Scale models of bicycles were very popular in earlier decades, with dozens of companies manufacturing them.
Today, they are much harder to find than scale models of cars and motorcycles, but some great miniatures are still for sale, new and second-hand: race bikes, city bikes, cargo cycles, tandems, and mountain bikes. An overview.
Our fascination with sophisticated technology lies at the core of many of our present-day problems. Yet, it need not be. By definition, technical virtuosity doesn't need to result in yet another electronic gadget or an even faster accelerating sports car. It can also lead to stunning yet completely harmless artefacts called "automata".
These are mostly hand-cranked machines that can be extremely complex, often with the only purpose of astonishing the spectator. Automata have been built for more than 2,000 years, but contemporary artists have elevated the craft to a higher level. Aside from their emotional value, automata offer a glimpse of a future, post-oil technology.
The entertainment industry has become big business, bringing with it significant ecological damage and a high energy consumption: leisure travel by car and by airplane, the plethora of electronic gadgets to keep us happy at home and on the road, high-tech Olympic Games and NASCAR races. Compare this to the "ball the bastons", where all you need are two wooden sticks, and a dash of courage. Topnotch entertainment with the low-tech seal of approval.
How did ladies spend their time when married to extremely rich men in an era before television, speed-dating and summer festivals? You build a dolls' house (a "dollhouse" if you are American). These incredibly detailed miniature houses and interiors were constructed between the 17th and the early 20th century, mostly by wealthy ladies who often paid artists and craftsmen to make all kinds of objects and parts for them.
Downloading cars, houses and aeroplanes is no science fiction.
In the future, a desktop fabricator may be as common as a desktop computer today, 3D-printers might complement inkjet printers. Downloading, sharing and printing of appliances might become as ordinary (and controversial) as it is today with music, movies and texts.
Yet, downloading objects is already possible with a familiar computer configuration. At least, if the objects are made of paper and if you are willing to spend some time cutting and pasting. Paper cut-outs have a long history, but thanks to the internet they are making a comeback.
Using imaging software, the objects can be scaled to your liking. Some models are very simple and childlike, others are extremely complex and are rich in detail. They can be surprisingly strong. There are tonnes of paper models to find – many of them are downloadable for free. An overview.
The newest generation of board games is more fascinating than most computer games.
The era of Monopoly, Risk, Cluedo and Stratego is over. In recent years, a remarkable amount of board games have appeared that raise the genre some levels higher. These games find their inspiration in modern computer games, and also in military simulations and miniature war games. They mix strategic depth with simple rules, a limited playtime and visually attractive boards and counters. That’s why they can appeal both to hardcore gamers and their families.
How to downsize a transport network: the Chinese wheelbarrow For being such a seemingly ordinary vehicle, the wheelbarrow has a surprisingly exciting history. This is especially true in the East, where it became a universal means of transportation for both passengers and goods, even over long distances.
The sky is the limit: human powered cranes and lifting devices From the earliest civilisations right up to the start of the Industrial Revolution, humans used sheer muscle power, organisation skills and ingenious mechanics to lift weights that would be impossible to handle by most power cranes in operation today.
Wood Gas Vehicles
Firewood in the Fuel Tank: Wood Gas Vehicles Wood gas cars are a not-so-elegant but surprisingly efficient and ecological alternative to their petrol (gasoline) cousins, whilst their range is comparable to that of electric cars.
Hand Powered Drilling Tools and Machines Hand-powered devices have been used for millennia, but during the last quarter of the 19th century a radically improved generation of tools appeared, taking advantage of modern mass production machinery and processes (like interchangeable parts) and an increased availability in superior material (metal instead of wood).
How to make everything ourselves: open modular hardware Consumer products based on an open modular system can foster rapid innovation, without the drawback of wasting energy and materials. The parts of an obsolete generation of products can be used to design the next generation, or something completely different.
Power from the Tap
Power from the Tap: Water Motors Just before the arrival of electricity at the end of the nineteenth century, water motors were widely used in Europe and America. These miniature water turbines were connected to the tap and could power any machine that is now driven by electricity.