having spent hours pouring through these to pick my favorites, it occurred to me that the inspiration for early science fiction robots and space suits, before the age of actual space travel, clearly comes from this pre-space age technology.Deep sea diving equipment needs to be solid and heavy it has a very different aesthetic from aviation and space equipment which needs to be light, so there is a market difference between the look of space things in science fiction, between the 50s and 60s.

There were justifiable fears of being buried alive, before modern medicine could safely identify the difference between certain types of paralysis or coma and being dead. Fears which were exacerbated by fiction such as The Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe. As a result a bizarre range of contraptions were invented to signal having been buried alive, from bells, whistles and even a spring loaded ejector coffin which might actually kill other people from the shock of seeing an interred body spring out of the ground in a cemetery.Added to this were ranges of hermetically sealed iron coffins and a device to prevent grave robbing consisting of a booby-trap subterranean torpedo.For more of these, check out:

A tank has an iconic shape and when it deviates from that it looks strange, despite the fact that many of these alternative forms are equally viable. They include designs that are based on steam tractors, tricycles and cannon and ones where ordinary tanks are adapted for different tasks such as mine clearing. In the latter case, the Progvev T is particularly weird, where the gun has been replaced by a reverse mounted Mig fighter jet engine, in order to clear mines by blasting them with an afterburn.

I normally try and avoid military stuff unless there's an ironic design twist, and there is here. Somehow, these crude, mechanical ‘remote control' rifles, used for shooting over trenches manage to emasculate the phallic nature of guns and turn them into something worthy of Rube Goldberg himself. Nevertheless, they are for killing people sneakily, something to remember, while admiring their weirdness.

Long before periscopes became uniquely associated with submarines, they were widely used to peer over the trenches in WW1. Here are other uses from on board jet aircraft to golf courses, bank vaults and even to look underwater from dry land - the inverse of what we associate periscopes with.

At first glance this lesser known part of the telephone inventor's life seems crazy. Bell became obsessed with pyramids, building towers, buildings, boats, kites and eventually planes made entirely out of little tetrahedrons (triangular pyramids). Eventually setting up the Aerial Experiment Association, he built 3 tetrahedral kite planes where each pyramid frame component had 2 of its 4 sides covered in fabric.His obsession, however, was ingenious and is possibly feasible - that if you could fly a pyramid frame structure then by combining lots of them together you would be adding no more weight per unit of lift, so you could fly a structure of any size.Although only one of Bell's planes managed to fly under its own power, the tetrahedral frame structure was to become a much used component of high tech architecture more than half a century later, giving these images of the Victorian inventors a bizarre science fiction feel.

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