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"Interesting" Looking Hardware

Dr. Mac: Rants & Raves - "Interesting" Looking Hardware

February 16th, 2007

Episode #74

I'm a sucker for an interesting hardware design. Unfortunately, there aren't that many Mac products that exhibit interesting or unique designs. Aside from almost anything designed by Apple, the pickings can be slim. That said, I've been collecting pictures of hardware products with interesting design characteristics ever since Macworld in January, so here are some of my faves:

A product that not only caught my eye at Macworld Expo, but made me go back and see it two more times ‘cause I wasn't sure I believed my eyes, was the ModBook Tablet from Axiotron and Other World Computing.

Andreas Haas, president of Axiotron, said, "Built for mobile users, artists, students, medical practitioners and professionals, the Axiotron ModBook enables its user to draw and write directly on the screen, while the handwriting recognition built into Mac OS X Tiger not only turns hand scribbles into text in every application, but also provides extended control of the system through gesture recognition. If your favored input device is the pen, then this is the Mac tablet solution for you."

The Modbook Tablet is a flat touch-screen stylus-driven Mac.
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image.)

The ModBook is an after-market mash-up of an Apple MacBook notebook computer and a Wacom pen tablet, but as you can see, it is beautifully designed. I watched an artist sketching on it and it seemed very natural to her. I don't think I'd like using it much, but as Haas said, if you favor a Wacom tablet, this may be just the computer for you. Various configurations start at $2,279.

Another thing that caught my eye at Macworld were these two different types of mushroom-shaped multimedia speakers from JBL. Both flavors (groan) are available in several fashionable colors and both were made up of a mushroom-like sub woofer and a pair of smaller satellites, as shown below.


Two different types of mushroom-like speaker systems from JBL.
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image.)

It was hard to tell how either system sounded in the din of the main show hall, but they both looked pretty sweet to me.

My vote for most unique iPod accessory I've seen goes to the Juke Box Station from Saffire Products, an interesting take on the old time jukebox, but with a dock connector.

The Juke Box Station from Saffire.
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image.)

Again, it was hard to determine how the thing actually sounded on the noisy show floor at Macworld, but like the JBL speakers above, the Juke Box Station looks pretty marvelous. 

Moving right along, my vote for the absolute crappiest iPod product I have ever seen goes to the iPod toilet paper holder.


It's an iPod toilet paper holder. No kidding.
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image.)

I'm rarely rendered speechless but this thing did just that. And while I couldn't speak for a few moments, the whole time I was wondering, "what the hell were they thinking?" Do you think anyone in their right mind would pay good money for this?

Now this one is an oldie, but it's a goodie... They called it Hubzilla and it was a 4-port FireWire 400 hub that is modeled after (you guessed it) Godzilla. Hubzilla is no longer available (as far as I can tell), but it sure was one wacky-looking device.

This is Hubzilla... (What else could you possibly call it?)
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image.)

Last but not least, there's one company other than Apple that comes to mind any time I think about hardware products with interesting designs and that company is LaCie. I've bought a couple of their hard drives designed by F.A. Porsche as shown here:

LaCie hard disk designed by F.A. Porsche
photo courtesy of LaCie
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image.)

It's not fancy or high-concept but it strikes me as a perfect example of understated elegance. And since the Porsche drives cost about the same as less stylish drives from other vendors, there's no disincentive to buying the better looking (IMHO) LaCie drives when I need more storage.

Beyond the Porsche drives, which I consider subtle, I like that LaCie has both a sense of style and a sense of humor about its designs. Take the LaCie Brick hard drives, for example. Designed by "the world-famous designer Ora-Īto," they look like big old Lego blocks.

LaCie Brick drives look like big Legos.
photo courtesy of LaCie
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image.)

Two more examples of LaCie's interesting and playful designs are the new FireWire speakers and USB/FireWire hub, both introduced at Macworld Expo.

LaCie's interesting new FireWire speakers.
photo courtesy of LaCie
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image.

LaCie's wacky-looking USB/FireWire hub.
photo courtesy of LaCie
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image.)

So there you have them... some hardware designs I find interesting. These are my opinions so please don't write to tell me I'm wrong. On the other hand, if you know of a cool or interesting product design that wasn't included in this column,  please let me know about it and perhaps we can do this again someday.

And that's all he wrote...

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has been a Macintosh user for a long, long time and has written 49 computer books including Mac OS X Tiger For Dummies and GarageBand for Dummies. He also offers expert technical help and training to Mac users, in real time and at reasonable prices, via telephone, e-mail, and/or unique Internet-enabled remote control software. For more information on Bob and his services, visit

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