“Lost” isn’t just a TV show. It’s also a complete, self-contained mythology that taps into the science and technology passions of hardcore nerds. The show overflows with interesting gadgets and gizmos, and with but one episode left, we’ve decided to celebrate our favorites. We created our list from memory, but researched the living bejezzus out of it on Lostpedia , the ultimate depository of “Lost” minutia. And by the way, if you’re interested in owning some of these gadgets, tools and technologies -- all lovingly created by the department of “Lost” prop master Rob Kyker -- you can ready yourself for the auction to be held by Profiles in History this summer. And now, without further ado, our favorite “Lost” tech gear, in order of increasing coolness. (And, if you liked this story, make sure to check out 16 Secret Lost References in Videogames on our partner site, GameRadar.com)
Of all the tech gear pivotal to the series, the radio transceiver is the one we encounter first. Retrieved from the cockpit of Oceanic 815 just moments after the pilot is killed by the Smoke Monster, the transceiver becomes integral to the first few episodes of season one. Sayid tries to jimmy it into a device that can send a distress signal, but instead the Losties receive the 16-year-old distress signal recorded by Rousseau (which roughly translated to “If anybody can hear this, they are dead. Please help us. I'll try to make it to the Black Rock. It killed them. It killed them all”). The actual device is a Rexon RHP-520 Nav Comm Transceiver , which you can have for the low, low price of $249.
Members of Widmore’s mercenary crew -- most notably Naomi Dorritt -- were equipped with satellite phones, which according to “Lost” producer Damon Lindelof, are not affected by the island’s time/space distortion properties. While satellite phone technology is real (and quite badass at that), the phones in the show are props with fake GUIs.
Why create props when real technology exists? Lindelof told Popular Mechanics the following: “We didn't really want to put ourselves in a position where we were literally married to everything that exists technologically. We decided that our satellite phone would be a very modern, high-tech version of it, and created one that we thought was cool… I think that the thinking at the time was, that although these sat phones were built in 2004, that the people who had them had access to the latest technology. So it’s sort of like when you travel to Japan, their cell phones are two years ahead of our cell phones… The technology existed to build a phone like that in 2004, they just weren't readily available in any American market.”
Is it Jin’s watch or Woo-Jung Paik’s watch? That’s open to interpretation, but we can say without equivocation that the watch in question is a two-tone Rolex Daytona in gold and stainless steel. The watch is a self-winding chronometer, features a tachymeter bezel, and currently retails for around $15,000, but can be found for south of $9,000.
The compass: It’s one of mankind’s most rudimentary tools, but also one of its most essential. And in the “Lost” mythology, it bounces around time like a ragdoll. In episodal time, the compass first appears in 1961 when Richard Alpert lays out various items in front of a 5-year-old John Locke, and asks him to identify “which of these things belong to you already .” John correctly claims the compass, but Richard doesn’t yet give it to him. Next, in 1977, Richard does give the compass to John -- but tells him to give it back the next time they see each other. Little did John expect that this next time would be in 1954!
The Swan turntable is integral to perhaps the coolest, most eerie scene in all of “Lost” -- certainly the most cool and eerie season opener. An identified man wakes up to the beeping of a computer command prompt. He enters a few keystrokes into his computer, throws “Make Your Own Kind of Music” by Mama Cass onto his old-school turntable, and then starts his day: a quick workout, a shower, and then an energy shake. But then things get creepy. He injects himself with some unknown fluid. Why? And then an explosion occurs! It knocks the needle off his record with a blaring screech. Next thing we know, this curious man is armed to the hilt, and is using an elaborate system of mirrors to determine who’s trying to penetrate what turns out to be an underground fortress. WTF? This most chilling of scenes is our first introduction to the Dharma Initiative, and it’s the Technics SL-Q3 turntable -- and Mama Cass’s groovy tune -- that set the tone for all the retro technology and hippie flubbery that the Dharma Initiative will reveal itself to stand for.
Like her birth mother, Alexandra Rousseau had a talent for fashioning low-tech, Gilligan’s Island-style weaponry out of random materials lying around the island. While mom armed herself with the big guns (well, crossbows), Alex made do with slingshots, which she used to fire stones at guards watching over Kate and Sawyer.
While working as a hitman for Ben Linus, Sayid is stalked by mercenaries under the employ of Charles Widmore. But their goal isn’t to kill Sayid. They only want to subdue him, so they use tranquilizer pistols: Cap-Chur #1400-C Short Range Projectors armed with Cap-Chur syringes tipped with fluffy cloth tails . Sayid is tranquilized the first time he’s attacked, leaving him unconscious for 42 hours thanks to the equivalent of three does of horse tranquilizer. The second time he’s attacked, he turns the tables on his assailant, a faux nurse who went by the name of “Tony.”
Wielded by the Others with stealth and efficiency, stun darts were used to incapacitate Hurley, Jack, Kate and Sawyer. We never get to see the guns from which the darts were shot, but we do get to see the darts take down the Losties with a high-voltage electrical discharge. Unlike real-world tasers -- which shoot darts that remain connected to their firing devices via wires -- the darts used by the Others seemed to have built-in electricity sources. Baddass technology! But also entirely fictional. As far as we know.
When we first see the film projector, Jack and Locke are using it to watch Swan orientation film number three of six, copyright 1980. Aside from the Dharma logo on its chassis, the projector is pretty much a standard issue Graflex 16mm portable film projector. Want one for yourself? As of press time, there were three days left to win one in this Ebay auction .
Wantonly idealistic, a bit hippy-dippy -- that’s the Dharma Initiative, so of course they used Apple computers. The personal computer located in the Swan Station was actually an amalgam of various Cupertinoian hardware. The machine itself was an Apple II Plus running an Apple III display, and there was also a Disk II 5.25-inch floppy drive attached. The keyboard’s right Shift button was replaced with a button labeled Execute, making it that much easier to save the world after The Numbers had been entered at the Countdown Timer’s 104-minute mark. The Swan station computer was linked to other island hardware, most likely via DharmaTel, a network referenced on the Swan’s blast door map (e.g., “No safe location for DharmaTel servers/hub/cabling or infrastructure”).
Can you remember the first time you saw Benjamin Linus? He was actually ensnared in one of Rousseau’s hanging net traps -- and calling himself Henry Gale. After some chit-chat, Sayid cuts him down, at which point Rousseau nails Ben/Henry in the back with an arrow from her trusty crossbow. The arrow easily breaks the skin on the other side, proving Rousseau’s crossbow an effective weapon despite the fact that it looks like a Gilligan’s Island prop. Seriously, look at it. We doubt it has enough bow tension to take down even a jackrabbit (or an Arzt or a Frogurt). Regardless, a crossbow is a crossbow, and crossbows are cool.
There’s just something so damn cheery about a gleaming, sky blue Dharma van. Though known to most people as the “VW Bus,” Volkswagen’s official name for their multi-passenger vehicle was simply “Type 2.” It was produced from 1967 to 1979. Aside from 8-track tape players and ample supplies of beer, we really don’t know how Dharma “equipped” these vehicles for Initiative-specific deployment. Nonetheless, they were all painted the same color and adorned with the Dharma logo -- you know, so members of other island social groups wouldn’t mistake the vans for public transportation.
When Daniel Faraday first arrived on the island, he conducted a time-travel experiment using a curious collection of hardware – namely, a metal tripod with a digital clock and some type of “beacon” attached to it. He set up this apparatus, and then phoned someone on the freighter Katana to send the “payload,” which we eventually find out is a rocket with a clock attached to it. We surmise that the times on each clock are supposed to match, but they don’t. Instead, there’s a 31 minute, 18 second differential, which Daniel describes as “not good.” But is this because the island has unique time-warping properties, or because Daniel’s beacon isn’t a beacon, but rather a Swann NightHawk Wireless Outdoor security system ?!
How small does a submarine have to be to qualify as “mini”? We’re not sure, but the Galaga -- the sub the Dharma Initiative used to ferry people to and from the island -- doesn’t look much bigger than the fake-o one used in Disneyland’s Submarine Voyage ride. And, indeed, the Galaga isn’t a real sub, but an elaborate prop. The Galaga was blown up before the Losties could commander it for escape off the island, evoking a little bit of Gilligan’s Island nostalgia . Like the Losties, those island castaways hoped a fakey, comically small mini-sub -- the original owner a horribly stereotyped Japanese solider -- would be their ticket back to civilization.
The fruits of research that “Oxford frowns upon,” Daniel Faraday’s energy-zapping apparatus can’t send a physical being forward in time, but it can send forward that being’s consciousness. Faraday demonstrates this by showering his rat Eloise with a shaft of whatever it is that the machine cooks up, and then sends off the rodent to navigate a wooden maze. Eloise completes her test with flying colors -- nice work for a rat that won’t be taught the course until one hour in the future . As Faraday puts it, his machine is designed to “unstick Eloise in time” (an allusion to Billy Pilgrim’s condition in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five ). We’re never really told how Faraday’s machine works, but its settings -- provided by Desmond, a time traveler from the Future himself -- are 2.342 and 11Hz. What this means in the context of “Lost” mythology is anyone’s guess.
Apparently, John Locke didn’t want to be caught ass out with an insufficient supply of knives for his walkabout adventure in Australia, so he bought a Rimowa Tropicana Trolley briefcase, and stocked it with seven blades, each with its own die-cut foam insert. Some folks are into knives, some folks aren’t. But there’s no denying that a really good knife has been engineered to be so -- a synthesis of all that man has learned about physics and metallurgy in a deceptively simple package. From left to right, you’ll find the following knives in Locke’s box of toys:
Sort of like the modern equivalent of a blackjack, a telescopic assault baton is an effective, lightweight impact weapon that offers “unparalleled psychological deterrence” and lacks “sharp edges that can cut assailant or clothing” according to ASP, a baton manufacturer . Ben used his to thrash Sawyer, Keamy, and a Bedouin man who was getting just a bit too grabby.
It’s hard to resist the funky, low-tech efficiency of a pneumatic tube system, whether it’s located in a bank, hospital or the
underground catacombs of New York city
. The Dharma Initiative also had a pneumatic tube system -- most famously employed in the Pearl station -- but it wasn’t just efficient. It was also integral to a wacked-out psychological experiment, and thus stone-cold creepy.
Pearl station “researchers” were ostensibly charged with observing the behavior of hapless rubes who were faithfully pushing a functionless button inside the Swan station -- or so we’re led to believe from the Pearl station orientation video. But, as it turns out, it’s likely the Pearl station researchers were the hapless rubes. They were the ones doing a whole bunch of nothing. The Pearlies were instructed to record Swan station activity in their notebooks, and once a notebook was filled up, there were to deliver it back to the Dharma leadership via the pneumatic tube system. But the system led to nowhere! On the plain of a desolate field, the tube capsules accumulated by the hundreds, like so much landfill. No one picked them up. No one read the experiment notes. So who was observing whom, hmmm?
So let’s get this straight: in the 1970s, a bunch of kumbaya-singing hippies can erect a sonar fence to keep out a cloud of murderous black smoke, but in 2010 our own government can’t find a fix for global warming? Sheesh. The original fence constructed by the Dharma Initiative was a series of pylons that generated a continuous stream of high-intensity sound waves that turned mammalian brains into scrambled eggs, and turned away Smoke Monsters at the gate. We know much less about the “portable” sonic fence that Charles Widmore brought to the island in 2007, but we think it’s available at Amazon.com under the name “High-Frequency Sonar Fence Home Edition.”
The first time we see this technology, it’s positioned horizontally and located deep underneath the Orchid station in an icy vault covered with hieroglyphics. Ben Linus turns the wheel to “move the island,” an action that not only hides the island from mercenaries, but also transmits him
the island and onto a Tunisian desert. We learn little about the wheel, but in an orientation video, Dharma scientist Dr. Edgar Halliwax says the Orchid was “constructed adjacent to a pocket of what we believe to be negatively charged exotic matter,” and was used for time/space experiments.
Now, is the wheel Ben turned the very same one created by the Man in Black and his cohorts many, many, many years earlier? We can’t know for sure. But MIB was working on a very similar-looking wheel during the Classical Roman era, except his wheel was positioned vertically. In so many words, MIB told his adoptive mother that he was going to use the wheel to tap into the island’s “source” and leave the island forever: “It’s a wheel. We’re going to make an opening, one much bigger than this one. And, then I’m going to attach that wheel to a system we’re building. A system that channels the water and the light [of the source]. And then I’m gonna turn it. And when I do, I’ll finally be able to leave this place.”
Same wheel? We think so. And it still could move an island, some 2000 years later. Those ancient peoples really knew how build technology to withstand the test of time <rimshot>.
That Martin Keamy is a crafty one. The leader of Widmore’s mercenary crew attached what he described as a “dead man’s trigger” to his left arm. The gadget monitors the wearer’s heartbeat, and if the heartbeat stops, it trips a built-in radio transmitter to detonate 500 lbs of C-4 explosives in a remote location. We know of no commercially available biometrically based explosive detonators, so kudos to Rob Kyker’s prop department for creating what appears to be a technologically tenable device. We dig how the green/red LEDs indicate the wearer’s vital signs status -- because, you know, one really needs to know when a bomb has gone off in the distance.
The countdown timer is one of the most intriguing pieces of yestertech in the entire “Lost” universe. Located in the Swan station, the timer provided a quick visual reference for whoever was in charge of entering “the numbers” into the Swan station computer. The timer illustrated a 108-minute countdown cycle, and unless someone entered the numbers during the last four minutes of a cycle -- thus discharging a dangerous build-up of electromagnetic energy -- warning bells would sound, and the timer’s black-and-white Arabic numerals would be replaced by some seriously unsettling black-and-red hieroglyphics. The hieroglyphics themselves are intriguing enough, but integrating them into split-flap digital display is the height of awesomeness. Harkening back to the “scientific instrumentation” in the original “Star Trek” series, split-flap displays are almost precocious examples of cutting-edge tech in an era of quaint technological immaturity.
We never really learn the intended purpose of Room 23. Did the Dharma Initiative create it for innocent experiments in subliminal messaging? Or was it a defacto torture chamber used for hardcore sensory overload and brainwashing -- maybe a special area run by the Symbionese Liberation Army wing of the Initiative? We’ll never know for sure, but when we see Karl Martin in Room 23, he’s listening to hardcore industrial dance music and watching a freaky video wearing these bizarre LED-ringed goggles. So let’s review: Drum-and-bass dance music, freaky “art film” video, crazy glow-in-the-dark glasses, all in a venue called “Room 23.” OMG, Karl was attending a rave!
To hell with Crocodile Dundee -- because this is a knife. And it’s a knife that seen a lot of action. Its plotline has spanned from ancient Classical Roman times to 2007, and it’s been under the care of Man In Black, Richard Alpert, Dogen and Sayid. Where it stands now, we do not know (though maybe it will reappear in the final episode?). The dagger is a pugio , and was used as a light sidearm by Roman soldiers. On the side of its sheath is an imprint of the famous Roman she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus.
Any self-respecting technology geek should have a soft spot for architectural miniatures of buildings that haven’t yet been built. They’re sort of like the scenery in model train layouts. They’re cool. So when we saw a teeny-tiny model of the Swan Station’s geodesic dome in the orientation video, we just about lost it. That was in the first episode of season two. The mythology was made complete in season five when we see Dharma’s bad-boy architect Stuart Radzinsky actually constructing the model. What a nerd!
Certainly the most simple, rudimentary technology in all of the “Lost” universe, Ricardo’s nail speaks to the primitiveness and desperation of Richard Alpert’s earliest incarnation, circa 1867. Shackled inside the Black Rock’s hold, Ricardo pries a nail from a floorboard, and uses it to scrape away at the wood into which his chains are anchored. It’s a pathetic situation for a pathetic man -- so only the most pathetic of tools will do. And just when the scene can’t get any more pathetic, a wild boar knocks Ricardo’s only chance for escape out of his hands. Now that’s pathetic.
Housed inside the Lamp Post -- the Dharma Initiative’s very first research station, located somewhere underground in Los Angeles -- this massive pendulum swings above a map of the Earth, and is used to determine where the island will be at various points in time. As Eloise Hawking lectures her class of junior quantum physicists, the pendulum swings above “a unique pocket of electromagnetic energy,” and was created by a “clever fellow” who posited Dharma should “stop looking for where the island was supposed to be,” but rather where “it was going to be.” She also tells the Losties that they need to be aboard Ajira Flight 316 in order to return to the island. Strangely, she doesn’t provide a contingency plan in the event the flight is delayed.
Of all the mythology-based tools in the show, the mirrors-compass apparatus is one of the largest and most elaborately designed. Want to spy on someone in a different time and dimension? Then just line up the correct coordinates -- every degree on the 360-degree “compass rose” corresponds with a potential candidate -- and then look in the mirrors for your peep show. It’s an incredible piece technology, and we still can’t forgive Jack for breaking those damn mirrors. (It’s not like the rest of the Losties -- or some curious scientist -- would ever want to check it out themselves, right?) Bottom line: The lighthouse mirrors system is large, imposing, and fascinating. It’s a cunning merger of engineering, science and mythology. Who built it? How does it really work? How does it harness the island’s unique physical properties -- or does its power go beyond the island? Quite simply, it’s the coolest piece of human (or superhuman) ingenuity on “Lost.”
Related Link: 16 Secret Lost References in Videogames