17 April 2010

Steampunk Computers – Between Vintage and Modern

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction, frequently featuring elements of fantasy, that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used — usually the 19th century, and often 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 and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” of such technology as dirigibles, analog computers, or digital mechanical computers (such as Charles Babbage’s Analytical engine); these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or with a presumption of functionality.

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Steampunk is often associated with cyberpunk and shares a similar fanbase and theme of rebellion, but developed as a separate movement (though both have considerable influence on each other). Apart from time period and level of technological development, the main difference between cyberpunk and steampunk is that steampunk settings usually tend to be less obviously dystopian than cyberpunk, or lack dystopian elements entirely.

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Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.

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Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by enthusiasts into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style. Example objects include computer keyboards and electric guitars. The goal of such redesigns is to employ appropriate materials (such as polished brass, iron, and wood) with design elements and craftsmanship consistent with the Victorian era.

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The artist group Kinetic Steam Works brought a working steam engine to the Burning Man festival in 2006 and 2007. The group’s founding member, Sean Orlando, also created a Steampunk Tree House that has been displayed at a number of festivals.

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In May – June 2008, multimedia artist and sculptor Paul St George exhibited outdoor interactive video installations linking London and Brooklyn, New York City in a Victorian era-styled telectroscope. Evelyn Kriete, a promoter and Brass Goggles contributor, organized a trans-atlantic wave by steampunk enthusiasts from both cities, briefly prior to White Mischief’s Around the World in 80 Days steampunk-themed event.

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In 2009 artist Tim Wetherell created a large wall piece for Questacon (The National Science and Technology centre in Canberra, Australia) representing the concept of the clockwork universe. This steel artwork contains moving gears, a working clock, and a movie of the moon’s terminator in action. The 3D moon movie was created by Antony Williams.

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The Syfy series Warehouse 13 features many steampunk-inspired objects and artifacts, including computer designs created by steampunk artisan Richard Nagy, aka “Datamancer”.

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From October 2009 through February 2010, the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford hosted the first major exhibition of Steampunk art objects, curated by Art Donovan and presented by Dr. Jim Bennett, museum director. From redesigned practical items to fantastical contraptions, this exhibition showcased the work of eighteen Steampunk artists from across the globe. The exhibition proved to be the most successful in the museum’s history and attracted more than eighty thousand visitors.

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Here on these images you can see a computer made out from restored Victorian Organ built in the 19th century. This handу all-in-one workstation has an iPhone dock, three monitors, scanner, webcam, printer, keyboard and many other useful things that many Steampunk fans would second!

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It really looks great, like a combination of old and new, vintage and modern. I would love having a computer designed this way. What do you think? I hope you’ll find it as amazing as I did.

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Also, here are some more examples of steampunk computers I found on web. Enjoy!

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