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Cheap hi-fis sometimes come with lots of flashing lights and buttons, sound terrible and are difficult to use. Expensive ones often to come with not much more than an on/off switch and volume control, and sound great.One of things that happens in a mature market is that people go for quality rather than quantity - what this means in technology is less features and better design. Apple is the first technology company to go mainstream with a minimalist, mature-market design ethos, but there are others. Here are our current favorite (non-Apple) minimalist gadgets. This is a chart that we will be continually updating, over time. Vote for your favorites:

21 non Apple minimalist gadgets

Up to the 19th Century mentally ill people were sometimes chained naked in squalid conditions in places like London’s Bethlehem hospital which became synonymous with chaos (its name being contracted to bedlam) and where tourists would pay to see the freak show. Then came the extreme rationalism of the Kirkbride plan which created a very unusual form of architecture for asylums throughout the Anglosphere that was used until the 20th Century. As a result of their demise, most are abandoned ruins today, giant, rotting testimonies to a bygone era of clinical Victorian discipline combined with neo-Gothic extravagance.The Kirkbride plan consists of an enormous a symmetrical staggered wing, like a bird made out of lego. Men are on the left and women on the right in wings that radiate from the main entrance for increasingly violent or incurable patients. Early mental institutions where patients had to pay for their own incarceration would also vary in class (rich to poor) on the y axis. The staggering of the wings ensured the flow of air through each, purging them of diseased vapors perhaps, such was the Victorian obsession with fresh air, from outdoor Tuberculosis wards to seaside promenades and piers.

insane asylum plans

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.

12 unrecognizable before and after views of cities

Last night our very, very ,very bad cat had diarrhea, then stepped in it, walked all around the house and trampled all over the bed. Here is a list of the best gadgets to deal with cat and dog feces, including a $7000 device for cleaning out paddocks, which I think we might have to buy.

14 best pet poop gadgets

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.

Top 10 Soviet Technology Ripoffs

Unintentional comedy is one of the consequences of Moores Law (that computer power doubles every two years) and almost any claim made in a computer ad more than a decade old. Included here are claims that compared to the Macbook Air that I am writing this on, a computer with 2 million times less RAM will "satisfy your lust for power"; that a computer a thousand times slower will give you "answers fast" for demanding applications and that a computer with several thousand times the volume is "compact and mobile".

16 hilariously unimpressive computer ads

The focus here is on a stand that doesn't mess up slick Apple designed laptops, when they are parked on your desk.Closest to the Apple design in terms of looks, is the Mstand. Although the wire hole seems to serve no purpose other than decoration and so misses the Apple spirit of ergonomic simplicity.

8 laptop stands

The interesting thing about luxury trains is that they share a common and unintentionally ironic style - that of a stationary, fragile, cut glass and velvet, Victorian brothel interior moving at more than 60 miles and hour.

10 luxury trains

Magician's posters are a particularly interesting form of advertising, since they are selling something which is, by definition, fake. This often leads to a particularly exaggerated and interesting graphic style, particularly with hypnotists. My favorites are the turn of the century ones which have early modernist or art deco graphics which predate their use in movie posters.

12 mesmerising magicians posters

Before rendering, 3d computer models are displayed as wireframes, which have a particular aesthetic. Several artists have tried to capture this in real life, with surreal models of things that aren't really there. I also threw in Gaudi's classic upside down catenary arch model of Sagrada Familia, for its sheer prowess.

9 real wireframe models

Whenever you see a picture of the ancient pyramids of Giza the view behind is of endless sweeping sands rather than the smog heavy skyline of downtown Cairo. Here we’ve collected some of the least flattering and depressing views of famous monuments or places, from the Stonhenge car park to the Starbucks in the Louvre. There are a couple of unlikely ones such as the Acropolis which in some ways is depressing from every angle, having been destroyed while used as a munitions dump, or the more preserved version of Trajan’s column which is hidden away in a London museum, with a janitor’s closet in its base. Vote for the worst.

9 depressing views of famous monuments

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

For high speed chase scenes or a low speed horse back rides, the film industry's cameras occasionally have to go mobile and when they do, they rely on specialist high tech. cars and trucks.Usually wearing intimidating matte black paint (to reduce glare) these vehicles are often engineering wonders, employing after market performance upgrades, elaborate electronics, exotic materials and even gyro-stabilizers to keep a subject in frame. With companies like Pursuit Systems, AP Cam Cars and a handful of others fulfilling Hollywood's high speed needs, the vehicles they create are rarely seen but hard to overlook.Here are some of out favorites including the amazing Go system, used for The Bourne Supremacy.Curated by Chris Hull

12 movie industry camera cars

I like these buildings, their high contrast sculptural forms give me a kick. But then again, I have a damaged view because I'm an architect, taught by the types of people who built these inner city sea-defenses. They were designed to last a 1000 years under the ravages of nature, but often haven't lasted 50 under the impact of public opinion.Architects will tell you that the term Brutalism comes from the French term for raw concrete, ‘beton-brut', but then again brut and brute share the same root and nobody but the completely stupid or naive would believe that the association will always be with the latter. This association is re-enforced by the use of brutalist buildings as the setting for a Clockwork Orange or the fact that Ian Flemming hated his Brutalist architect neighbor, Erno Goldfingerso much that he named a James Bond villain after him.Brutalism, for all its International credentials is really a British thing, and damp, concrete fortresses like the Park Hill Estate in Sheffield will never look like the Salk Institute, because Britain's weather is not like California's. But then again, if you like this thing then there are no better examples than Lasdun's National Theatre or Neave Brown's Alexandra Road.

18 brutalist buildings

Here are some examples of things we put in space that came back down. They went up shiny and futuristic and what came back looks like medieval remains.

space junk

Soviet computer manufacture had a promising beginning with devices such as the MESM, which when it was produced in 1950 was the first universally programmable computer in continental Europe. By today's standards, you'd have to fill the Empire State Building full of MESMs to have the same processing power as an iPhone. Later Soviet block computers were invariably based on Western counterparts with a myriad of Sinclair Spectrum clones, an Apple II based machine, PC compatibles and later on, Vax based systems from Robotron in East Germany.

12 Soviet Block Computers

What digital cameras have the largest zoom? Three new non-SLR cameras were announced in September, with 18x Optical Zooms, here they are along with their nearest rivals.The optical zoom on a camera of a type that you can easily carry around most of the time, seems like the single most important feature, since all other principal features, like megapixels, seem to have maxed out.Our task is specific. Photographing ‘architectural details on buildings in New York'. (We can't be bothered to schlep around 15 lenses, but want to capture details, without a ladder). However, a good zoom is what you really need for most photographic tasks.Three new non-SLR cameras with 18x Optical zoom, have been announced recently. They look like the ones to beat: The Panasonic DMC FZ18, Olympus SP-560 UZ and Fujifilm Finepix S8000fd.

8 ultra zoom cameras

At first sight these buses may look horrifying, like miniature cattle wagons full of children. But they are a feature of a type of culture that is different from America where yellow school buses shuttle children often over large distances. This culture, common throughout the world is one that has grown organically, where distances are short enough to be cycled (where litigation is minimal!) and where homebrew transportation is common.In some ways these buses are a marvel of practicality and an interesting Oobject.

12 tiny Indian school buses

You can pick up an old Boeing jetliner for the price of scrap, and turn it into the ultimate trailer home. Here are some of our favorite examples of recycled planes used as houses and restaurants, including a former Irish airliner that ended up as a bar in Syria and a Jumbo Jet that is a restaurant in South Korea.

10 buildings in old planes

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.

18 radio telescopes

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From double amputee, Aimee Mullins, who modeled for Alexander McQueen on a pair of beautiful hand-carved wooden prosthetic legs made from solid ash to amputee soldiers who would not have survived without advances in combat medical care and who are returning to active combat at a rate which is 7 times higher than a generation ago (2% - 16%) to athletes such as Oscar Pistorius, whose carbon fiber prosthetics help him compete at a level which calls into question the separation of 'special' athletic competition, the way we view prosthetics and disability is changing. 3d printing, advanced composite materials are enabling this from an aesthetic and design standpoint as much as the more obvious technical advances through electronics and bio feedback systems.

Complex dangerous machinery isn't the first choice for a home-brew project, unless you are rural farmer, apparently. Some of these look like remnants of a cargo cult, and most of them received stern warnings from the relevant civil aviation authorities to not even try firing them up, but a couple actually flew.

Famous French industrial designer, Roger Tallon recently died, leaving something of a design mystery. Newspapers universally credited him as the designer of the iconic French high speed train, the TGV, but that was almost certainly the work of Jacques Cooper. Tallon did take over from Cooper to do the TGV Atlantique, but this was an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary design. Perhaps Tallon's influence was more on the interiors? For me, Tallon's best work was his 1960's M400 spiral stair which seems to be the direct inspiration for some of Ross Lovegrove's best work.

Dieter Rams' 40 year stint at Braun until 1995 redefined the world of product design, taking pure modernism to the world of gadgets. He is the direct inspiration for much of Apple's product design after Steve Jobs returned and in many aspects his work is more rigorous and more coherent than Apple's. I've picked 15 of my favorite items, but if I had to choose just one, it would be the LE 1 electrostatic speakers from 1959. They were built around Quad technology and influenced Apple's large screen displays.

Toys are a particularly rich source of irony, but this list exceeded all expectations from the hilarious ‘safe, harmless, giant atomic bomb’ to the atomic reactor which requires a battery, but the atomic bomb dexterity game which requires kids to target Hiroshima and Nagasaki is just plain sick.

Metal plate armor is one of the few technologies that emerged, disappeared in the 18th Century then re-emerged briefly during World War 1. Because of the this, WW1 armor has a particularly creepy, anachronistic look, from chain mail fringed splatter masks to body armor which looks decidedly Roman.

Despite the uninteresting name, these rectifiers are one of the most beautiful gadgets ever made. As a result they are often seen if films and are quintessential elements of mad scientist labs, yet few people could name them or know what they were used for. Invented at the beginning of the 20th Century, Mercury Arc Rectifiers were like spectacularly large versions of the Tubes in pre-transistor era electronics. They were used to convert electricity from alternating to direct current.

Bunker architecture is often better by accident than the deliberate attempts to create an aesthetic based on massive elements, through brutalism. Paul Virilio famously published a book of some of the more extreme versions of the 12,000 bunkers that formed the Atlantic Wall in WWII and Albania has an incredible 700,000 bunkers in a population of 3M, created by its mad leader, Enver Hoxha. Perhaps the strangest of all are the concealed bunkers that litter the Swiss countryside either as fake chalets or as mountains that literally open up to reveal jet fighters.

Soviet computer manufacture had a promising beginning with devices such as the MESM, which when it was produced in 1950 was the first universally programmable computer in continental Europe. By today's standards, you'd have to fill the Empire State Building full of MESMs to have the same processing power as an iPhone. Later Soviet block computers were invariably based on Western counterparts with a myriad of Sinclair Spectrum clones, an Apple II based machine, PC compatibles and later on, Vax based systems from Robotron in East Germany.

The excitement over commercial sub-orbital space tourism masks the reality of real commercial space venture through orbiting satellites. Obviously these are splendid complex objects to drool over, but you only get to do that while they are being assembled on the ground. Here are some of our favorite images including the giant clean rooms where surgeon-like technicians in white overalls piece them together.

Mechanical horse are interesting because they straddle the gap between the era of the internal combustion engine (we still notionally benchmark our cars relative to horses through horse power) and that of bone & gristle.

Perhaps it’s because we sometimes take the things we see around us for granted and a technical drawing of its design shows the effort that went into it that I find these Nasa drawings so interesting. That in addition to the labels saying what things do. With that in mind, i included an diagram which isn’t really a blueprint, from a Apollo 15 press kit showing how they unpacked the lunar rover – for some reason I always wondered how they did that. I also cheated with a couple of NASA project images that aren’t from NASA to show how other companies were involved – such as Lockheed’s Hubble Telescope and Boeing’s drawings of the Saturn V configuration.

Lookout towers are often more dramatic pieces of architecture than tall buildings because they only have a single floor – the top one. This means that they can be very skeletal and the design is all about a dramatic staircase. Here are some of our favorite examples,accidental architectural gems, like mini Eiffel Towers used for watching everything from forest fires to smugglers.

Switzerland may not have been the place where the symbolically mundane cuckoo clock was invented (it was actually Germany), but it was where Hofmann invented LSD. And although the CERN lab is mainly in Switzerland, where the plaque commemorating the web’s invention sits, the room where Tim Berners Lee wrote the proposal for the web is literally a few feet across the border into neighboring France. Here are some some labs where famous inventors worked.

Lighthouses are extreme and iconic buildings. Remote, intrinsically conspicuous and built to withstand extreme environments. For this list I've picked some interesting lighthouses themselves, such as the transparent latticework hyperboloid structure by Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov or the haunting abandoned soviet nuclear powered polar lighthouses. In addition I've chosen some interesting elements from the giant fresnel lenses lamps to the traveling libraries that the predecessor to the US coastguard used to pass around to lighthouse keepers to keep their sanity.

In case there were any doubt about just how unpleasantly weird Kim Jong Il’s tyrannical grip over North Korea, here are 12 examples of his propaganda posters. They range from imagery of attacks on the US in a bizarre blend of Soviet art and 50s American comic books to perhaps the most macabre of all, pictures of copious abundance of produce in a place where people are starving to death.

When the shuttle takes off tomorrow it will be a symbolic example of technological regress, a small step down for man, a giant plunge for mankind. After the Shuttle, there will longer be re-usable space vehicles, no rocket capable of taking us to the moon, no submersible capable of taking us to the bottom of the deepest ocean. Airline travelers will only be able to fly half as fast as they used to and most seriously, children will get diseases that were previously wiped out all because progress doesn’t always happen and because some people don’t believe in it.I’ve picked 9 examples of technological regression, they will be ordered according to your votes – pick the the ones you think are the biggest loss.

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.

As someone who fell the height of the Eiffel tower in a climbing accident, each one of these images makes my palms sweat, from Bettmans classic views of acrobats on the edges of newly built NY skyscrapers to Li Wei's elaborate illusions of people seemingly in mid air. One however, stands out from all the rest, the legendary stuntman Dar Robinson on the edge of the CN tower. Click through to see a video of the stunt.

Comic book ads are the nadir of capitalism, where the ability to blatantly deceive through advertising is exacerbated by the fact the audience is young children. Here are some classics.

Money is like quantum physics, the more you think about it the weirder it becomes, from the completely abstract versions of credit to 4 ton limestone Yap island coins. Money is most often based on trust, the illusion that a promise has tangible value. Here are some of the most interesting examples of money we could find, the earliest coins, credit cards and bank notes and the largest coins and checks.

Vehicles that are actually driven by screws were developed as all terrain vehicles for places like snow driven Siberia. In the US there were several experimental vehicles including the Fordson snow devil, built on top of a tractor. Included here are as many videos of them in action, as I could find.

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