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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
One of the most odd objects we’ve ever seen these items are sometimes confused with spy gadgetry, but the truth is stranger. Jailers’ keys were apparently filled with gun powder to create a primitive gun that could be detonated if there was any trouble when opening a cell door. We found several original versions that back up this claim, dating from the 17th century and of various complexity.

jailers key guns

In the mid 50s an small Japanese electronics company, Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, created an American sounding brand name, Sony, for a series of portable all-transistor radios. The product design was similarly American influenced, with wide spaced serif lettering, like that used on Amtrak trains or even Raymond Loewy’s original Air Force One, but with a flair and attention to detail that was distinctively Japanese. Half a century later, Sony, is still a consumer brand which is associated with superior design. Here are 12 of our all time favorite classic Sony Designs.

12 classic sony designs

Gerry Anderson is a cult TV figure because he took the unfashionably low tech world of puppetry and applied it with such skill and design flair to science fiction subjects that the results were highly original and imaginative. From the late sixties to late seventies, Dinky Toys produced die cast model toys of some of the more memorable Anderson craft from Joe 90, Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds, UFO and Space 1999. They are now highly collectible. Vote for your faves.

10 classic gerry anderson scifi toys

Tube testers are machines to test the notoriously unreliable predecessor of the transistor – the vacuum tube, or valve. If you are a hi-fi nut with a tube amp you might actually even need one of these.What makes them special as vintage gadgets is that they have that particular density of retro buttons and switches that spells complicated and releases Serotonin in male humans.The link to the Catalog for the ‘Supreme’ brand on Steven Johnson’s site is particularly fine. Tube testers can be picked up on Ebay, fairly often, for reasonable prices.

13 tube testers

Its strange to think that the now obsolete VCR or VTR has a half century history, from the giant Ampex and RCA machines used in TV stations to the multiple, competing format, consumer cassette players that culminated in the dominant VHS standard.Today you can by a DVD player for the same price as a DVD itself, due to the small number of moving parts and emerging market labor. However, VCRs were always relatively expensive because of their complex mechanisms, latterly involving gimballed rotating heads.In terms of design, aside from the robust utilitarian looking professional models, VCRs were ugly devices from the outside, but complex marvels inside.There are several great sites dealing with VTR history, including the excellent: http://www.totalrewind.org

a visual history of video recorders

Before there was Lego, there was the Erector Set. This was an altogether different type of toy that resembled genuine engineering construction with trusses and girders, rather than plastic, primary color pixelated, objects.Although Erector Sets are sold today, they are re-branded versions of a different toy. The original Gilbert sets were made from 1913 till 1967 and are an iconic toy for gadget aficionados that can be picked up relatively cheaply on Ebay. Here are 10 favorite vintage kits that are currently for sale.

vintage erector sets to buy

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.

formula 1 user interfaces

If you thought the Bullet train was the fastest thing on rails, you would be wrong – more than 6000 miles per hour wrong. Rocket sled test tracks were originally designed for the V2 in WWII and can reach up to 6400 mph.They were made famous in the 50s when Lt. Col John Paul volunteered himself to test a 200mph track designed for crash test dummies, called the Gee Whiz. The test was intended to show the effects of deceleration in a plane crash, where it was assumed that nobody could survive more than 18G. Strapp survived an unbelievable 35G.More recently a rocket sled was featured in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.However, the lasting legacy of the Gee Whiz test is Murphy’s Law, coined after a real engineer called Murphy who worked briefly at Edwards Air Force Base on the test track.

Rocket Sleds

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.

Alexander Graham Bell Tetrahedrals

Time Machines come from two places: Ebay and movies. They also come in two varieties: hat with wires and vehicle, depending on whether the trip is physical or metaphysical.A notable exception is in the machine used in the TV show The Time Tunnel where the black and white spiral induces the effect of an acid trip to the extent that it doesn’t matter that it is neither a hat or a car.

17 best time machines

People sometimes make fun of the Swiss, since all they are famous for inventing is the Cuckoo Clock. Which is not really fair, because they didnt – the Germans did. Here are some post modern alternatives (both intentional and accidental) to the classic Black Forest Cuckoo Clock.

13 post modern cuckoo clocks

And you thought the matrix was fiction? Robots designed to access hostile areas such as radioactive areas are also used beneath the streets to clean or repair sewers or to lay cables. They were among the first things on the scene after 911 or Katrina and have a particular rugged beauty. Vote for your faves.

12 super sewer robots

These days most cutaways are computer rendered. Here are some physical cutaways that fascinate us as much as when travel stores had elaborate cutaway models of passenger jets.The most amazing is a model of Chernobyl reactor core 4, accurately depicting its ruined state after the disaster.

13 physical cutaway models

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.

15 scifi movies 15 famous architectural locations

I didn’t go for just massive or complex for the items in this list but tried to pick a variety of water slides that were each special in their own way. Items range from the obviously impressive ‘Insano’ in Brazil to various sinewy beauties and the simple but surreal canal side water slide in the Netherlands, which looks like a post modern take on a 17th Century Dutch landscape painting.

12 wonderful water slides

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

The original British Secret Service headquarters was just that, secret. But the increase in importance of electronics meant that it was more important for a building to be invisible to electronic eavesdropping. as such the current M16 HQ in London is about as obvious a giant sign saying ‘secret building here’, yet it is enclosed in a giant Faraday cage to protect its communications.Not all Intelligence agencies have had a discrete architectural past, Franco’s House of Screams, or the Soviet Lubyanka are demonstrably terrifying. Mossad’s HQ, until the 60s or the current Australian Secret Intelligence Service look quite modest compared to the hardly known Ministry of National Security of Azerbaijan, which houses its intelligence service, in a large and monolithic building of dramatic proportions.

15 images of not so secret secret service buildings

oobject header image

Just other industries from computer software to houses, ship building has been modularized with giant prefabricated modules being constructed and then assembled like Lego. The end result is that shipping is entirely modularized from construction to containerization of cargo. Our favorite example here shows how an existing cruise liner can be cut in half and a new module inserted, to make a stretch version (for proms and bachelorette parties, perhaps?)

Trainspotting declared the worst toilet in Scotland, something which presumably takes some beating. Here are some of the worst toilets, kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms.

Just like the Empire State building the Burj Dubai is opening after a crash, only it is twice the height. Here are our picks for a visual record of the construction of the world’s tallest structure, from its 200 foot deep foundation to a video from the crows nest at the top of it’s spire.

They don’t make cheesy electronic board games like they used to. You might remember playing Clue with your friends in your adolescence, but these 12 retro electronic board games are under the radar and long forgotten. Whether it’s racing against the clock to overcome the Omega Virus or shopping in the clearance section in Mall Madness, these games are sure to bring back some fond memories.

Perhaps not just a video game cliche but a movie, TV series and theme park one too. Ever since WWII’s pacific theater included remote jungle areas in the tropics, the image of a crashed plane, rotting in the jungle, covered in vines and terrifying critters has become an archetypal image of remoteness and abandonment.Anyway – we’ve dug out a list of real life planes hidden in jungles, including one fake one for good measure.

In the niche world of extreme car hi-fi, which seems to straddle both red neck and hip hop, various measures of audio insanity are used: how much the roof flexes or the windshield warps, to the point of shattering; or how much water can be thrown into the air from containers on the roof.My personal favorite, however, is the drive up Seven-11 remote window shake.

Despite the appearance of permanence that historic buildings create, many if not most of the worlds famous cities have been almost entirely destroyed either by war, property speculation or Ayn Randian architects. They have been rebuilt, either as replicas (Warsaw) or even in the image of the culture that destroyed them (Hiroshima). Here are images where either we or others have matched up locations for incredible before and after shots.

The external fixator is a device which creates an external scaffold to holds bones in stress, allowing for regeneration of otherwise unfixable fractures. The technique was pioneered by a Russian, Dr. Ilizarov, but didn’t reach the West until the 60s after it as used to heal an Olympic athlete.These images are incredible, and they represent medical ingenuity complete with cyborg-like gadget fetish appeal. Although they are a celebration of the ability to heal people, they are, however, applied to people who have suffered terrible trauma. Something which shouldn’t be forgotten. The images which we have chosen are non squeamish, however the sites which are linked to show medical information which can be.

wtf is that? #16

October 22nd, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf

There is a whole history behind these things – what’s it all about?


WTF is that? #15

October 7th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf

What is it? What’s the story behind it?


The Lego house is Finished

September 20th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
Barnaby Gunning has posted the finished pictures of the Lego House

WTF is that? #14

August 28th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf

What is it? What do you do with it?


Architect of the Lego House built for Top Gear presenter James May, Barnaby Gunning, has sent us pictures of the construction progress so far. We’ll post more as we get them.

Oobject interviews Barnaby Gunning, the architect for Top Gear presenter, James May’s Lego House (with Pics)

August 24th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

200_lego_house_01 View Slideshow of Construction Progress

bg_bwBarnaby Gunning has an unusual architectural background that makes him one of the few people who could design a real house from toy bricks. In addition to having worked for the world famous architects Renzo Piano and Norman Foster he has also worked with the UK’s rock star engineer Neil Thomas, at Atelier One.

Perhaps Gunning’s work with the Maverick furniture designer, Ron Arad, whose work is currently the subject of a major exhibition at MoMA, is what qualified him most. When Top Gear presenter, James May approached Arad with an unusual request, Ron Arad knew just the man. He called up Barnaby saying, “there’s a TV production team here and they want an architect to help them design a house entirely out of Lego”.

The Lego house is not an illusion, explains Barnaby, “its made of real bricks, and put together with no glue”.

Oobject: No glue?

BG: Yes, amazingly we did tests with glue and it didn’t make much difference?

Oobject: Who the blazes do you get to test Lego structural engineering?

BG: Well you need someone used to testing weird structures. Atelier One and City University ran structural tests on individual blocks, then looked at breaking loads for diffent types of Lego beams. It turned out Lego beams, the size required for a house are structurally feasible.

Oobject: What was the end solution, structurally?

BG: The structure could have been fully lego, but there is a timber ‘safety frame’ inside the walls which replaces the lego joists. We designed the bottom edge of the lego beams to use three layers of thin lego plates which perform very well in tension. Three layers of these are the size of one regular course.

Oobject: So what exactly is made of Lego?

BG: Pretty much everything except the joists, the electrics and the lighting. In fact we probably could have done some of that in Lego too. Even the toilet will be in Lego.

Oobject: The toilet – right, this the thing we want to know most, how does a Lego toilet work – I mean how much of it is actually Lego?

BG: Pretty much all of it. The exact design is being specified by the interior designer and will have a Lego cistern connected to a Lego bowl via a Lego pipe. It will even have a Lego flusher.

Oobject: But can you poop in it?

BG: That’s the least of your problems. Have you ever tried sitting on pixelated plastic?

Oobject: What have been the biggest challenges so far?

BG: Making sure we don’t run out of bricks. We have 3M on site, but they are a finite supply and I have to negotiate with the interior designer, who’ll be doing furniture and art work, for bricks for the walls.

Oobject: Do you have miniature brick layer people to build the walls?

BG: Actually we have 3000 volunteers.

Oobject: Tiny little volunteers?

BG: No, ordinary members of the public. It helps when you are recruiting people for a construction project if you have the TV presenter of Top Gear to ask around.

Oobject: I guess, unless it was that miserable one.

BG: Yes, fortunately we had James May not Jeremy Clarkson.

Oobject: One of the problems with giant Lego structures we’ve seen before is that they look nasty because the designs are literal and figurative, like something from a model village. How did you manage to get the Lego house to actually look interesting architecturally?

BG: Largely that was a result of James May being on the same page as us. James realized the kitsch potential from the get go and specifically asked that we didn’t just build an overgrown standard model.

Oobject: Thanks Barnaby, one quick question, can you build us a house out of pasta?

BG: Sure, Penne or Spaghetti?

View Slideshow of Construction Progress


Snow blowers from hell

August 13th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
A great collection of jet engines mounted on trucks from Darkroastedblend.

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