"Technology presumes there's just one right way to do things and there never is." - Robert M. Pirsig
February 14, 2012 4:24 PM   Subscribe

This site oozes awesome on every page...I now want a STEAM LAWNMOWER! And perhaps a rocket-powered tricycle!

I really should be browsing it on an oxen-powered Teletype, but all I've got is this computer.
posted by foonly at 4:43 PM on February 14, 2012

Gearwheels from Hell lead me to the Masterpiece Roue Carrée Seconde watch, featuring a time square, definitely not to be confused with the time cube.

And back to the museum: The Shakespeare Mangle is its own rabbit hole of WTF:
The Mangle consists of two large wooden cylinders, 36 inches in diameter and 48 inches long. On these was wound a thousand feet of what appears to have been oilcloth, and glued to that were pages cut from books; the complete works of Bacon, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Greene, Peele and Spenser, together with Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. The Mangle weighs about 400 pounds.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:44 PM on February 14, 2012

Nice, thanks!
posted by carter at 5:03 PM on February 14, 2012

Personal favorite Geneva Drive (Geneva Assembly), converts rotary motion to intermittent rotary motion. Used in movie projectors, punched card computer equipment, lots of places. Fun to watch.
posted by hexatron at 5:06 PM on February 14, 2012

Wow I'd never heard of water engines before or the existence of networks of high pressure water to power them.
posted by Mitheral at 5:17 PM on February 14, 2012

I hope to Christ that it's just a fuzzy image that makes it look like the Shakespeare Mangle is using at least part of a First Folio. (There's a picture on the left-hand drum that looks kind of like the Droeshout engraving.)

By way of contrast, compare this piece of nutjobbery with something actually useful: the Hinman collator, invented by the Shakespeare scholar Charlton Hinman in order to compare two printings of the same text. (There's a picture here.) It was modeled on the blink comparators used by astronomers--two copies of the same page would be superimposed on a viewing field with mirrors, and the two pages would be flipped back and forth rapidly. Any differences in the text or printing would blink or shimmer, making spotting differences relatively easy. (Before this, one of the most popular methods was having one person reading a text out loud, including punctuation, while another person followed along in another printing of the same text, noting any discrepancies. It took hours per page.)

Hinman's work is responsible for a lot of what we now know about the First Folio--how it was printed and in what order, how many compositors worked on it, and so on. It was really an amazing accomplishment in Shakespeare studies.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:24 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The "suspended monorail bicycle" proves that life is always stranger than fiction, especially when it comes to steampunk aesthetics.
posted by Nomyte at 5:34 PM on February 14, 2012

I love these old-timey technical drawings. The machines are good too.
posted by DU at 5:50 PM on February 14, 2012

The Optical Telegraph is one of my very very favorite things. I'd read about the French semaphore one, but not the British ones. It's the kind of technology that makes me really wonder why it took so long for someone to work it out- it's not exactly that complicated, a hypothetical time traveler who can pick up some political power could have one set up pretty easily in more or less any era as long as there's some locals who can read and write some language with an alphabet.

If you want more awesome, look up the history of the fax machine: someone worked out how to transmit freeform drawings back in like 1840, but it didn't take off...
posted by BungaDunga at 6:10 PM on February 14, 2012

amazing! I love these, I'll have to show the gears and the cutlery to my dad, he'll get such a kick out of them
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:32 PM on February 14, 2012

Sort of a double, tho I guess a good bit of stuff must have been added since 2004. Douglas Self is also the author of some pretty interesting books.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:01 PM on February 14, 2012

I just spent a really enjoyable hour reading about water motors (which have now apparently morphed into modern micro hydro systems). Thanks for the links, troll!

As for optical telegraphs, whose to say that some ancient civilization didn't have them? The classical Greeks seemed to be pretty smart types and they had a lot of mountainous terrain that would have lent itself to that form of signaling.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:04 PM on February 14, 2012

Don't optical telegraphs feature in Lest Darkness Fall? Or did the hero just consider introducing them?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:03 AM on February 15, 2012

Kinda crazy that I just read a sci-fi short story called The Kragen that features optical telegraphs as a main part of the setting. Small world...
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:45 AM on February 15, 2012

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