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The Steampunk Laptop
June 14, 2011 9:20 PM   Subscribe

Datamancer's Steampunk Laptop - now taking pre-orders (with a $5500 early bird special).
posted by shivohum (56 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Unless it actually runs on steam I'm not getting one.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:21 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


The new version will run Steam just fine, though.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:23 PM on June 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Fantastic project and looks really well-done but if you pay $5000 for one of these you are a knob.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:24 PM on June 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


tylerkaraszewski: "Unless it actually runs on steam I'm not getting one."

You're welcome.
posted by The White Hat at 9:26 PM on June 14, 2011


Alls I'm sayin' is for five grand those gears better mesh and turn, even if they don't do anything.
posted by pts at 9:27 PM on June 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Steam punk: Making things less useful since 1883.
posted by loquacious at 9:27 PM on June 14, 2011 [16 favorites]


Really admirable work on the functional parts like the keyboard and everything. But if I had one I would probably never get over being annoyed by the obviously cosmetic and unworkable gears under the glass.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:28 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ya, but the quill holder is a nice touch.
posted by Chuckles at 9:29 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


My goodness, someone went and made Cornelius Bear's Shrovis-Bishopthorpe.

Splendid!
posted by fleetmouse at 9:37 PM on June 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Needs more glue-gun blobs.
posted by Artw at 9:39 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


One of my biggest gripes with steampunk is the use of gears and cogs as purely decorative elements. Victorian-era engineers would consider that a waste.

The least they could do is have the mechanism DO something, even if the whole complicated gear setup did nothing more than rotate a star wheel or the like.

"Here, throw some cogs on the outside and you can call it steampunk."
posted by chimaera at 9:41 PM on June 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


"Put a cog on it?"
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:53 PM on June 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


What's actually funny is that my very first non-steampunk laptop, an IBM ThinkPad 770, was about the same size. It had a 200 MHz Pentium and had a battery whose internal chemistry was basically burning peat I believe.
posted by GuyZero at 9:57 PM on June 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


Fantastic project and looks really well-done but if you pay $5000 for one of these you are a knob.

fuck
posted by the noob at 9:59 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Really impressive steampunk stuff is when somebody recreates Babbage's Difference Engine or the Antikythera Mechanism in LEGO. People who get involved on that level are truly exploring alternative and lost technologies. It would be interesting to see if something like a modern computer (or at least a machine equivalent to an early PC like the Amiga or Vic 20) could be built using 19th century technology like cogs and gears, but the project would probably take decades of development and millions of dollars. And the end product would be the size of a bus.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:01 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


And the end product would be the size of a bus. stadium.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:05 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I had the money, I'd buy it. Steampunk is awesome.
posted by tzikeh at 10:06 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


And the end product would be the size of a bus. stadium.

...and would take 17 years to boot to a command prompt...
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:17 PM on June 14, 2011


Which of Gibson's novels had the computer with the beautiful case hand-crafted by a company called "Stonebenders"? There's a different aesthetic at work here but it's the exact same idea: take some modern commodity hardware and stick it in a totally awesome artist-made case.

I love livin' in the future.
posted by egypturnash at 10:21 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's a lovely object, but I have to add my 'bleh' vote on the useless cogs. Gears are awesome, but gears that are obviously glued down randomly and functionlessly are a waste of good gears and betray a lack of effort. Dude went seven yards when he could have gone the full nine.
posted by rifflesby at 10:25 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Which of Gibson's novels had the computer with the beautiful case hand-crafted by a company called "Stonebenders"?

Sandbenders, it was in Idoru.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:33 PM on June 14, 2011


I am more sympathetic to the steampunk aesthetic that the average Mefite, and I feel kinda crappy for dismissing the product of long hours of labor, but this doesn't work for me. Of all things, it's the brass chains that bug me the most. It just reminds me too much of craft-store level shoddy workmanship. However, I will forgive all if they are neatly wound up on tiny turned brass spindles.

The tacked-on ostentatious ornamentation of a lot of modern steampunk projects nicely mirrors the tacked-on ostentatious ornamentation of the Victorian era. It's just that the modern decorations are replicas of the functional stuff the Victorians would be trying to hide under finials and cherubs. I'm sure 19th century designers would have enthusiastically taken to the hot glue gun had it been available. And now I'm imagining an awesome Victorian glue gun, with gas burners and brass tubing and pistons, operated by trembling urchins in immenent danger of dying in a horrible molten glue explosion.
posted by gamera at 11:03 PM on June 14, 2011 [18 favorites]



Which of Gibson's novels had the computer with the beautiful case hand-crafted by a company called "Stonebenders"? There's a different aesthetic at work here but it's the exact same idea: take some modern commodity hardware and stick it in a totally awesome artist-made case.


A local band once gave away a Nintendo DS decorated with some artwork by the frontwoman. I think there were a few other gimmicks like that. No way I'd pay this much, but I do like the look of the case. My first laptop was covered with band and geek stickers.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:04 PM on June 14, 2011


"take some modern commodity hardware and stick it in a totally awesome artist-made case.
I love livin' in the future."


Perhaps I could interest you in a CO2 belching, grossly polluting, environmentally destructive coal plant... with cogs and brass fittings?!

The future is supposed to be this time of plenty, with efficient machines that make life easier, and solve our problems rather than putting us all in peril.

The future: We're not there yet, and harsh reality is nipping at our heels. I know you're dissatisfied with current times, but should we really be looking back quite yet?!
posted by markkraft at 11:05 PM on June 14, 2011


a lot of modern steampunk projects nicely mirrors the tacked-on ostentatious ornamentation of the Victorian era.

I guess what I mean is I'd love to be able to find something that's "Steampunk" in the sense that it's a modern device made with the detail, style, and ornamentation of the actual era it's acting like it represents.

Give me a laptop that isn't so... anachronistic-in-the-wrong-way.
posted by chimaera at 11:19 PM on June 14, 2011


I should add that much of this laptop succeeds. I'm hung up on the stuck-on gears because, well, they take something that's so clearly lovingly crafted and make it nearly undermine the whole point.
posted by chimaera at 11:21 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would like a treadle-powered smartphone.
posted by zippy at 11:43 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Several customizations will be available including a few different options for the design on the LCD lid including clockworks as seen on the original (except these will be semi-functional and spin)
posted by BungaDunga at 11:44 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apparently, he will be creating a version in which the gears do, at least, turn:

Several customizations will be available including a few different options for the design on the LCD lid including clockworks as seen on the original (except these will be semi-functional and spin)

But having gone through a system crash, I'd worry about accessibility to the actual computer for repairs.

(and on preview, BungaDunga beat me to the clockwork info)
posted by likeso at 11:51 PM on June 14, 2011


you are a knob

A brass one from Home Depot stuck on with hot glue.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:28 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you're mass producing these (or even semi-mass producing these) nearly any home brew CNC mill is good enough that you could have a cheap stepper motor driven clock that self adjusts based on the time the computer clock believes it to be. I have a dream of building a tall clock with a normal mechanism for the actual time telling function, and then a mess of stepper motor driven astronomical features. (If anyone really wants to know where the Galilean moons are and has 10K or so to drop on a grandfather clock, mefi mail me!)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:34 AM on June 15, 2011


I was going to point the glaring functional and ergonomic issues that leap out, but that would be gauche.

$5000 dollars for a functionally useless hand built computer? I can think of worse ways of wasting money. I assume that comes with three years on site tech support : \
posted by asok at 1:45 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, but only through carrier pigeon.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:48 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's cheaper than a RealDoll.
posted by NoraReed at 1:53 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fantastic project and looks really well-done but if you pay $5000 for one of these you are a knob.

Holy shit. I just realized I've transformed into one of those people who will rob people that buy rich people shit like this.

OH NO; I won't take the laptop...I'll probably take their octagon-shaped glasses or their guide to getting around in whatever metro area they are venturing in.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:56 AM on June 15, 2011


It looks awful.

One thing about the 19th century (and before) - they knew how to build things. The construction and finish of Victorian era items of similar size and function - brass bound writing boxes, cutlery canteens, jewellery boxes - is often of almost unbelieveable quality. The attention to detail and craftsmanship is unrecognisable from even the best handmade furniture today.

This just looks cheap, the biggest giveaway is the horrible varnish which was no doubt some sort of "Prestige Heirloom Aged Mahogany" or something but actually looks like creosote when compared to actual antiques, and the terrible jointing on the wood. Authenticity of materials is probably the first hurdle in a project like this, get real high quality believeable components and you're free to charge $5000+ for what is a covetable and rare piece of craftsmanship. This fails.

He should have bought a high quality antique writing slope and built a laptop into it.
posted by fire&wings at 4:02 AM on June 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


I like it to look at, even though it is a bit ridiculous. Also, now when I imagine Derren Brown using a laptop, this will be one which he uses.
posted by greenish at 4:57 AM on June 15, 2011


I like it. But then I am a sucker for brass and wood and leather. I wouldn't have any use for it, but I sure do love the keyboard.

The tacked-on ostentatious ornamentation of a lot of modern steampunk projects nicely mirrors the tacked-on ostentatious ornamentation of the Victorian era.

I agree, that's why I really hate full-on Victorian reproduction in interior design-- it's too fussy and claustrophobic for me; all that lace and velvet and feathers makes me feel sneezy. Edwardian is a bit closer to my personal taste, particularly "Edwardian Men's Club" with all the wood and brass and leather. I'm very tempted to turn my hand to Steampunking because I love the idea, but I'm afraid it will look dated very quickly.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:09 AM on June 15, 2011


Here, throw some cogs on the outside and you can call it steampunk.

K. Beaton is my go-to gal where steampunk is concerned.
posted by Scoo at 5:44 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I loved the steampunk laptop when I first saw it, and I don't blame the guy for making money selling copies of the thing.

However, the idea of buying pre-fab Steampunk stuff reminds me of this.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:05 AM on June 15, 2011


$5,500 is a lot to pay for something that's pure kitsch.

It seems to me that steampunk does for Victorian design what the Victorians did to every artistic tradition they encountered while empire-building. They just appropriated the heck out of the most charming design motifs, and slapped them out of context onto everything they saw without a lick of taste or comprehension. (The modern new age and neopagan movement owe a great deal to this.) The icing on the cake for me was the faux quill pen, instead of wood or celluloid.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:01 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


My HP laptop gets hot enough to make steam.
posted by fuq at 8:23 AM on June 15, 2011


I agree, that's why I really hate full-on Victorian reproduction in interior design-- it's too fussy and claustrophobic for me; all that lace and velvet and feathers makes me feel sneezy. Edwardian is a bit closer to my personal taste, particularly "Edwardian Men's Club" with all the wood and brass and leather. I'm very tempted to turn my hand to Steampunking because I love the idea, but I'm afraid it will look dated very quickly.

Art Deco would work really well in industrial design. It already was used for wireless sets and similar technological artefacts; from there to an anachronistic 1930s-style laptop or smartphone is not a great leap. And Art Deco could work as an alternate form of modernity, rather than in the context of fusty old kitsch.
posted by acb at 8:58 AM on June 15, 2011


And Art Deco could work as an alternate form of modernity, rather than in the context of fusty old kitsch.

IIRC, there is a retro style that at least partially covers Art Deco -- it's called Dieselpunk
posted by chimaera at 9:43 AM on June 15, 2011


I wish this whole steampunk thing would go suck on a bucket of cogs.
posted by dazed_one at 9:55 AM on June 15, 2011


Steampunk has officially jumped the monocle-wearing shark.
posted by tommasz at 10:17 AM on June 15, 2011


I think those dieselpunk guys are a bit confused because everything I could find googling the term seems to be straight-up 20's Deco.

But yes, MOAR DECO.
posted by GuyZero at 10:21 AM on June 15, 2011


Steampunk bothers me, because it's all based on a nostalgia for the ancien regime.

Thing is, while steampunk fans might imagine that they would be the people zooming across the great Empire having wild adventures in their zeppelins, goggles and sexy frilled leather trenchcoats- the Victorian era was based on one percent of the population exploiting everyone else in a really horrible way- especially in the colonies.

Basically, they're fantasising about being the bad guys who live in cog-studded luxury at the expense of the underclass. And you can't just say that cherry-picking what you like from the era is OK, because these tropes really do mean something. Wishing one was part of an elite riding on the back of the rest of the world, back when anyone who wasn't a white rich man was treated like shit, really bothers me.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:44 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


While steampunk might reference an era of social ills, it's not about the society at all, it's about the objects created, primarily in clothing and furnishings.

I think fire&wings nails it for me. One of the few appeals of steampunk is that it supposedly calls back to a time where production of physical objects was associated with craft and durability. I look at my cheap dresser, with drawers I simply leave open because I fear wear and tear on them. I could knock it to flinders with a kick. It has no grain and would probably dissolve into a puddle of soggy splinters and oozing glue if hit with a hose. It is not built to be repaired, only disposed of in a landfill while I trundle off to Target or Wal-Mart to buy the latest iteration of junk.

Every so often, I run across a piece of old furniture and, despite the wear, you can see the thing is built for faithful service across generations. Solidity. A little upkeep and love devoted to it and it will love you right back.
posted by adipocere at 10:49 AM on June 15, 2011


That thing is carpal tunnel waiting to happen.
posted by winna at 11:24 AM on June 15, 2011


I wonder if future retro-stylists will recall this era in design with "iPunk".
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:26 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


> the Victorian era was based on one percent of the population exploiting everyone else in a really horrible way-

So it's like any other era, then? Come on, people just like the aesthetic. I'm not fond of steampunk myself, but I'm pretty sure you're doing some furious projecting there.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:32 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the few appeals of steampunk is that it supposedly calls back to a time where production of physical objects was associated with craft and durability.

The industrial revolution was built on mass-produced sweatshop clothing and industrial goods. There's about a century of selection when it comes to 18th century antiques separating what's now valued from the trash.

Even given this, the steampunk aesthetic strikes me as anti-craft. Rip the functional elements out of 20th century clocks and screw them onto a surface. Add brass, not as an inexpensive way to strengthen, but as purely decorative frippery. Sacrifice form and function for a cargo-cult reverence of the obsolete.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:02 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah, as implemented, it is makes a mockery of its own underlying reference. And I have no doubt that there's something of a Darwinian winnowing out of the junk over a century or two. Still, that's what we see and definitely feel is missing. I'm gearing up to take woodworking courses again because I am weary of being surrounded with junk. I built bookshelves that are far sturdier (though less attractive, which is what I am aiming to improve) than the injection molded wood-pulp (I am kidding, but barely) shelves I had before.
posted by adipocere at 12:20 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you like it then you should have put a cog on it.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:48 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder if future retro-stylists will recall this era in design with "iPunk".

"That's not real iPunk! You just krazy glued some brushed aluminum on those jeggings!"
posted by NoraReed at 9:14 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


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