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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
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.

9 Strange Edison Inventions

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.

towers of babel

Bridge layers have to be about the closest thing in the real world to a Transformer, giant fold up, extendable instantly deployable bridges that are most often fixed to modified tanks. They have been around since tanks first existed, during WW1, and are one of the more bizarre and obscure forms of military hardware. There is also something incredibly circular about a vehicle that carries its own road.

12 mobile bridges

Imagine a gas powered desktop publishing system that weighed several tons, leaked oil, had thousands of moving parts, its own boiler full of molten lead and a keyboard where you couldn’t see what you had typed and which looked a thousand times more strange and complicated than any deliberately anachronistic Steampunk PC casemod.

This is how the machines that laid out the pages of newspapers were till the 80s, and to give some idea of how recent this technology was used, they were manufactured until after the release of the Apple computer. Linotype had a virtual monopoly on the typesetting of newspapers for a hundred years and their design is a superb example of an endlessly refined solution to what became an anachronistic problem. Linotypes were unlike any keyboard driven device, before or since.

linotypes from hell

Tourbillon watches are the most expensive in the world often costing $500,000. They became fashionable in the last decade as non-forgeable status symbols for billionaires, but that is now being threatened by Chinese imitations.The style of these devices is baroque in the truest sense, but becuase their aesthetic derives from the rational world of mechanics the style jars and they are, to my mind, as grotesque and kitsch as their diamond encrusted counterparts in the luxury watch market.After facing the existential threat of digital which made accuracy cheap, the Swiss watch industry turned to making high end jewelry either directly with diamond encrusted gold watches or indirectly via those that fetishised complex mechanics for the sake of it, such as these. Ironic, since the origins of Swiss watch making came from the ban on jewelry in Calvanist Geneva.These tourbillon (whirlwind) watches are the most extreme example of complex analog mechanics, the most expensive clockwork items in the world, costing between $100,000 and $500,000, they all share a rotating escapement which theoretically leads to better accuracy (even though that does not compare to a $50 swatch).This mechanism is very difficult to make and fascinating to look at, so most tourbillon watches directly expose their intricate mechanics, which originally only the Swiss could make. Recently, however, Chinese watch makers have brought tourbillon watches to market, for a tenth of the price, threatening their cache as a status symbol which is difficult to fake.

12 tourbillon watches

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

There is nothing more creepy than the charred remains of a moth eaten victorian doll with rolling eyes and moving limbs. That is the premise for the Oobject’s Halloween list, videos of the most creepy automata in action.

top 12 videos of creepy automata

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WTF is that? #9

June 4th, 2009 #link


Its pretty clear what this is – an aircraft entombed in ice – but what is the story, where is it and how did it get there?

3 Responses to “WTF is that? #9”

  1. Ruben De Keyser Says:

    The Glacier Girl, a Lightning P-38, was one of eight American aircraft forced to land on Greenland in July 1942 on their way to England. Recovered in 1992

  2. el_Pedro Says:

    I remember seeing some footage that the recovery crew cleaned one of the .50cals and successfully fired it – might not have been that specific aircraft though.

  3. admin Says:

    @Ruben. Absolutely right, its the Glacier Girl, a plane that was en route to the UK during WWII when it became part of a ‘lost squadron’, crash landing in Greenland. The crew survived but the plane remained there and was buried under nearly 300 feet of ice, when it was found, half a century later.

    It was restored and finally made it to its destination 60 years late.