View Full Version : Interesting but not cheap steampunk computer designer

May 28th, 2014, 02:05 PM
Just happened to see someone posting steampunk computer gear (https://austin.craigslist.org/atq/4492398481.html) recently on craigslist here in Austin. From what I can tell you submit your order and he'll start making the system (or just the case? --can't quite tell). Either way, out of my price/interest range but in all honesty it does look like an interesting/nice job. Figured it was interesting enough to pass along though.

May 28th, 2014, 02:19 PM
I hate to be negative about someone's creativity, but that looked awful to me. But then again, I never understood the drawn of steampunk work to begin with. Slap a couple gears, and some copper pipe and an old faucet and you got yourself steampunk.

May 28th, 2014, 02:52 PM
Steampunk can be well done.. there are some folks that do just slap gears onto things.
I like the stuff that's well done and that clock in the link is pretty cool.. much cooler that a the old G4 cube which i was always a little meh about.
It's a form of art. i have some reproduction-vintage ideas ..something that many folks may not dig.

May 28th, 2014, 02:53 PM
You might as well conceal the power supply and I/O shield from view (any angle) or the design looks like crap.

May 28th, 2014, 02:53 PM
I agree completely. To me it looks awful, but, we may be in the minority. I just don't get 'steampunk.'

May 28th, 2014, 02:57 PM
I agree actually, looks cool until you see the motherboard (sorta like the new but no longer made Commodore clones). What I did find interesting and remember seeing some article somewhere else was the laptop and replacing the keys with the vintage typewriter round buttons. I can't remember where I saw it (think it was on TV or perhaps a hack-a-day type project) but if it works and is well done it would be interesting. I can sort of see it upsetting some folks though if those parts are coming from other collectibles ;-)

Sorta like the folks here who just want to case mod a vintage computer. Given there are plenty non-working systems and donor parts from that but I'm sure a lot of folks don't see the appeal there either.

May 28th, 2014, 03:01 PM
The thing is that there's maybe a handful of people who do the "steampunk" aesthetic but know how to exercise restraint and/or make things look pretend-functional; the rest just slap old watch cogs on every surface and come up with eye-straining overbusy messes and then pat themselves on the back for it.

Ole Juul
May 28th, 2014, 07:18 PM
The thing is that there's may be a handful of people who do the "steampunk" aesthetic but know how to exercise restraint and/or make things look pretend-functional; the rest just slap old watch cogs on every surface and come up with eye-straining overbusy messes and then pat themselves on the back for it.

I'm with you about that. There's generally little artistic integrity. The dollar store is full of this sort of stuff which is basically fake antique and fake art. Putting a low end computer in it doesn't help one bit. From a computer and artistic aesthetic it won't last. In 15 years (perhaps 5?) the computing part will be of zero interest. What's left then? More landfill. Only the very few steamies transcend those issues.

May 28th, 2014, 08:16 PM
The irony is that I recently watched George Pal's 1960 adaptation of The Time Machine, and there's no way the titular contraption was not a key formative influence on the "steampunk" look - yet it's also beautifully restrained and sleek in a way that so little of its conceptual progeny are...oy.

May 28th, 2014, 09:55 PM
Steampunk= old+new made to look like a pile of doggy do.

May 29th, 2014, 09:11 AM
Steampunk as an aesthetic *can* work in limited circumstances in art and entertainment but I agree that for the most part real-world DIY steampunk-ified gadgets are just hideous. Randomly slapping gears, pipes, and gauges that don't do anything all over an object is frankly pretty disrespectful to the technology of the era the genre is supposed to be honoring. If you look at something like an ancient typewriter, sewing machine, or steam locomotive they are indeed "busy" and complicated but each part clearly *does something*, and you can see them doing their things as the device operates. The rare successes in making "steampunk computers" are the instances where the creator exercises serious restraint when it comes to the gingerbreading and if they add dials/levers/switches/gears/whatever they actually make them function in a sensible way.

(For instance, I think this flat-panel monitor modification (http://steampunkworkshop.com/lcd.shtml) is reasonably successful; its form pretty much follows function, it doesn't have random pipes sticking out of it, and the little levers for pushing the control buttons are sort of clever. It's somewhat ironic that the same person who made it is also proud of cutting up gears and soldering them to lightswitch trim plates (http://steampunkworkshop.com/steampunk-home-decor-light-switch-plates). *eyeroll*.)

May 29th, 2014, 09:22 AM

May 29th, 2014, 10:16 AM
This guy's stuff (http://www.datamancer.net/) seems pretty well done, if you're into that kind of thing.

Ole Juul
May 29th, 2014, 11:49 AM
Randomly slapping gears, pipes, and gauges that don't do anything all over an object is frankly pretty disrespectful to the technology of the era the genre is supposed to be honoring.

I agree. As someone who collects and has appreciated antiques and art since I was little, I see these people as not only being disrespectful of the technology but very much disrespectful of the objects which they are destroying. They're not recycling old bits, they're just ruining them.

The idea of things which don't do anything is fine. Art objects actually do plenty because they have (hopefully) some depth of philosophy, aesthetic, and story. But that is obviously too high a bar for most of these guys. However, when it comes to doing something, I just shake my head at the actual tech which is being produced. We're not talking about a Cray classic here. We're talking about a drug store level computer which is non expandable and which becomes very boring, if not downright useless, after a short time. When it comes to ART, there is more being produced in these forums with our old stuff. Many computers here are assembled with a comprehensive philosophy, aesthetic, and story. These assembled or recreated machines often carry serious reference to both myth and society. That's art. Yay, VCF art people!

@xprt: Yes, that guy does good work. He's also not just playing around, he does a lot of other stuff like props and cars, and has a big workshop. And ... he's got skills.

May 29th, 2014, 01:36 PM
@xprt: Yes, that guy does good work. He's also not just playing around, he does a lot of other stuff like props and cars, and has a big workshop. And ... he's got skills.

He had skills. He died recently.

May 29th, 2014, 02:58 PM
This guy's stuff (http://www.datamancer.net/) seems pretty well done, if you're into that kind of thing.

yeah, i like this.. but i would be the dufus to close the laptop lcd screen down onto that winding key..

May 30th, 2014, 01:45 AM
I guess its "not my scene" and I kind of think "why bother", just like the 1960'sand 70's giant TV cabinets made to look like Sheraton, Chippendale or Adam furniture....

On the other hand it can by quirky and interesting, but it can also be upsetting to see things that might have had historic value butchered...

... I guess like chopped bikes or hot-rodded cars...

Ole Juul
May 30th, 2014, 02:31 AM
He had skills. He died recently.
That's sad. He was quite young. I've looked at his stuff a number of times and noted the unusual talent. I just brought up a link to get the story (http://makezine.com/2013/11/25/the-maker-movement-loses-its-datamancer/), and I think it is most fitting in this thread. Take a look at the slideshow. That stuff is heads above the common steapmpunk stuff.

May 30th, 2014, 12:10 PM
They're not recycling old bits, they're just ruining them.

It does make me sad to see so many old typewriters cut up and used for these "art projects". Sure, I know how useless an old manual typewriter is these days, but they are beautiful machines, real solid steel "things" built to take abuse and last a long, long time. It is a shame to see them cut up and used to tart up an ephemeral injection-molded electronic dingus that, paradoxically, almost certainly worked better ergonomically with its original sculped keys.

(Another possible annoyance I have with this is cutting up/otherwise disassembling old lamps and light fixtures for their fittings, knobs, and gingerbread. If I need a light fixture I like buying an old one made of real metal and refurbishing it with new wires/sockets because I like the heavy, quality feel. Lately it seems as if the supplies of those have been drying up. I don't know if it's primarily because of the "maker movement" cutting them up for scrap or just the whims of fashion but... bleah. There *are* some things that they just don't make like they used to.)

June 26th, 2014, 10:20 PM
Good evening:

Mr. Barythrin, I see that you found my post on Craigslist for this computer (I don't normally post on Craigslist that was just an experiment for the last two months - I may stop posting there soon - contact me if you want to see my all my online shops):

Timekeeper PC

Don't worry, I can take criticism! I'm just flabbergasted that I found your forum when looking for my own computers online, and I decided to step in to say hello.

By the way, my name is John Dunn, from Austin, TX, and I make a bunch of stuff ranging from the computer above through to accessories for phones and tablets. By the way the guts of the computer are A8-5500 3.2GHz Quad Core APU (Radeon HD 7560D) / ASUS A55BM-A Socket FM2 / 8GB DDR3) for those curious, since someone mentioned the MoBo or lack thereof. It's not meant to be a gamer machine or anything like that.

I don't really sell too many of those PCs; only once in a blue moon. My main business is Steampunk cases for tablets and smartphones and I started this as a hobby and out of desperation when I found myself unemployed in 2010. I think it still qualifies as a hobby

and yes I exchanged some conversations with Datamancer at the Brassgoggles.co.uk forum (I'm "Wilhelm" there - no I don't put myself at the same level as Datamancer). He was a very special person. The only equivalent we have at that level is Jake Von Slatt, and I am a very lowly and humble follower.

iCog Hades for iPad (Bluetooth case):

and last, my bread and butter: the iCog Dione for iPhone

I realize this stuff is not for everyone. And yes it's real expensive - but I basically make it by hand- so it's an acquired taste depending on your level of geekiness. To be honest I like the fact that it's a bit "niche" and not for everyone. We Steampunk consider ourselves to be a movement. But really, Steampunk is not just gears pasted on to hardware. Steampunk is a literary format/genre, like saying "mystery novels." It's 19th. C. sci-fi roughly inspired from the works of Jules Verne, a little of mad science like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Orson Wells - and Wild Wild West.

Since the 1980's it started moving from a purely literary genre into dressing (1990's) mostly by Goths who outgrew the whips and the chains (you can only do that at a certain age IMHO) and "discovered the color "brown, and then in the 2000's was joined by the Maker/DIY movement. So here we are.

It was a bit of a fad among the general public during the last decade, and it attracted the young for a while, but I think the fad is largely lost steam now - at least in English speaking countries (the exact opposite is true in other countries especially in Spanish speaking countries and Japan), and only the original/dedicated Steampunks still "follow it" so to speak.

I realize that this laptop is probably not the best Steampunk laptop that you will ever see (not even close to Datamancer's laptops - mine is more of a "laptop cover" - not a made-from-scratch laptop like his), and it has a lot of faults, but please bear with me, as this was made when Sony America commissioned the laptop from me in late 2011, simply because they saw my iPhone cases on Etsy. That is kind of how I decided this could be a real business- quite literally they gave me a little push the same week I got evicted from my apartment at a time when I was unemployed. So ugly or not, I love this laptop (and is the progenitor of the iCogHades for iPad).

eCog Mercury laptop cover. ( From http://blog.sony.com/2012/01/sonys-vaio-f-series-laptop-goes-steampunk/)


The laptop just was a "one-off" because Sony was experimenting with "grabbing the attention" of the gaming crowd for their Sony VAIO Series F. Their idea was to take it to tradeshows ans so - an offbeat idea by a junior PR member from Sony America, Corporate offices in San Diego, Mr. Reena Leone. But that F-Series laptop as nice and expensive as it was, was better suited as a desktop replacement, and less attractive to gamers (i.e. not as cool/high performance as an Alienware laptop) - but it was a good stint for me - at least got flown to San Francisco to shoot for the video blog ;)

Datamancer went a lot farther -and a lot more expensive ($5K per copy) for his laptops - built from scratch, and he complained to me about problems with suppliers and such, so it's no bed of roses trying to sell stuff like this.

But in any case, this is not a "real serious" business." It does beat food service /temp jobs, though and it's more of a hobby for me. I basically make everything in my apartment. And anyhow, I just wanted to say hello. Maybe this puts things into perspective.

I remain at your service,

John "Adm. J. Wilhelm" Dunn
Victorian Steam Calculation Engine Co.
City of Austin ~ Republic of Texas

(You're invited to come and say hi at Brassgoggles.co.uk to see more wackiness and REAL Steampunks).


June 29th, 2014, 10:19 AM
Beautiful creations - thanks for posting pictures.