Friday, September 28, 2007

The Allure of Steampunk

I love History, as anyone that knows me will tell you. I have been interested in history since I knew that my family had a history (and quite a colorful one at that ^_^). So historical artifacts and retro-looking objects have been an interest of mine for some time. I have Victorian oil lamps, camping oil lamps, a wood-burning stove, and some other older devices (like a 1953 Willys Jeep). But, oddly enough, I hadn't even thought about steampunk before. Then my friend, Joseph Hall, introduced me to the Steampunk keyboard Mod at the Steampunk Workshop.

This keyboard is really cool, with beautiful brushed metal bindings in brass. Now I think I understand my appeal to the Apple computer: the brushed metal. It's all about the brushed metal. I also like the keyboard, because growing up we had an old Victorian manual typewriter with which we constantly played. Instantly I was hooked.

This was months ago that Joe introduced me, and since I have been pretty much floating in a steampunk mood. I like the idea of large machines, brushed metal parts, clockwork, and the like. Something that is easy to manage in that each part has an obvious function. This follows the utilitarian philosophy that pervaded the Victorian years, and as such becomes a fascinating movement in and of itself.

So I started to think about all the facets of our lives that can be effected by steam technology. Imagine if you had a motorcycle that could run for 2 hours, just on steam? Also, that steam could be created from burning alcohol, instead of gasoline. Thereby, you create a viable and powerful mode of transportation that is eco-friendly, carbon neutral (or closer to it), and can potentially look really cool.

But what about the problems that plagued the steam engines of the past, you say? True, boilers would tend to blow up after so many uses. But that was more to do with the type of metal used, not really the design. Brass, bronze, copper, and iron were all used early on because they were readily available, and less expensive than steel. But they also were softer metals, and would slowly melt away with each firing until the walls were too thin to handle the pressure of the steam. They would then blow up spectacularly, causing injury. There are plenty of new alloys that could take the place of copper or brass.

And now many of you are probably thinking: Wouldn't it be more fuel efficient to create a combustion engine to run on alcohol? Sure! That would also be potentially more safe assuming you use a copper boiler for your steam engine. But is it just as cool? Is it easy to get? Is it something that you can show to your friends and have them say, "wow, I don't know why you did it, but it looks just so cool!"

So, does this mean I'm going to build one soon? Probably not. It takes a level of engineering that I just don't have (yet), but I am going to start with some simple mods of my own. I think I could come up with some pretty cool mods given the time. But until then, I'll keep following the Steampunk Workshop. I wonder if he will make an optical mouse telegraph sounder?

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