What can I say? I am a changed man! "But what is the cause of this transformation?" you cry. Well, yesterday (as I pen these words), I received an email from my chum Bill Schweber, who is the editor of Planet Analog and a devoted reader of the Wall Street Journal.
Knowing my eclectic interests, Bill kindly pointed me to a video featuring a 28-year-old artist called Richard "Doc" Nagy who has created the most amazing Victorian-styled computer keyboards, displays, cabinets, and suchlike. Unfortunately, the original link won't persist for long, but I tracked down the Original Video. Please take a moment to view this video, and then we'll proceed. . .
What? You're back already? Wow – that was fast! What did you think? Isn't this amazing? I am speechless and I am flabbergasted – in fact, I think it's fair to say that my "flabber" has rarely been so "gasted" (just in case you were wondering, "gasted" – which means "frightened/to frighten" or "scared/to scare" – comes from the Middle English "gasten", which comes from the Old English "Gastan", which comes from "Gast", meaning "Ghost"; sad to relate, however, I have no idea as to the origin of "flabber").
Since I was first exposed to this video, my head has been buzzing with ideas regarding creating similar contraptions of my own. But how come I hadn't heard about any of this before? After a little research, it seems that – without my being aware of it – an entire sub-culture called Steampunk has arisen under my very nose. In fact, I've discovered something new about myself – I am a "Closet-Steampunker" . . . but now it's time to come out of the closet!
First and foremost, Steampunk is a a subgenre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. As the associated Wikipedia Page says:
The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used – usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England – but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. . .
The point is that folks like Richard (check out his Datamancer website – and especially his Nagy Magical-Movable-Type Pixello-Dynamotronic Computational Engine) have extended the Steampunk concept to cover the creation of actual artifacts.
Another guy whose work I think is absolutely fantastic is Jake von Slatt, or "Hieronymus Isambard 'Jake' von Slatt – Proprietor" as he bills himself on his SteampunkWorkshop website. There are some true gems here, such as Jake's Steampunk Keyboard (scroll to the bottom to see the finished piece) and Steampunk Monitor. In the case of the latter, if you scroll to the bottom of the page, you'll see both the monitor and keyboard next to a brass oil lamp on a table – everything is GEORGEOUS – I tell you, this wouldn't have looked out of place in a Victorian home (it also gives me a wealth of ideas for my [currently stalled] Heath Robinson Rube Goldberg Computer project).
But wait, there's more! If you go to the gadget guide Gizmodo site ("So much in love with shiny new toys, it's unnatural."), you can see some amazing examples of Steampunk Watches and Steampunk Robots (the Boing Boing website also has a great example of a Steampunk Watch).
And some other Steampunk-related sites that are well worth a visit are Brass Goggles, Steampunk Magazine, and the delightfully quirky Steampunkopedia offering by Retrostacja in Poland.
Meanwhile, I was just visiting the Amazon website, unsuccessfully looking for books that explain how to work with (and etch) brass. Sad to relate, I discovered more than I wanted to know about caring for Trumpets, Trombones, and French Horns, but thus far I've been unsuccessful in locating anything pertaining to bending, filing, polishing – and generally working with – brass. So, if you happen to be in a position to recommend any books or other resources on this (and related) topics, please don't hesitate to drop me a line.
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.