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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
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

The Zapruder film of the JFK assassination was shot on a Bell and Howell double 8 camera, at about the time of the introduction of Super 8, which created a ubiquitous format for affordable home movies. The difference in design between the Super 8 cameras and other 8mm cameras from as early as the 30s is clearly visible in this collection. The look changed from rounded shapes dictated by the film canister on early news reel devices, to a counter fashion for extremely orthogonal forms as exemplified here by the Star Trek like designs of the superb Bolex 150 from 1967.

20 classic 8mm movie cameras

Todays welding is a long way removed from the video included here of forge welding at the beginning of the 20th century., where dissimilar metals were headed and beaten together with hammers. State of the art robotic welding machines can perform an intricate ballet of hi tech gadgety bravado, including the incredible remote welders which are shown spot welding materials several feet away, with laser beams.

12 videos of welding machines

Mechanical calculators are the genealogical ancestors of today's computers. They also occupy a special place in the cultural history of gadgets, since they form the essential component of the mythical Steampunk alternative reality.Even if these clockwork beasts were steam driven, however, their electro-magnetic counterparts would inevitably have eventually replaced them. Vote on your favorites.

17 mechanical marvel calculators

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

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

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

Just how much of the human body can you replace or augment: seemingly everything apart from the tadpole like remnants of the brain and spinal chord.Bionic eyes, ears, hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, hands, feets, legs, arms and skin are now real science rather than concept designs. For this list, we have gathered together as many real devices including commercially available products rather than concept designs or imagery that appeal based on gimmick value. The one exception is the tooth and ear cellphone implant which is feasible today.An interesting idea is how the notion of a cyborg might change (often imagined as fusion of mechanical and electronic technology with human biology), since many of these devices use technology that is itself principally biological, such as stem cell lines in the bioreactor liver or artificial skin.

16 Genuine Cyborg Technologies

This list covers the period from 1920 when the Harding - Cox election results were first broadcast by radio, to the present day when presenters have to interact with a virtual reality zoo of giant, artless, real-time animated charts.The first live TV election broadcasts were produced in the 50s, employing professional sign writers would have to paint charts, live. Static and very basic sets were used well into the 70s, as can be seen from the spartan US military set in South Vietnam for the 1972 Nixon election.Despite the technology behind contemporary broadcast sets, they are all unimaginatively dull, with identical patriotic, red white and blue color schemes and similar color blends and soft shading. These are the TV equivalent of a hideous blue-white blend default Powerpoint template.

election broadcast technology through history

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.

12 portable record players

Papercraft, knitting, gardening and weapons.

craftsy weapons

Beautiful working model Stirling engines are a favorite of the Steampunk style, because these efficient engines use external flame heat as an energy source, combined with Victorian brass or steel mechanisms.But they have an added benefit, in that their workings are entirely intuitive and help people easily understand the principals of cylinder engines in things like cars. Here are a collection of videos of some of our favorites, some, but not all, 'Steampunky', in action.

12 steampunk stirling engines (videos)

The point of this list was to find interesting fountain designs that are truly modern, something that is rare, since fountains are luxurious, flowing and decorative by nature.For example Rome's Trevi fountain may be a masterpiece, but trying to recreate classical splendor today always looks awful and kitsch. The horrid water display at the Vegas Bellagio is a case in point, opulence without craft. In fairness, its designers, WET design have produced many other much more interesting designs which balance fun with restraint. Here are some of our favorite designs, from computer controlled fountains such as the wonderful animated version at Detroit Airport to Chicago's celebrated screen based Crown fountain

12 great modern fountains

Included here are notable landings based upon being spectacularly close to high rises (the old Hong Kong airport), very short runways (Saba, aircraft carriers), specific vehicles (the Space Shuttle and Concorde) or a reconstruction of the Amazing US Airways flight 1549 which ditched safely in the Hudson after all engines failed.

videos of plane landings from the cockpit

Although there are many ironic underwater technologies that got there by accident, such as planes and trains or by design, underwater escape training helicopters, there are also mail boxes, telephone systems, cars, motorcycles, kayaks (yes underwater kayaks) and air conditioning units that are there just to mess with us. Here are the most surreal we could find, vote for your faves.

surreal underwater technology

If Apple is all about the product which then sells itself, then Ron Popeil’s Ronco was the exact reverse. Popeil took the kinds of things that work well with a hard sell: knives, peelers, dubious hair loss products that looked like spray paint, created a new twist rather than an invention per se and made them from cheap materials. These were then the subject of the archetypal infomercial, progenitor of the term O-matic and popularizer of the phrase ‘as seen on TV’.Popeil represents the quintessential salesman and as a result is seen with affection rather than derision, an iconic part of American popular culture and capitalism. Her are 9 videos of Popeil products.

9 ronco gadgets

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.

12 extreme examples of medical scaffolding

Diving helmets are beautiful objects. Here are our favorites from modern versions with amazing visors for undersea welding, to incredible Steampunk style ones that look more other worldly than something from Jules Verne.

18 diving helmets

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

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

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New York, a city which is defined by its skyline, existed as a metropolis well before skyscrapers and has gone through several distinct architectural phases.I’ve picked this collection to demonstrate these, from the earliest known photograph of New York in the 1840s which shows the Upper West side as rural, to the Brooklyn Bridge dominated skyline of the mid nineteenth century.A postcard from 1904 is labeled ‘New York Skyscrapers’ but shows very few of what we would call skyscrapers today, consisting of the early steel framed buildings epitomized by the flatiron.Between the 1920’s and 1930’s the machine age skyscraper city of masonry-clad, art deco splendor grows at breakneck speed and remains similar in texture until the emergence of curtain wall, glass and steel buildings in the 1950s, after the completion of the Seagram in 1958.The 1973 opening of the iconic World Trade Center coincides the building of other inferior block like buildings along the periphery of lower Manhattan, notably at Water St., which destroy the hill like collection of spires.

Since Le Corbusier, celebrity architects realized that they needed to get a look, to be an icon. But being anal retentive this often resulted in the slightly reticent gesture of sculptural eyewear, like a miniature building hanging on your nose. Philip Johnson had Cartier make a copy of Corbusier’s glasses for himself in 1934, thus cementing the trend for architects in architect glasses.Here are a dozen famous architects and their specs, with a description below of what their glasses say about them.

Many of today's most notable collections, such as the British Museum started off as wunderkammer, or cabinets of curiosities. These started in the 16th century are were somewhere between Ripley's Believe it or Not and the Smithsonian, eclectic collections of man-made and natural objects of wonder. These were either rooms or spectacular intricate cabinets.Today there are deliberate attempts to re-create the very particular feel of these collections, such as at the museum of Jurassic Technology in L.A, which combines the real and fake or the British Museum's Enlightenment Gallery.

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.

Being slightly anally retentive about this list, I’ve limited it to pictures of the actual typewriters that were used by 9 famous writers, not just examples of the same model. Included are James Bond creator Ian Flemming’s gold plated portable that would have been worthy of Goldfinger himself, and the typewriter used by Apple Mac user, Douglas Adams, to write the Hitchhikers Guide, before there were such things as Apple Macs.

As technology companies oozed slowly from San Jose to San Francisco, the architecture morphed from purely university campus, to a hybrid between this and a South of Market warehouse, complete with loft living accoutrements such as foosball tables. The new Facebook HQ is a perfect example of this, looking something like a Wholefoods, whereas Google looks more like the place full of plastic balls that you leave your kids when shopping at IKEA.

We’re looking for people with a strong design background to help create lists. Please email me, with your credentials and 3 lists you would like to do, if you are interested: david@wists.com


Ever since the strapline ‘Nicholas Parsons is the neo-opiate of the People’ graced a concrete roundabout in Harrow in the 1970s, I’ve been a fan of sardonic or facetious textual graffiti. Sadly, my all-time favorite, the simultaneously mindless and profound spaying of the word ‘wanker’ above a bronze statue of Freud in London’s Swiss cottage, couldn’t be found, however here are 15 choice favorites from the many collections of these around the web.

Unlike the obvious candidates, such as the Flatiron or various svelte skyscrapers, these buildings aren't famous pieces of architecture, but accidental vernacular gems which seemingly defy gravity.

Until very recently, dental surgery appears to have been carried out with carpentry equipment. In fact, quite literally, since early dental drills were adapted from woodworking equipment. Here are some of our favorites ranging from the beautiful to the macabre.

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.

A three year challenge to recreate the equipment used by Mallory and Irvine in their ill fated attempt to climb Everest in the 1920s revealed that they were adequately clothed, wearing an unbelievable number of layers, as shown in this list. Today, the number of layers has changed as have nearly all the materials used for Everest kit, with high tech, breathable yet waterproof fabrics and lightweight alloys. The extreme requirements of Everest are a good way to demonstrate technology and design innovation through history.

Nothing dates like the future and nothing is more symbolic of gadgety futurism than a modern kitchen. Included here is a design lab from a trendy Michelin starred restaurant that makes endless courses of microscopic over-engineered food, a trend which we feel is now obsolete.

Creating the illusion that a staircase is floating in mid air has become a recent design trend. It can be achieved using a glass balustrade and hidden bolts, hanging the treads from above, cantilevering the stairs from a concealed beam or by using the structure of a spiral shape to make the entire staircase self supporting. Here are some of our favorites.

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.

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