Steampunk. Familiar with it? Literary genre, fashion style. Some consider it a mindset. Steampunk is a subgenre of either science fiction or fantasy, depending on who you ask—I don't suggest actually asking unless you are really interested, but I love steampunk.
The quick and dirty version is this: what if steam power had remained a thing? Now, place it in the Victorian era (often the last decade of the 19th century), and imagine that engineers, gadgeteers, designgineers (I made that one up, and I'm sticking with it), and tinkers are coming up with the kinds of devices we take for granted today, and it's all powered by mechanical gears and steam.
This Is a USB Flash Drive - Really (there's a coupon code for at the end of the article)
We're talking brass, copper, welds, and glass. We're talking clockworks (i.e. watch parts or clock parts). We're talking steam huffing and puffing. We're talking gauges with giant needles indicating what's what. We're clicking and clacking and clanking.
Think 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, a book many credit with inspiring steampunk.
So anyway, I was googling steampunk Zippo*, but it led me to an amazing designgineer named Derrick Culligan. He has a shop on Etsy called steamworkshop where he sells amazing steampunk-style USB flash drives, modified Zippos, and, currently, two insanely cool lamps. I mean, wow.
Each piece is unique, so items get added to his shop as he makes them and pulled off once they sell. You can see everything he's sold through the store, too.
Let's start with: Motorized USB 3.0 flash drive (scroll down to see this specific device). At its heart it's a USB flash drive that will work in any modern Mac or PC. But it's housed in this steampunk tube handcrafted by Mr. Culligan. It has a screw on cap. Convenient? Hardly. Cool? Indubitably.
[Update: this particular drive sold right after we went to print. The store front is very dynamic, however, and more devices are on the way. - Bryan]
SCREW ON CAP!
But it's also motorized. It has moving gears inside you can see through glass. When you plug in the flash drive, your USB port not only connects the storage device, it powers that motor, and those gears turn. Does that do anything for the drive? Of course not, but it's so cool!
It also lights up. There's a blue LED that comes on when it's plugged on, and then a red LED flashes when you're copying data.
Oh, and it's waterproof. No, really. Watch this video of another model. At roughly the two minute mark, he dunks it in a glass of water, where it continues to run.
I love this stuff!
Another thing that sets Mr. Culligan's work apart is how he makes it. On his modified Zippo lighters (he's careful not to name them in the description, but the name is visible in one of the images), he says he doesn't use any glue. It's all brazed connection using silver. There's no paint, either. He artificially distresses and tarnishes them to effect an antique look just perfect for steampunk.
Steampunk Modified Windproof Lighter
But I think the best thing about these products is that they aren't hollow decoration. Steamworkshop's devices are functional art. They're useful. To be sure, they aren't cheap, either in quality or price. Handcrafting a lighter with 25 brazed connections takes time. Designing something that looks that cool takes talent and skill. The lighter is US$149, and the motorized USB Flash Drive is $275. Unmotorized flash drives currently start at $235. Since everything is uniquely made, prices vary.
When I told Mr. Culligan I was going to do a story about steamworkshop, he offered me a coupon code for our readers—enter geek1 at checkout and get 5 percent off.
He takes custom orders, too.
*As one does.