Did you know that the iPod is basically a ripoff of a German transistor radio from the 1950s? Via the Atlantic, selections from Bill Buxton’s collection of little-known gadgets (such as early touchscreen devices, the first robotic chess game, and a “mindblowing Casio watch from 1984″) which sadly are in the secret dustbin of history:
Tag Archives | Inventions
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is into historical inventions, including the revolutionary, strange, and ill-conceived — everything from primitive 45 rpm record players to radiation monitors. However, some items in their fascinating digital archives defy explanation — no one is sure where they came from or what their functions are (time travel dial? witch detector?). The government is asking for your help in identifying mystery machines:
Do you hold the key to solving some gadget mysteries from the last century of U.S. science and technology? Visitors to the site can view the items and offer clues about the history and origins of some of these important artifacts.
Chris Eckert created a CNC tattoo machine with a twist. Auto Ink is a three axis numerically controlled sculpture. Once the main switch is triggered, the operator is assigned a religion and it’s corresponding symbol is tattooed onto the person’s arm. The operator does not have control over the assigned symbol. It is assigned either randomly or through divine intervention, depending on your personal beliefs.
The Atlantic has scans from the notebooks of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who had an abundance of ideas for serious and non-serious devices. It’s a delight to peruse his sketches, of both nature and such inventions as helicopters, futuristic eyeglasses, playground equipment, the “radiotome”, and (at right) the horse-pulled kite:
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It was on March 10, 1876 that Alexander Graham Bell made the first successful telephone call. “‘Mr. Watson–come here–I want to see you,” he said to his assistant, who was in the next room. Bell recorded those early telephone experiments in his lab notebooks from the time, as he did with countless other experiments and ideas.
The books are a priceless treasure of an incredibly fertile mind working through one of the most exciting periods of technological innovation in the history of the world. The sketches, though, are more than just dry recordings of physical principles. Bell’s drawings are expressive in ways that few technical sketches are.
The R5800 is my latest and greatest solar creation. Made from an ordinary fiberglass satellite dish, it is covered in about 5800 3/8" (~1 cm) mirror tiles. When properly aligned, it can generate a spot the size of a dime with an intensity of 5000 times normal daylight. This intensity of light is more than enough to melt steel, vaporize aluminum, boil concrete, turn dirt into lava, and obliterate any organic material in an instant. It stands at 5'9" and is 42" across.
Lost a limb, but dissatisfied with the normal prosthetic options? Recent University of Washington industrial design graduate Kaylene Kau built a functioning prosthetic tentacle. Powered by an internal motor with control buttons, it allows the disabled, or anyone fed up with being “too humanoid,” to live a more serpentine existence.
Believing that the lack of a suitably high test platform was partially to blame for his failures, Reichelt repeatedly petitioned the Parisian Prefecture of Police for permission to conduct a test from the Eiffel Tower. He was finally granted permission in early 1912, but when he arrived at the tower on February 4th he made it clear that he intended to jump himself rather than conduct an experiment with dummies. Despite attempts by his friends and spectators to dissuade him, he jumped from the first platform of the tower wearing his invention. The parachute failed to deploy and he crashed into the icy ground at the foot of the tower. The next day, newspapers were full of the story of the reckless inventor and his fatal jump — many included pictures of the fall taken by press photographers who had gathered to witness Reichelt's experiment — and a film documenting the jump appeared in newsreels:
With the invention of the iPad and driverless cars, technology has begun mimicking the images of old “futuristic” sci-fi films. Now our future may hold some inventions influenced by “magical” films, such as the Harry Potter series. BBC News reports:
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Scientists in the UK have demonstrated a flexible film that represents a big step toward the “invisibility cloak” made famous by Harry Potter.
The film contains tiny structures that together form a “metamaterial”, which can, among other tricks, manipulate light to render objects invisible. Flexible metamaterials have been made before, but only work for light of a colour far beyond that which we see.
Physicists have hailed the approach a “huge step forward”. The bendy approach for visible light is reported in the New Journal of Physics.
Metamaterials work by interrupting and channelling the flow of light at a fundamental level; in a sense they can be seen as bouncing light waves around in a prescribed fashion to achieve a particular result.