Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum share a passion for Victorian high design but also enjoy all that modern technology has to offer. Happily both needs have been met by applying some Steampunk design principles to authentic or reproduction period furniture and appliances. The latest in an impressive line of projects to be completed by the couple has merged a reclaimed pipe organ with modern computer technology to produce the utterly gorgeous Victorian Organ Command Desk.
For the Command Desk, Bruce Rosenbaum took three ACER brand flatscreen monitors, surrounded them with decorative copper-colored framing and mounted them on the furniture frame using a specially designed support fashioned from thick copper tubing. The larger 23in display is flanked on either side by two 15in models tipped from landscape to portrait orientation and the ATI Radeon HD3300 and HD3400 graphics processors spread the desktop image across all three via VGA display ports.
The custom-built computer inside the Command Desk is powered by a 3GHz AMD Phenom II X4 945 processor, supported by 3GB RAM and has a terabyte of HDD storage. There's a slot-loading optical DVD/RW drive in the burl walnut dash to the right which is situated below four USB 2.0 ports and a card reader. Other USB ports inside the Desk connect to various peripherals including a keyboard and laser mouse, iPhone dock, scanner and printer.
Also seated in the dash are six LCD mini-displays to the left and right of the antique clock face which were stripped from digital photo frames, are powered by USB and offer the viewer a series of family snap-shots. The switches on the front are fully functional, the toggle switches control the lighting zones and the two-button light switch on the left is the power button for the computer, wired in a chain so both buttons must be depressed to complete the circuit and turn the computer on or off.
A Logitech keyboard was volunteered for sacrifice to provide the guts for the custom-made classic typewriter keyboard. To this was added solid glass keys from three different sets of original antique Royal early 1900s typewriters and hand made brass Esc key, F keys, arrows and number keys. Recycled copper rails sit at the top and bottom and to these are welded bent steel brackets. The base of the keyboard is decked out in a high quality polyurethane-based leather alternative. A panel underneath the keyboard, which can be pushed back into the body of Desk, conceals an Epson Perfection V300 Scanner.
Above the center monitor, attached to the support structure is a webcam fashioned from an antique Brownie box camera. The innards come courtesy of Microsoft's LifeCam Cinema 720p HD model. Also attached to the support but to either side of the Desk are two antique kerosene carriage/buggy lights converted to electric and containing flicker bulbs. To the side of these are some attractive reproduction cygnet horns with built-in speakers, connected to the computer's onboard audio. Modifications to the side of the Desk allow for a Samsung CLP-310 printer to be concealed within, with side openings for paper carriage and output tray.
Rounding off the technical specifications for the computer and peripherals is a fairly standard wireless laser mouse, this input device will be the next to receive the artificial aging Steampunk treatment. Until then, a replica of Rod Taylor's Time Machine from the 1960 film of the same name stands in for photo opportunities and when visitors call. Finally, there's gigabit ethernet and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate edition.
Behind the desk are, of course, the organ pipes. These were salvaged from a now demolished church and are the non-functioning fancy show pipes that often decorated chapel organs of the period while the actual working pipes were hidden from view. The more observant will probably note that the Rosenbaum's have "turned them upside down because they looked more like ‘steam pipes’ and the interesting narrow end with the hole was more visible above the desk."
Bruce Rosenbaum told Gizmag that the Desk is just the latest in a series of modified and modernized antique appliances and furnishing to find a home in their restored Victorian house on Pleasant Street in Sharon, Massachusetts: "My wife and I started to restore and modernize our own Victorian/Craftsman 1901 home about 10 years ago and wanted to create a Victorian aesthetic, but also have all the modern conveniences of today. We started with our kitchen and enjoyed the process so much, we started ModVic in 2007 and have been Steampunking or ModVic-ing ever since. My wife was crazy enough to let me go crazy with the latest innovation – our Victorian Organ Command Desk."
Impressed Gizmag readers thinking of taking on such a modernization and conversion project for themselves might expect to pay anything "in the range of US$5,000 - US$30,000. It could even go higher depending on the computer, sound system and electronics going into the desk." You might also need to budget for furniture restoration and computer/electrical hardware specialists too.
For more information about, and lots of photos of, the Rosenbaum's Steampunk or modernized Victorian projects or for details of how to visit the house, visit the ModVic website.
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