Unsung but Essential Icons

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As I control the creative direction of Aestheticons I choose what’s featured. Largely that means that I chose aspirational gems. However, instead of looking up in awe and appreciation we need to consider the more mundane.

The items featured in this piece are neither glamorous, alluring – unless you are into the really weird – nor really do anything in excess of their primary function. At that, they are superlative and without them elements of our busy lives would be a struggle. They are Unsung – not enjoying massive Instagram accounts with millions of adoring followers – but Essential Icons.

Cable ties

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I defy anyone who derives the smallest amount of pleasure from tending a garden, to fix a plant to a trellace or a bamboo cane or a brush screening to a gate without the use of a cable tie. Not only can this devilishly small but wonder strips of plastic fixing be a the gardener’s friend, they, with equal competence, support the work of electrician, plumbers and builders and many others in thousands of conceived and yet to be conceived ways.

Known as originally as Ty-Rap, cable ties were first invented, primarily to secure airplane wiring into the bulkhead, in 1958 by US based electrical business Thomas & Betts and more particularly their employee, Maurus C. Logan. Mr Logan developed into production the idea he’d conceived of aboard a Boeing during construction. The Patent was submitted on 24th June 1958.

Why not add to your tool drawer with this Amtech selection of 500 cable ties? Click the AMAZON link below the image

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Amtech S0680 Assorted Cable Tie, 500-Piece

WD40

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As our readers know I Like to cycle but over the winter months my bike has a tendency to be a little neglected and exposed to the elements. When the cooler seasons have done their worst on my waistline the time is right to look for the foot pump and adaptor and get some air into those bike tyres. The tyres are only half the battle. The gears, brakes and chain scream out for the TLC that can only be lavished on them by WD40 the spray delivered a light penetrating, protecting and lubricating oil.

As the saying goes a “Sucess has many Fathers” and there appears to be some controversy as to originator of WD-40. It seems that the formula of WD-40 was developed in 1953 by The Rocket Chemical Company in San Diego, California and first produced in commercially available quantities in 1958. The contributions – depending on sources – of a Iver Norman Lawson and a Norman Larson (President of Rocket) are named as the “inventor” of the formula with the name WD-40 seemingly stemming from the expression “Water Displacement  40th Formula” – suggesting there may have been a 39th, 38th and so on versions of the formula.

It may be that Lawson invented the low viscosity formula – still a trade secret but still has the original and distinctive smell – and sold it to Rocket where Larson had the bright idea of putting it into aerosol cans. It arrived in the UK in the late 1960’s.

For those many jobs around the home or office for which only WD-40 will do, why not pick up a can or two by clicking the AMAZON link below the image?

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3 x WD-40 Smart Straw Aerosol 420ml Penetrant, Lubricant, Releasant Oil / Stops squeaks / Cleans and protects / Loosens rusted parts / Frees sticky mechanisms

Paper Clips

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As a lawyer I am very pro the paper-less office, technology can teach us loads about sensible digital storage and retrieval. In parking our fears and posting to the Cloud we make a statement that’s more about efficiency and less about tree hugging.

For years we relied on the trust paper clip to secure our files, ensure correct attachments to letters and avoid inevitable embarrassment on a windy day. Called a “Trombone” in French, a literal use that I find very appealing, the simple paper clip does exactly what the tin says.

History tells us that in the US on April 23rd 1867 Samuel B. Fay successfully obtained the first Patent for a bent wire paper clip. On November 7th 1899 William D Middlebrook obtained a Patent for a paper clip making machine that produced an item – made popular as the “Gem Paper Clip” which went on sale in the UK in the 1870’s – and are similar to those sold today. The name Gem – trademarked in the US by Cushman and Denison in 1904 – became known Worldwide and in Sweden, I am told, that the word for paper clip is “Gem”.

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No desk is complete without a selection of plastic coated paper clips – please click the AMAZON link below the image to get yours.

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Zealor Paper Clips with Assorted Colors and Sizes (28 mm, 50 mm, 100 mm)

Image Credits – with grateful thanks – http://www.officemuseum.com, Zealor and the WD-40 Company Inc.

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Porsche 959 Paris – Dakar

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Occassionally, with some smugness, you think you know everything about a preferred iconic item or product. Well, at the Grand Prix at Silverstone I was talking to a colleague who reminded me of the Porsche 959 that was made race ready for the 1980’s infamous Paris-Dakar Rally.

As we age there may come a point where crawling into and, more appropriately, out of a low slung sports car becomes a regrettable chore. Such is this case. A passionate 911 owner with a distinguished military history that has left his body a bit battered found his beloved 911 just too low and therefor unmanageable for daily use. However, the 959 with its revised and heightened suspension – the height of today’s SUVs – built for the inhospitable terrain not of the “Autoroute du Soleil” – the A6 South of Paris – but more for the sands of the Sahara, is perhaps the perfect compromise. Some height but still a 911. No, in this case a Cayenne will simply not fill the gap.

The Porsche 959, the brainchild of Porsche’s Chief Engineer in 1981, Helmuth Bott, was manufactured between 1986 and 1993. Initially as a Group B rally car – featuring all wheel drive that later became standard on all Porsche’s turbocharged versions, aluminum and Kevlar – it became the fastest street legal production car with a top speed depending on variant of between 197 and 211 mph.

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The 959 was unveiled at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show and produced at Porsche’s Baur custom facility and not at their usual Zuffenhausen plant. The road version was shown at the same show in 1985 with first deliveries in 1987 at a cost of $225,000 – which is said to be less than half the actual build cost. 345 cars in total were produced including eight produced from spare parts at Zuffenhausen between 1992/3.

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In 1984, in response to encouragement from the Belgian Formula 1 ace, Jackie Icks and and in compliance with the FIA Rules, requiring that Group B rally cars needed to be based on a production car that had been produced in more than 200 examples, a total of six – only five surviving – 911s were modified to 959 specifications. Three were used in the grueling 1985, 8,700 mile, Paris Dakar Rally – driven by Rene Metge and Dominque Lemoyne – with limited success. A 1986 variant used at Le Mans finished first in its class.

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The Paris-Dakar (Senegal) Rally – now called “The Dakar” – ran between 1979 to 2007 and in 2009 it moved to South America. It continues to be open to cars, quads, truck and motor bikes.

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The 959 is a key link to later versions of the turbocharged 911s and one of these Porsche legends can be seen in the Porsche Museum.

If you’d like to own one of the rarest and most desirable Porsche’s ever built then you have a shot. In October (27th) this year RM Sotherby’s are hosting a Porsche 70th Anniversary Sale in Atlanta (Georgia). The centre piece of this sale is a Porsche 959 Group B Rally car decked out in its Rothman’s livery. Predictions suggest that the sales price for this once in a lifetime opportunity will be between $3m and $3.4m

If for some inexplicable reason you feel that the currently available 959 is a tad out of your price range, I have an essential man/woman cave scaled-down addition – please click the following Amazon link below the image.

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Dickie-Schuco 413310006 – True 185 1986 1: 18 Scale Porsche 959/50 Dakar Rally Raid, Resin, White/Blue/Red Hmans Motif

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Images – with grateful thnaks – courtesy of Robin Adams and RM Sotheby’s

Filofax, Stabilo Boss and Post-it Notes

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I was at our son’s school’s Speech Day and the Head of KS5 – what we used to call the Sixth Form – was addressing 26 Year 13 pupils in celebration of their graduation. All 18 to 19 year old boys and girls.

Two of the girls were referred to as having “particularly severe highlighter addictions”. No, they weren’t prone to slope off for a chemical hit behind the Bike Shed – unlikely to still exists at a school where behind “the virtual reality white board” or “elaborate holographic image” is more likely – but I digress. He wasn’t inferring any noxious ingestion, but to the over use of Stabilo Boss highlighter pens invented by a member of a Bavarian pencil dynasty, Günter Schwanhäußer.

We will all recognize the Day-Glo coloured inks used by Stabilo Boss for highlighting text in books, plays and other literature. It seems that these pupils’ use has progressed to the almost clinical.

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This got me thinking. These student are barely Millennials yet they are using – some apparently to excess – a technology that has been around since 1971, with the original yellow Stabilo Boss, the world’s best selling highlighter. They are continuing to use this aging tech, but why? Primarily because as it promises, as per the Ronseal advertisement “It does what it says on the tin”!

I have been discussing with my eldest daughter, now 23, that there seems little sense in discarding technology simply because it has been superseded by something newer – see our previous post on the Braun Calculator Braun Calculator – which in essence may not be better but just newer. We agreed that there were many good reasons to continue to use a favored product, if it delivers the required function. It may also be wise to revisit those products that have served well over the years but may have got slightly left behind by the enrapture of the new.

This got me thinking about those products that perform brilliantly, without unnecessary song or dance – and deserve re-discovery. Filofax is one such item.

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For all of its pejorative connotations with the now uncool 1980’s Yuppie Culture (you may need to explain that to our younger readers) I still have one and use it regularly. A friend has recently adopted a family version in green and based I her kitchen to record “troop movements” in her weekly agenda. I really enjoy its versatility and purpose.

I know a Filofax is not at the leading edge of new tech. You can download a business card smart reader App to populate the contact fields on your I-Phone and most Filofax’s don’t give you an electronic reminder prior to your meeting. Naturally without a digital search function you need to engage your brain to remember where you have scribbled a note or phone number. A Filofax this is an enduring and stylish way to maintain your data – and also probably doesn’t need to be GDPR compliant!

Products from the LeFax business founded in Philadelphia by JC Parker in 1910, by 1921 were imported into the UK by London printer Norman & Hill. In the mid- 1980’s the company changed its name to “Filofax”. The popularity of the Filofax was phenomenal but a fad. The Letts Filofax Group in 2012, after several corporate takeovers, was acquired by HSGP Investments.

For me the coincidence of two technologies, the Filofax and the Post-it, are inextricable.

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At a certain point in the 1990’s an optional extra to the Filofax range was a dispenser for various sized “Post-it” notes adding definition and colour to the reminder flags that were stuck to your Filofax entires. A product of such amazing simplicity, again its long term reliability is akin to staple or the paper clip. I challenge anyone not to see the practical sense in using the brightly coloured notes as a powerful aide memoire.

If you have had any experience of signing of legal documents there has evolved a short hand that a “Post-it” flag indicates, without any end for direction from your advisors, where you signature is needed. Again, we have an indelible reliance on a product launched in the late 1970’s.

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3M had a patent until 1997 under the “Post-it” brand. They were originally small yellow squares of re-adherable, removable and temporary small notes. The name “Post-it” and the yellow colour remain 3M trademarks. The late 1960’s research of a Dr Spencer Silver and his colleague Art Fry resulted in the launch of the “Post-It” product in 1979. A litigious claim settled in 1998 appears to have acceded to the role of inventor Alan Aaron in the development of the “Post-it” with the 1974 disclosure to 3M of his “Press-on” memo sticky note invention.

Add to your collection of reliable – unpowered and analogue – well designed business and social tools by clicking the following Amazon links – appearing below the image.

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Stabilo Boss Highlighters Original Colours + Pastel Shades Complete Set 15

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Filofax The Original Personal Organiser – Red

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Filofax Personal Nappa Leather Zipped Organiser – Black

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Post-it 3M 654-TFEN Notes, 76 x 76 mm – Energetic Colours, 6 Pads (100 Sheets Per Pad)

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Image credits – with grateful thanks – Filofax, 3M and Schwann – Stabilo Boss.

Braun Calculator

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Sometimes it’s not about doing the different but its about doing the similar only looking and functioning better.

I recently received a birthday gift from a very old friend, a Limited Edition white Braun Calculator. My pal has particularly good taste – obviously other than his clearly suspect taste in friends – and I know that he has championed, amongst other products, these perfect, stylish and durable calculators for years.

A little like the argument about why do you need a camera or a calculator when you have an IPhone? Surely they cover the same bases. Yes but no. Admittedly, you may need more than pockets or even a brief case to carry your choice of camera, calculator, Filofax – which, mark my words is about to see a resurgence supported by ‘back to basics’ and ‘digital detoxing’ Millennials – wallet, alarm clock and phone but there is something fun and creative in developing your portfolio of preferred items and relishing their use for their specialized task.

You are probably saying, Braun, don’t they make shavers, depilatory trimmers and hairstyling tools – and you’d be right. Originally, only available in black the iconic ET44 and ET66 Braun Calculator (the latter has an additional and very useful slide on protective cover) were collaboratively designed by Dietrich Lubs and Dieter Rams in 1977 and 1987, respectively.

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Dieter Rams, joined Braun in 1955, a German business originally founded by Engineer, Max Braun, who made radio sets in Frankfurt in 1921, and it comprises a beautiful and practical example of Rams’ lean design philosophy “weniger, aber besser” – literally “less, but better”. It is said that early Apple designers – Rams is known to have been a huge influence on Apple’s chief designer, Jonathan Ives – were so influenced by the look of the ET44 that the original IPhone calculator app, down to the yellow “equals” button, and the early incarnations of the IPod bore striking resemblances to the Lubs/Rams designs, including the ET44.

The ET44 and ET66 are not Rams and Lubs’ only iconic collaboration for Braun. From 1971, we also have the the charming and hugely tactile AB1A travel alarm clock, another exceptional example of function, great design and adherence to Rams’ simple design mantra. It’s almost a pleasure to wake up to its shrill chirrup!

If you’d like to add these beautiful, highly practical and iconic objects to your personal collection please click the AMAZON link below the image in the following gallery.

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Braun Calculator – White

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Braun Calculator – Black

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Braun Classic Square Travel Alarm Clock BNC002WHWH – White

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Braun Classic Square Travel Alarm Clock BNC002BK – Black

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Image credits – with grateful thanks – Braun AG and Zeon Ltd.