Steampunk enthusiast creates historical-look laptop computer

"Datamancer", as Hieronymus Isambard "Jake" von Slatt is known online, is enthusiastic about packaging modern technology in historically inspired Victorian-era enclosures, an art form known as "steampunk." This time, the project is an exquisitely-crafted and fully-functional laptop computer.

The Victorian era may be too late for SCA, but we medievalists can certainly appreciate the desire to build an anachronistic world, and the artistic creative impulse behind the steampunk laptop. Steampunk enthusiasts envision a world in which mechanical power sources from the Age of Steam drive dirigibles, ray guns, and calculating devices with a modern theoretical basis. In a sense, steampunk is a fantasy within an anachronism, like the film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, only a few decades earlier in time, or like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The outer lid features a minutely detailed brass clockwork behind a glass panel, so that it appears the computer runs on gears and flywheels. Its power switch is a brass "winding key." Accented with elaborate brass fittings and claw feet, the wooden enclosure conceals a fully-functional Hewlett-Packard ZT1000 laptop computer dual-booting between Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP.

In addition to the photo album of the completed device (see "original article" link below), the author has posted a tutorial on making the brass faceplate and a blog-like project diary. There is also a video of the laptop in action, posted on YouTube.

Hieronymus Isambard "Jake" von Slatt has published numerous other articles on his steampunk projects, including a flat panel monitor, clockwork jewelry made from etched brass, and a telegraph key that clicks out RSS news feeds from the Internet. His work has been featured in Wired, Popular Science, and Newsweek magazines.

Thanks to Baron Conal O'hAirt and Lady Faoileann inghean Tighearnaigh, both from the Midrealm, for forwarding the link to this fascinating project.

Why is this even here?

Why is this even here? What has this to do with pre-17th century culture?

Maestra Donata Bonacorsi (OL)

why are you complaining?

I think this thing is gorgeous! I'd love to have one myself. What I don't understand is why a Laurel, who should be encouraging ways to make the mundane look more period, is complaining about something that would at least look better on a Troll/List/A&S Judging table than the ubiquitous Apple or Dell stamped on aluminum or plastic.

HL Morgan Blaidd Du,
Loch Salann, Artemisia

Why this is here

The short answer to "What has this to do with pre-17th century culture?" is "Nothing whatsoever."

That being said, you raise a legitimate question, and one which I considered before posting the article on this site. I respect your opinion that it doesn't belong here, but the two of us who co-own both felt it was of interest to our readers.

Here are the reasons why I felt this article belonged on in spite of being out of period:

  1. While the specific project isn't period for SCA, the tutorials provided by the artist do pertain to things that are period for us, such as making brass hardware for wooden articles.
  2. There are a lot of people in the SCA who cross over into related anachronistic and living history activities, so has never attempted to be specifically "in period" for every article. Rather, our mission is to cover news of interest to the SCA community and to other medieval reenactors. This is why we have articles on things like Harry Potter, Tolkein, and Monty Python, none of which are period and two of which don't even take place in the real world.
  3. As I mentioned in the article, the project is out of period for us, but the spirit of "creative anachronism" is very much alive in the creator of this wonderful work of art.
  4. We also don't stay within period on the early end, and often cover archaeological stories, films, and other items both factual and fictional from periods as early as Roman times. We do this for the simple reason that many of our readers have a broader interest than just the Middle Ages, and they tell us again and again that they enjoy the stories.
  5. As an unofficial, privately-run site, we're not bound by the SCA's official policies on what is "period". While we try to be a reasonably-focused news site, there are times when we run things just because they are fun and we know our readers will enjoy them. The number of reads we always get on those articles confirm this.
  6. There is a very active computer geek community within the SCA, and many of them are regular readers and contributors to (we even host an email discussion list for this community). So, period or not, we felt the story would be of interest. As of this writing, 240 other people agreed with us enough to read it.
  7. There was already precedent within the SCA community that this was of interest. The link was forwarded to me from someone who read it on an SCA woodworking discussion list that is full of very authentic A&S folks. I considered that to be a good indicator that this sort of story was of general interest.
  8. I made sure to state very early in the story that it was out of period, so that people who felt that made it uninteresting could simply skip it.

I'm sorry you were offended by the story, but we felt it would interest many more people than it offended, and that it was within the spirit of the mission of the site. As of this writing, five people have written to me privately to express their appreciation for this story, while the comment to which I am replying was the only complaint.

As an aside, has a taxonomy system that allows for customized newswires that include or exclude specific topics. If there is sufficient interest, I am willing to install an add-on module that will allow people to (for instance) customize their version of our home page so that they will see only items tagged with certain topics or time periods or geographic tags. If this is of interest, please post here or write to me by email (publisher at SCAtoday dot net).