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Ye Olde World Charm 130

The Solitaire brings us a link to Datamancer, where Richard R. Nagy shows off his Steampunk Laptop. The attention to detail and the creative style, which includes a copper-plated keyboard and speakers shaped like violin f-holes, make this an impressive case mod. From Datamancer: "This may look like a Victorian music box, but inside this intricately hand-crafted wooden case lives a Hewlett-Packard ZT1000 laptop that runs both Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux. It features an elaborate display of clockworks under glass, engraved brass accents, claw feet, an antiqued copper keyboard and mouse, leather wrist pads, and customized wireless network card. The machine turns on with an antique clock-winding key by way of a custom-built ratcheting switch made from old clock parts."
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Ye Olde World Charm

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  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @11:02AM (#21716868)
    Although the HP laptop does bring new meaning to the phrase "turnkey system".
  • I know now what I want for Christmas.....

    I usually don't fawn over things like this but, damn, that is one friggin' awesome thing of beauty.

  • The Fossil Computer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PIPBoy3000 ( 619296 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @11:05AM (#21716886)
    Years ago, before I had my second kid, I created a Fossil computer [] that was Victorian themed in brass, wood, and had an old fish fossil mounted where the tag went. It took a huge amount of time, but was one of those great father-son bonding experiences (he has a full machine shop, so he did most of the work). I loved the look and still feel I should turn it into a Media PC and stick it in our living room.

    It seems a little sad that it's now my daughter's computer, sitting on the floor. The most excitement it gets these days is to play online Barbie or NickJr games.
    • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @11:21AM (#21717008)
      Nice job. Personally I've always liked the idea of a computer system simply disappearing into the background as just another piece of furniture (never really understood the case modders that put electroluminescent tape and UV tubes inside their machines. But hey, whatever floats your boat ... no accounting for taste.) Quite some years ago, strictly as an experiment, I took my regular tower case and covered it in mahogany-grained contact paper: the front was already black so they went well together. People would look at my keyboard and display and ask me where the computer was. It was right there on the floor in front of them, but since it was almost a perfect match for my desk it blended right in and they didn't see it. I dunno, must've thought it was a wastebasket or something

      I loved the look and still feel I should turn it into a Media PC and stick it in our living room.

      You know, you should do that: put together another system for her, and return your wooden gem to its former glory. I have an old Compaq desktop enclosure that I use in our living room as a media PC: it fits nicely in the entertainment center and that's all well and good. However, if I were to do what you did and turn it into furniture, I'd buy myself a lot of brownie points. Well, and now you've gone and made me think about my next winter project ...
      • People would look at my keyboard and display and ask me where the computer was. It was right there on the floor in front of them, but since it was almost a perfect match for my desk it blended right in and they didn't see it.

        Well, that's a start, isn't it?

        I'm thoroughly impressed by people who have the time and skill to do what the guy in the article did, but my compromise approach has always been to put everything in a cabinet and hide it. It's a shame the desktop computer hasn't evolved into something th
        • I think the problem with nice looking computers is that everyone upgrades their systems so often that it's foolish to spend the money on "looking nice" when it's gonna get tossed pretty quickly. Stereo equipment tends to last a lot longer. Still, older stereo equipment definitely had more charm than even the modern stuff does; wood or faux-wood, brushed metal, giant knobs, etc.
        • I think Apple really figured that part out, but I think you already said that. The color iMacs (blue dalmation and floral print) were something you could put in the living room. Also, they had asthetics in mind when they built the Twentieth Anniversary Mac [] and replaced it with the G4 Cube [].

        • It's a shame the desktop computer hasn't evolved into something that's rack mountable, or alternatively, something that resembles audio equipment.

          It's certainly possible to get rack-mount cases for desktop PC hardware. New Egg, for example, has a number of them that I'm looking at. I imagine the reason that it's necessary to go out of your way to get one is because most people don't have racks at home.
      • by hurfy ( 735314 )
        "I dunno, must've thought it was a wastebasket or something"

        Hmm, now i know my next mod.......

        Wish i could see the one we are supposed to be talking about :(
        • Hmm, now i know my next mod.......

          Huh ... that's not a bad idea. Matter of fact, it could still serve as wastebasket: just put a false floor in it. You could fit a Mini-ITX motherboard, power supply and a hard drive in there easily. Use USB or Firewire for your peripherals.
    • Fossil computer? Does this mean it runs windows?
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) *
      I salute the creativity and craftsmanship that go into these projects, but "Steampunk" has not only jumped the shark, but the shark has torn it to bits and there's blood in the water. In fact, you can have my portion of all "tech-nostalgia" and divide it amongst yourselves. I've finished with it, thanks.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        That's right. Fashion may come and go, but the nixie-tube digital voltmeter on my bench just keeps on measuring.

        IOW some of us sat and watch it come and go. The excellent gear sticks around, though. I fired up an old Superior Instruments CR Bridge (with 'eye-tube' indicator) last week that probably hadn't been powered in two decades. Yep, it still works, and now it will be useful. I keep saying that someday I will put my vacuum tube random noise generator online to share it as a source of randomness w
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by tubegeek ( 958995 )
          Nixies. The technology that died too soon. R.I.P. -j
        • Your idea about the Dell sounds like a total waste of time and money; you're talking about installing the guts from an old, slow computer into a modern chassis that cost as little to make as possible and has no interesting or redeeming qualities: this is "the worst of both worlds". Better ideas are where people install modern computer hardware into old SGI chasses, which were arguably works of art.

          There's two things that are important with industrial items like this: 1) how useful is it, and 2) how pretty
  • I HAVE to have that! Not only is it a great laptop, but also it has it's own anti-theft. Who would steal something that could be easily overlooked as an old box?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It kinda looks like an old box that might be worth something, so thieves don't even need to know its a computer.
  • This would have looked right in place in the recent remake of the movie Time Machine. The gears in the lid are a very nice touch.

    Only thing that I wouldn't like is how big it is. It looks to stand over 3" tall, a lot of that is in the lid I think.
    • I have the feeling the thing is intended more to impress people than anything else, and it is impressive.
  • Meh, as long as it doesnt really RUN on Steam, it is not a Steampunk Laptop to me ;)
    • Well, that's really easy to fix. Go download Steam [] and run your computer on it.
    • Yeah, but it DOES run Linux. ;-)

    • Technically, it probably DOES run on steam, as do most electrical things in the world. See, electricity is typically generated by either burning some fossil fuel or by creating a nuclear reaction with U-235, and using the heat generated to turn water into steam, which then turns steam turbines. The only exceptions are hydro (dams use water to turn turbines directly), wind (wind turns turbine directly) and solar (PV: electricity is directly converted into electricity; however, there's also solar power stat
  • This story is about as old as the genre of the articles coverage itself.
  • by Goaway ( 82658 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @11:16AM (#21716982) Homepage
    It really is a shame to put that much effort into making something, and then totally ruining it with that cover, that just screams that the creator knows nothing about how clockwork actually works. It really is kind of an eyesore on an otherwise beautiful piece of work.
    • Yes, I tend to agree. Now, if that clockwork were motorized and actually did something it would be unbelievably cool. Imagine if you turned the key, and the clockwork engaged and did a Rube Goldberg thing and finally turned the power on.
      • by CensorshipDonkey ( 1108755 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @12:40PM (#21717556)
        If you read the article, you'd see he originally attempted actual, moving clockwork on the back powered by an electric train motor. However, in order to hold gears in the very precise positions necessary, their axles must be set in a thick piece of material. This made for a top case so thick and heavy the laptop would overbalance and fall backward when opened. So, he instead went with a thinner, workable cover and cosmetic only gears.
        • their axles must be set in a thick piece of material.

          Yeah, alignment is critical with mechanism that tiny. Actually, what he could have done was have smaller pieces of strong material: that would have provided local rigidity without as much mass. Oh well. In any event, no I didn't read the article, I was too busy marveling at the pictures.
        • by Goaway ( 82658 )
          And that was a big mistake. He should have scrapped the clockwork idea entirely, and the result would have been much more pleasing.
        • Maybe he should have used a plate of titanium instead; it's much lighter than steel but with comparable strength. Especially in the 6Al-4V alloy.

          Of course, this would have been rather expensive...
    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )
      True, but how many people will take that close of a look, or actually understand?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Goaway ( 82658 )
        Anybody who knows how a gear or ratchet works?

        What is this, a defence of the lowest common denominator?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 16, 2007 @11:41AM (#21717156)
    Ye Gods.

    Once upon a time, there was a letter, Thorn []. It made a th sound. It came to look like the letter Y. Then it disappeared. What we are left with is Ye Olde Everything.

    Thorn in the form of a Y survives to this day in pseudo-archaic usages, particularly the stock prefix Ye olde. The definite article spelled with Y for thorn is often jocularly or mistakenly pronounced /ji/ or mistaken for the archaic nominative case of you, written ye. It is used infrequently in some modern English word games to replace the th with a single letter.

    Sigh. Anyway, the computer is amazing. I have to find one of those Underwoods.
    • Also funny that this is a Victorian era look, but old english is a few centuries before that. I'm sure in another hundred years we'll have people talking about ye olde Slashdot, too.
    • I was going to point this out, but I'm somewhat heartened that somebody equally pedantic beat me to it.
    • It's one of my pet peeves, too. The usage in the illiteracism "ye olde" comes from the usage of the eth character 'ð' to spell 'the'; over time, the character was partially elided as a shortcut in writing the character, so that only the cross stroke and the upper end of the riser were drawn, looking like a superscripted 'y'. People who read period texts or signs would see what looked like 'yE' and took it to be a period usage, rather than an abbreviated form of 'the' (and pronounced the same way). Over
    • by tengwar ( 600847 )
      Conversely, there used to be a letter yogh [] in Scots, which for similar reasons became written with a "z" character. This is why some names and place names are pronounced oddly - for instance Menzies is pronounced "Mingis"
  • /.ed (Score:4, Funny)

    by gaderael ( 1081429 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `learedag'> on Sunday December 16, 2007 @11:53AM (#21717238)
    Me doth thinkest yonder website has been Slashdotted...eth
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <> on Sunday December 16, 2007 @11:55AM (#21717250) Homepage Journal
    Here's an artist worth supporting, not for the work he's done, but for the work he's going to do.

    Is it frivolous? Yes, but most art can be called that. Is it useful? Probably not, but we all need entertainment.

    As a "jackass-of-all-trades" myself, my biggest wish was to be able to make my dreams into reality in a physical aspect, but I don't have the drive to work on a project as long as this guy does. Heck, even complicated LEGO designs lose my interest less than half-way through.

    If you have a little bit of wealth, don't forget to support the arts -- it's the job of the wealthy to bring the unmarketable to the masses.
    • by muridae ( 966931 )
      As someone who puts together what ever junk or pre-used items I can find into something interesting or, sometimes on rare occasions, useful, I want to thank people like you.

      I just finished an art project that used 9 Wii remotes, only two of them were owned by people working on it. The rest were donated by folks who just wanted to see what we could do. Granted, being students and not 'real' artists yet, they also wanted them back afterwards. Never would have been able to have the display without that help.

  • ...are there any sites with selfmade high quality _Cyber_-Punk casemods or gadgeds around? I visited a dozen casemodding gelleries, but i found nothing really cool or interesting there. Any tips for good sources?
    • by xaxa ( 988988 )
      We don't have time, we're too busy clubbing etc :-)

      Now if you'll excuse me, I have a VNV Nation concert to attend, which I just woke up for :-D
  • Corel Cache (Score:5, Informative)

    by Razed By TV ( 730353 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @12:24PM (#21717444)
    • Thanks for the cache. To all others wanting a sneak peek, well worth it.

      It looks like he's running grub, and powers off the laptop unconventionally with a ... wouldn't be very sporting of me if I finished that sentence, now would it?
  • For those who like clockwork that actually does something, the Russian Orion watch company makes inexpensive skeleton watches with both front and back transparent. Kind of an open source watch, for around $100

    The problem with something like this computer is obsolescence, whereas an analog clockwork watch may wear out but will not become obsolete. Babbage was all too well aware of this, because owing to the slow pace of mechanical development, his designs became successively obsolete before they could even b

  • This is not the first steampunk laptop. Besides this approach there is a special retro modding technique: converting a laptop or notebook into a retro typewriter [].
  • these f-holes are for ;)
  • was on Wired blogs Nov 2nd...
  • by Fzz ( 153115 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @05:39PM (#21720018)
    Seeing as Datamancer's site is slashdotted, you can catch the laptop on Gizmodo [] . Better still, here's their interview [] with Richard Nagy, its very talented creator. Cheers, Fzz
  • I started this post to say that his website looks more dated than the contraption

    Then i had a proper look at the keyboard heart melted. Maybe its getting close to xmas.

    I'll take 3.

Have you ever noticed that the people who are always trying to tell you `there's a time for work and a time for play' never find the time for play?