The Hiller VZ-1 Pawnee (above) was basically a unique direct-lift rotor aircraft, using contra-rotating ducted fans for lift inside a platform upon which the single pilot shifted body weight for directional control. The platform, touted as the world's first flying hoverboard, was developed starting in 1953 under an Office of Naval Research (ONR) contract to Hiller Aircraft Corporation, and flew successfully, starting in 1955. Due to aerodynamic effects in the duct within which the propellers rotated, the platform was dynamically stable, even though the pilot and center of gravity of the platform were fairly high up. In testing, the prototypes flew well, but the U.S. Army judged them to be impractical as combat vehicles as they were small, limited in speed and only barely flew out of the ground cushion effect. Continue reading for more.
This antique cabinet is over 200 years old and was handcrafted ing Abraham (1711-1793) and David Roentgen's (1743-1807) workshop. This writing cabinet is crowned with a chiming clock and features finely designed marquetry panels as well as elaborate mechanisms that allow for doors and drawers to be opened automatically at the touch of a button. It was owned by King Frederick William II and best known for its ornate decoration, mechanical complexity, and sheer size. Continue reading for video showing exactly how this exquisite marvel works.
Orbitz, the lava lamp-inspired food creation, was a noncarbonated fruit-flavored beverage, made by the company Clearly Canadian Beverage Corporation, that had small edible balls floating in it. It was introduced around 1997 and quickly disappeared due to poor sales. The small balls floated due to their nearly equal density to the surrounding liquid, and remained suspended with assistance from an ingredient known as gellan gum. The gellan gum provided a support matrix - something like a microscopic spider web - and had a visual clarity approaching that of water, which increased with the addition of sugar. Continue reading for more.
President Lyndon B. Johnson was known as an owner of an Amphicar. Johnson, a known practical joker, was said to enjoy frightening visitors at his Johnson City, Texas ranch by driving them downhill in his Amphicar, directly into his property's lake, all the while shouting that he had malfunctioning brakes. The Amphicar Model 770 was the first such vehicle mass-produced for sale to the public starting in 1961, designed to be marketed and sold in the US. Continue reading for more fascinating historical facts.
The KGB's main functions were foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, operative-investigatory activities, guarding the State Border of the USSR, guarding the leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Soviet Government, organization and ensuring of government communications as well as combating nationalism, dissent, and anti-Soviet activities. Here are some of the gadgets and weapons they used during the Cold War. Continue reading to see more.
The non-toxic, non-staining, reusable modeling compound that came to be known as "Play-Doh" was originally a pliable, putty-like substance concocted by Noah McVicker of Cincinnati-based soap manufacturer Kutol Products; it was devised at the request of Krogers Grocery, which wanted a product that could clean coal residue from wallpaper. Following World War II, with the transition from coal-based home heating to natural gas and the resulting decrease in internal soot, and the introduction of washable vinyl-based wallpaper, the market for wallpaper cleaning putty decreased substantially. McVicker's nephew, Joe McVicker, joined Kutol with the remit to save the company from bankruptcy; he subsequently discovered that the wallpaper cleaner was being used by nursery school children to make Christmas ornaments. Continue reading for more accidental inventions that you might not have known about.
Most techies know that Barack Obama has been using a BlackBerry for years, but it may finally be about to call time on his relationship with his beloved BlackBerry for an Android smartphone. The special military unit responsible for handling White House communications is testing a batch of new handsets for use by government staff, possibly a Samsung Galaxy with beefed-up security to better cater for the U.S. president's phone and web-browsing needs. However, one Chinese company wants to lure the president back to the BlackBerry side with a clever knockoff named BlockBerry. Continue reading for more.
Disposable, also known as single-use cameras, were pretty big back in the 80s and 90s, but the kids of today are probably more accustomed to snapping shots with their smartphone to post on social networks. On a similar note, did you know that a company called Photo-Pac produced a cardboard camera beginning in 1949 which shot 8 exposures and which was mailed-in for processing? That's right, cameras were expensive, and would often have been left safely at home when lovely scenes presented themselves. Frustrated with missing photo opportunities, H. M. Stiles had invented a way to enclose 35mm film in an inexpensive enclosure without the expensive precision film transport mechanism. It cost $1.29. Though incredibly similar to the familiar single-use cameras today, Photo-Pac failed to make a permanent impression on the market. Continue reading for more.
Millard Fillmore is best known as the 13th President of the United States (1850-1853), the last Whig president, and the last president not to be affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties. However, Fillmore boasts a striking resemblance to actor, film producer and comedian Alec Baldwin, and the side-by-side image above shows why. Continue reading for more celebrity doppelgangers.
The Commodore SX-64, also known as the Executive 64, or VIP-64 in Europe, is a portable, briefcase/suitcase-size "luggable" version of the popular Commodore 64 home computer and holds the distinction of being the first full-color portable computer. The SX-64 features a built-in five-inch composite monitor and a built-in 1541 floppy drive. It weighs 10.5 kg (23lb). The machine is carried by its sturdy handle, which doubles as an adjustable stand. It was announced in January 1983 and released a year later, at US$ 995 (about $2,250 in 2014). Continue reading for more.