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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
Here are the 15 contenders for Oobjects gadget of 2007, including the obvious: iPhone; Wii and Sony OLED TV and some lesser known items such as the cellphone roaming charge eliminating SkyQube. Vote for the winner.

Peoples choice gadget of 2007

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

Just when people are talking about banning the incandescent light bulb, designers are noticing how beautiful they are and making lamps which show of rather than hide bulbs. Here is an eclectic list of items in honor of the humble light bulb, including a couple of takes on other types of lamp, for good measure

Homage to the Light Bulb

Ever since Evel Knievel attempted to jump Snake River Canyon, by sitting in a rocket powered bomb, dressed like Elvis, Darwin Awards contenders have tried to create inappropriate rocket powered items. These days we have YouTube to show us 10 thousand varieties of rocket powered skateboard. Here are our favorites, vote for yours.

10 inappropriate rocket powered items

1927 to 1959 was the golden era of General Motors. This was the period when Harley Earl started as Vice President of the Art and Color Division and gave birth to the modern notion of car design.Earl eschewed the purely engineering driven practicality of Ford to take inspirations from aircraft and space age concepts and add them to cars, turning them into works of art. The designs ranged from the highly futuristic Firebird gas turbine concept vehicles to the wildly successful production Corvette.Like almost all product design and architecture, the stamp of authorship is not clear cut and nor should it be. Many designs that are associated with him were produced by people working under him, but it was Early himself who created the school and he deserves a place alongside Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles and Ray Eames as one of America's most important designers.Vote for your favorite.

top 12 harley earl designs

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.

12 Magic Lanterns

In this kind of space, no one can hear you scream. Anechoic chambers use spiked walls to eliminate echoes, the end result might literally sound dull but the visual effect can be stunning, such as at the enormous anechoic hangar. Vote for your faves.

Anechoic Chamber Architecture

The fact that architecture is deriving inspiration from the foam-like membrane structures of cells is ironic since the word cell in biology derives from the architecture of monks cells in monasteries. Cell structures have come full circle with innovative structures at all scales, from metalized foam or ceramic foam structural materials to computer derived lattices based on mathematical cell properties.

futuristic cellular structure architecture

Although crash test dummies are iconic, there are a variety of different types, dating back to the fifties. There are ones for different genders, age, size and more recently, weight, with fatter dummies to represent the growing trend of obesity. There are different ones for cars, trains, planes, motorbikes and even those used for pedestrian impacts. Here are a dozen interesting examples.

12 Types of Crash Test Dummy

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.

Zeppelins under construction

These days, with chip based cellular devices and cameras, thing like spy radios and cameras are often toys, since the miniaturization of what used to be the realm of clandestine devices can now be made for a few bucks. As a result, modern spy radios are not that interesting, however these vintage versions from WWII right up to the Gulf War are.

a dozen vintage spy radios

Pocket sundials can be over 1000 years old, arguably making them the world's first watches - and with no moving parts to break. Typically they were carried by shepherds, where there are a variety of designs, from the French Pillar Sundial to the Tibetan Time Stick.

12 Pocket Sundials

Gym equipment has a habit of making people look stupid, like that weird guy on TV with the pony tail and the abs machine. These machines are the zenith of fitness absurdity - teaching you to swim on dry land, anywhere. Handy if you are an Olympic swimmer holed up in a hotel room, waiting to be airlifted into Beijing when the smog clears.

12 dry land swimming machines

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

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.

real life video game scenes planes in the jungle

Suits for hazardous materials are serious business and high tech., but look ridiculous. They come in several varieties: Splash Suit, Gas Suit, Turnout Coat for different levels of contamination. Their look ranges from giant pink translucent condom like outfits, to oversize Tasmanian Devil shaped suits. From the examples in this list, standard training procedures include washing down while standing in a regular inflatable kids paddling pool and basketball dribbling.

12 hazmat suits

Last week we did a roundup of quirky and interesting toolboxes. In the process of searching for these we came across a variety of beautifully designed ones. Why toolboxes? Because there is a history of superior design surrounding tools, because of their inherently ergonomic and utilitarian nature and this extends to the boxes to put them in. Some of these units are kitchen cabinet-like, except that they are better made than any kitchen unit, and if I was designing a kitchen I would use high end tool containers.Here is a list of the best designed toolboxes money can buy.

the best designed toolboxes

Ironically, airports are one of the few things you often don't get to see an aerial view of since you don't get a cockpit seat. Here are a dozen of our favorites, purely in terms of their abstract graphical layout. See if you can guess them.

guess the airport from the aerial view

oobject header image

Although current proposals for 4000 mph Maglev trains running in evacuated tubes, would offer New York to Beijing in less than 2 hours, built versions of pneumatic railways predate regular subways. Brunel built one, and an underground pneumatic railway was built by Alfred Ely Beach, in Manhattan, in 1869. The late 19th century stock market crash, depression and Civil War, destroyed the idea and little of it remains apart from the station, which features in the movie Ghost Busters II.

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.

Skype is an idea that was conceived of by the Victorians, featured in movies in the 20s and became an icon for futurism, and yet the videophone has become ubiquitous independently of telecoms companies. How is it that an idea that could have been seen from such a long way off didn't get developed by phone companies, leading to the ridiculous situation where a phone call costs money but a Skype video phone call is free? Here's a visual history of early videophone concepts.

I started this list as a Thanksgiving homage to American innovation via its greatest inventor. Reading more about Edison and his strange obsession with things like filming electrocutions, using alternating current, of everything from small animals to people and even an elephant, just to try and put people off the rival AC system, managed to put me off him. So as an act of revenge here are some of his less successful, stranger inventions from concrete phonographs to what became the tattoo machine and a ghost detection instrument. Happy Thanksgiving anyway.

In some sense these are steampunk iPods, a ridiculously old fashioned and quixotic category of technology, because there is nothing portable about a record, particularly the brittle shellac versions of the gramophone era. Overcoming this lack of portability is precisely what makes these devices so beautiful and intricate, however, from the later versions which were installed in cars and music systems to the fantastic Peter Pan picnic player, where everything folds out including the platter and the telescopic trumpet. The Peter Pan style came from Europe, when they were called Kamerphones since they looked like the box cameras of the time. They were imported by the Jehovah's Witnesses to take on their rounds and play bible discourses outside people's doors.

Vintage Exercise Machines

November 18th, 2010 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
A nice collection of images of exercise machines from circa 1920

Oobject favorite store: Trouvaillen am Munster

November 15th, 2010 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
On our recent trip to Bern we discovered this fantastic antique store, in the Wunderkammer tradition. It's located at 16 Munstergasse in the center of Bern, 50 yards as the crow flies from where Einstein was living in 1905.

The Oobject/Cribcandy Barn

November 15th, 2010 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
We've moved temporarily from New York to the Swiss-French border where we've bought a derelict barn. Although I will presumably go bankrupt doing this, its been fun re-learning my old architecture skills. I'll upload progress images here. David

According to Bismarck the two things you should never see being made are laws and sausages. Here we reveal the machines involved in the process that is less stomach churning - it involves taking meat and making it into a brown paste then putting it into a colon, traditionally pigs intestines but now plastic. The irony of this being the exact reverse of eating and pooping, obviously hadn't been lost on the German general.There are no more distressing images here beyond what you'd see in the meat section at the supermarket (merely gross ones), but the clip for the Advanced Meat Recovery System which is accompanied by some smooth dinner jazz and whose opening caption reads ‘preparing the beef neckbones with a bandsaw' wins a prize for lack of sensitivity.

Babel is interesting because it represents the ultimate in imaginary architecture, a skyscraper of the mind. The Tower of Babel is the archetypal image of a giant tower, a man made hill, yet nothing like our idea of it has ever been built. The closest are possibly Mont Saint-Michel or perhaps the downtown Manhattan cluster, yet one is a natural mound and the other an apparent hill created from many buildings.The idea of Babel traces back to ancient Sumerian stories from the time of 5000 year old Mesopotamian Ziggurats, to the reinterpretation of these myths in the book of Genesis. In the 16th century the ironic obsession with Babel among 16th century painters in hill-less Lowland Europe, created the most well known imagery, but it evolved further with the unbuilt Palace of the Soviets or the imaginary babel in the retro futuristic skyscraper cities of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

Favorite place for Oobjects: Amberley Museum

November 1st, 2010 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
Yesterday, we visited the Amberley Working Museum, in the picturesque Sussex countryside, in England. This is a great place for exotic man made objects, from phones that were struck by lightning to a great collection of obsolete electronics, including some Sinclair radios that we didn't know existed. Amberley Museum has what bigger institutions sometimes don't have - character. It's an eccentric place run by enthusiasts which give it a feeling all of its own. Enjoy!

Oobject favorite source: Architakes

October 31st, 2010 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
What I like about this site: Its an architecture blog that is about the non superficial aspects of design, rather than a Zoolanderesque blog full of signature architecture and willful posing. And I like the 'Pattern Language' style rules. Enjoy. David

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.

Scoping this list was more difficult than finding the items - I've tried to keep to electronic devices, the first transistor radio rather than the First radio, and products that were actually sold such as the Dycam Model 1 digital camera rather than the Fuji DS-1P.My favorite here is the first web server, it was one of 2 NeXT machines bought for Tim Berners Lee and nobody knows which one (they both survive) was the first to serve a web page. The NeXT was a beautifully designed machine that Steve Jobs built to show what a personal computer should be, after being ousted from Apple. Berners Lee specifically needed a NeXT to be able to build the web and had difficulty getting approval.You could argue the first web server is merely the machine that happened to perform a first role, rather than a device designed for a purpose, but the fact that Berners Lee needed the NeXT to be able to develop the web quickly and elegantly, shows that sometimes the development of the first example of something predates it actually being used for the pioneering purpose for which it is suited.

Anyone self respecting geek who has been spellbound by the inspired rescue of the Chilean miners, will have found plenty of great info-graphics showing just how impressive a mine is. Here we have gathered some other cutaways, sections and 3d models showing a variety of mines, from the two coal mine alternatives (room and pillar or longwall) to the cavernous chambers of salt mines. Most impressive of all, however, is the physical model of Kidd Creek mine in Ontario where the relatively insignificant looking blobs at the bottom are the world's tallest man made structures, to scale.

Its October 2010 and Chinese property booms while most of the Western world's houses have shrunk to more realistic levels. In the US, homes have ceased to be ATMs to buy oriental barbecues, but in Britain, a crowded island with a cultural attachment to carving out a personal defensible space are Englishmen's homes still castles, with prices to match.As US housing prices adjusted, UK ones, faltered then regained their losses smack in the middle of the recession. This time things look different, with last month seeing the largest dip in housing prices in history. Perhaps prices in Britain will go up forever, or perhaps Britain will be like Japan, another crowded island which had the same phenomenon and where eventual capitulation resulted in a crash where property is worth less than a decade ago?One way to judge judge this is to look at what a million dollars gets you in London and its hinterland - a place where an apartment recently sold for a quarter of a billion dollars during the biggest downturn since the Great Depression.

When Craig Breedlove built the first of the modern jet-propelled record breaking cars in his garage, he named it the Spirit of America, this could have just as well pertained to the place of creation as the object itself. The garage is a symbol of creative entrepreneurialism, people making anything from cars to music to robots and, of course, the Apple computer.

We tend to think of submarines as being a particularly 20th century object when we imagine the nuclear powered, nuclear missile carrying versions. Obviously however, they feature in the Jules Verne classic, ‘20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea' and are, as such a definitive Victorian piece of technology, or to use the term currently in vogue, 'steampunk'.Although the idea of a submarine began as early as the 16th century, it was in the Victorian era that the modern cigar with periscope form was developed with France's Gymnote in 1889.Included here is a picture of the model of the Plongeur which was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in 1867. This was the actual item that Jules Verne saw and inspired the Nautilus in his seminal science fiction work, making it an historic item in the cultural history of technology.

Today, prosthetics are a world apart from these pre-digital age examples, using advanced robotic and cybernetic technologies and tools such as 3-d printers for mass customization. As such vintage prosthetics often have the particularly strange look which is both creepy and fascinating and accompanies technological obsolescence.Early prosthetic limbs date from ancient Egypt and Rome, however examples from the middle ages appear more regularly, being made of armor. The were later replaced by non articulated wooden prosthetics, of the caricature style normally worn by pirates. The tragically large number of amputees in the Napoleonic Wars led to the development of the 'Clapper', named after the sound made by its articulated toes which were controlled by artificial tendons. This prosthetic became the model for the 'American Leg' which was developed during the American Civil war. Wooden prosthetics were heavy and were not improved on till the development of lightweight alloys, during the first World War.

After the furor over the potential Koran burnings last week, I had a look at the precedents, which it seems are everywhere, from Harry Potter to the Bible. For thousands of years, all religions and ideologies have been burning each others' texts.

Antarctic architecture provides imagery of the closest thing that people will be able see to a moon base, within their lifetimes. The extreme nature of the environment combined with its bizarre statelessness, provides the location for a freezing architectural expo, with each country having its own icy pavilion.Since the early days of wooden huts, the architecture has converged on a style which consists of a pod on legs, somewhat reminiscent of Thunderbird II's cargo bay or the Space 1999 freighter. In addition large scale experiments such as the south pole telescope or ice cube neutrino detector (which is technically a telescope at the north pole since it watch for particles which have traveled through the earth) provide equally interesting accidental architecture, in that their designs are purely functional.

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