The 555 timer integrated circuit was invented in 1971. Over a billion are made every year, because they are so versatile. Charles Platt wrote of the chip:
It has turned out to be the most successful chip in history, both in the number of units sold (tens of billions, and still counting) and the longevity of its design (fundamentally unchanged for almost forty years). Even now, about a billion 555s are manufactured each year.
In Make: Electronics, I decided to include the 555, because it remains so fundamental. It’s also a wonderful teaching tool, since it can be used in so many ways. If you want to build, say, a reaction timer, using a counter and a couple of logic chips, you’re going to run it with a 555 timer, and you may end up adding a couple more 555s to take care of functions such as delaying the start of the count and locking the display until a reset button is pressed. You can also run a 555 fast enough to generate audible tones, which can be incorporated into a burglar alarm, or you can use it in a combination lock. All three of these projects are included in the book.
Make magazine celebrated the 555 timer and its creator, Hans Camenzind, a few years ago when it featuring a 555 Week on its website.
555s are dirt cheap, too. Ebay sells 100 for $4.
Because the 555 is so fundamental electronics, people honor it by making giant size versions of it. Read the rest
It's been called a Camping Chair, a Bog Chair, an X-Chair, a Stargazer Chair, a Viking Chair, an African Chair, but "no one can agree on where the design first came from or what it ought be called," says Rain Noe. In his article for Core 77 he looks at the many variations of this simple flat pack chair.
Steve Ramsey shows how to make one: Read the rest
Spotted on the Pittsburgh craigslist, the future of law enforcement. Read the rest
Why have 3.5 inches of delicate magnetic medium and clattery mechanisms, when you can have a beautiful 3.5 feet replica? The first can coast one drink; the latter a great many. Floppytable is made of hot-rolled steel and the creator, Neulant van Exel, will apparently make one for you if you get in touch.
Anna Hezel just saved us from an inadvisable couch purchase with her horrifying article, Why Does This One Couch From West Elm Suck So Much? Read the rest
On November 11, Sotheby's will auction off David Bowie's beautiful collection of Italian designer furniture and other objects, including his incredible 1966 "Radio-Phonograph, Model No. RR126" by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. The bulk of his collection going on the block though are 1980s pieces of Memphis furniture. Over at Collectors Weekly, Hunter Oatman-Stanford writes about Bowie's deep appreciation for Memphis:
The name “Memphis” was supposedly chosen after an early brainstorming session, during which Bob Dylan’s song “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” played repeatedly on the record player. The designers appreciated the word’s disparate connotations, evoking both cheap American kitsch and the regal city of ancient Egypt.
United in their efforts to reject traditional notions of “good design,” the Memphis artists mocked the bland austerity of Modernism by mixing clashing colors, patterns, and materials on playful geometric forms that often masked an object’s intended use. Although their collaborations only lasted a few years—Sottsass left the Memphis group in 1985, and the rest parted ways in 1987—they caused an uproar in the design world. Memphis sensibilities continued trickling into mainstream design via knockoff brands that influenced interiors everywhere from movie sets to high-school cafeterias.
“It didn’t look serious. It looked like a prank,” Bowie wrote of Memphis in 2002. “It mixed Formica attitude with marble diffidence. Bright yellows against turquoise. Virus patterns on ceramics. It couldn’t care less about function.”
"Space Oddity: David Bowie's Secret Obsession With '80s Memphis Design" (Thanks, Ben Marks!)