Recent lists... view all »
oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
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

If there is one kind of hammer that you don’t want to get your thumb stuck under, its a steam hammer, a giant hellish machine that defined the industrial age.There are several claims to its invention in the mid 19th century, to hammer steel into shape and smash out impurities. One of these is Creusot, who exhibited a version at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1878.Looking at the Creusot Hammer, I would argue that it was the inspiration for the Eiffel tower, ten years later.Here are a variety of hammers including the mechanical or hydraulic versions that replaced steam, but still have the same titanic look.

10 massive steam hammers

Football kit (American football), has changed dramatically over a relatively short history, such that early football helmets look positively medieval and the latest anti-concussion helmets are fully fledged gadgets in their own right.The first football helmet designs were soft shell lattices that resemble those still worn by rugby players. Unlike rugby, however, contact can be made when you don’t have possession of the ball, so helmets became progressively more robust and elaborate. Around the 1920s helmets were clearly inspired by Roman army ones, only made of soft leather and occasionally with full face-masks. These ‘executioner’ helmets are the most sought after collectors items, today.The first metal face masks appeared in the 30s although they did not become commonplace until the 50s, when the modern helmet took shape, eventually becoming a hard plastic or composite shell.

12 football helmet designs

Collectors are my favorite type of people, so when I started this list I missed the obvious by focusing on finding pictures of strange collections. It became clear that the most interesting images were where the collectors themselves were showing off what they collected. The items here range from what would be an unremarkable subject – stamps, were it not for the fact that the wold’s top bond trader collects them to an army general’s collection of tattooed, severed heads.

collectors with their collections

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

You too can ruin your kids childhood, by making their happy smiley toys sound like Stephen Hawking or a bad Radiohead cover. Fitter Happier Stronger.Circuit bent Furbys are currently all the rage, however, all manner of kids toys have been circuit bent and modified, from classic Texas speak and spell machines, to a device called feces farm. Vote for your faves.

top circuit bent kids toys (videos)

P.J. O’Rourke observed that when someone digs up Manhattan in 2000 years, they’ll wonder what kind of hideous torture the civilization inflicted on people there because of the amount of gym equipment. The same could be said of this stuff which, despite its bizarre appearance, is generally quite benign.Most interestingly, these devices were the work or Dr Kellog, now better known for his breakfast cereals which were part of his health regimen as medical head of the Battle Creek sanitarium.A big thank you to John EverBlest at Healthexhibits.com who provided me with these pictures from his wonderful collection.

15 Dr Kellog Contraptions

The irony in these advertisements for guns is sometimes accidental and sometimes deliberate. What many demonstrate, however, is that Americans’ relationship to the gun is completely different from almost any other nation in history.

ironic gun advertising

The interior design of Sweden’s giant nuclear bunker.In the mid seventies, when ABBA topped the music charts, Sweden was just putting the finishing touches on its giant civil defense nuclear bunker outside Stockholm, called the Elephant.Traditionally neutral Sweden made this a priority due to its close proximity with Russia, but the Elephant is unlike any other cold war bunker – because it looks rather like an underground IKEA.In order to prevent claustrophobia, fake horizons were painted on the walls of recreation areas, with green below and blue above, representing sky and grass. Even lamps were painted yellow to represent the sun. In the business parts of the bunker, such as briefing rooms and control rooms, shades of gray relieved by red were used.Unlike other bunkers which used the same tactics, with murals of mountain or countryside scenes the obsessive schematic nature of the Swedish bunker is like a children’s bedroom in hell.Urban explorers have visited and documented the Elephant bunker. Here are our picks from a wonderful set by Bill_R on Flickr. Click through any of the pictures for more.

IKEA in Hell

Although making a 3d image is more dramatic than increasing its resolution, say, the technology is fairly primitive. Because of this, stereo cameras are something of an interesting retro curiosity. These days, custom made stereo cameras with twin lenses at eye separation are usually replaced by custom rigs for digital cameras, with appropriate software.

stereo cameras

With the notable exception of Apple, America has largely ceased to be a design culture, yet from Art Deco to Mid-Century modern, the US once ruled the world. There is no better example of a quintessentially American product designer than Raymond Loewy, who combined the exuberance of consumer culture with the asceticism of modernism and applied this to elements from pencil sharpeners to locomotives.Like Apples lead designer, Loewy was not from America. He was born in France and travelled to New York after WWI, wearing only his officers uniform and carrying $40. Here are a dozen of our favorite examples of Loewy designs.

12 Classic Raymond Loewy Designs

Something went very wrong in the 18th century. A 100 year long attempt to wear the most ridiculous artificial hair involved dandies sporting macaroni and culminated in Marie Antoinette’s utterly mad ship wig. The last vestige of this is the bizarre tradition of British and colonial judges who continue to don 300 year old clothing in a profession which is supposed to be rational.

preposterous 18th century wigs

Today is the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, here are some of the other lesser known Soviet satellites.Soviet space gear looked different to NASA space gear. There was something alarming about this, since it meant that there was a cultural and aesthetic aspect to the type of their design that we expect to be based purely on rational criteria.These days the variety of satellite design does tend to reflect their function more than their provenance, however here are our picks of the ones that were quintessentially Soviet. Vote on your faves.

13 soviet satellites

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

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.

9 utopian architectural projects

Seven US Presidents may have been born in a log cabin, but only one is shown here. Alongside are some of the more unusual ones, few were born in cities or apartments and few grew up in grand houses. Click through to reveal who was born where.Nothing symbolizes the concept of the rags to riches American dream more than Lincoln’s enshrined log cabin.

12 US Presidential birthplaces

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 Wienermobile is quintessentially American: pure, whimsical, 4-wheeled fun in the name of capitalism. It’s history goes rather like most design classics form Apple computers to the Coke bottle: 2 custom built homebrew prototypes (1936-40), a defining form (1958), a refinement of this to produce a classic, by a famous designer (1958, Brooks Stevens), variations on the same theme till now, with a novelty version in 2008.

all 10 wienermobiles through history

oobject header image