Here's a collection of mini-hacks I've been collecting for a while. The theme: vacuum tubes.
Q: Alec, why are vacuum tubes awesome?
A: Get out. I refuse to answer stupid questions.
Exhibit 1: Vacuum Tube Nightlight
This is a pretty simple one. Vacuum tubes are basically light bulbs with a bunch of extra junk inside; they aren't designed to throw light but they do glow nicely. If you drive them at a higher voltage than they're designed for, they'll glow more brightly.
This is a 6V tube, driven at 12V, mounted directly to a slightly modified wall wart (read: warranty brutally voided with a drill). A little cosmetic work, an Automatic Turquoise International logo, and it's a handy night light.
Exhibit 2: Vacuum Tube Candle
Similar, but different.
The esthetics of this particular tube came out really nicely -- a flame-like glow with a low light.
Exhibit 3: Vacuum Tube Memory Key
This one is kind of a technological joke, accomplished thanks to the gentle application of a Dremel diamond cut-off blade and some dead-bug magic.
This is a working USB memory key mounted inside a vacuum tube like a ship in a bottle. If you take the plastic shell off a USB memory key you'll see a little sliver of circuit board with a few semiconductors mounted on it -- that's what I mounted inside the tube.
A semiconductor like a flash memory is basically a tremendous number of switching elements -- transistors -- packed into a tiny space at incredible density. Before semiconductors were invented, vacuum tubes were their predecessors. This is why the first computers were so enormous and power-hungry. Hence the joke: packing millions of switches inside the carcass of one. And I kind of thought the internals looked similar too.
Not pictured: the USB jack at the other end. (I mounted it onto a hobbyist-style wood block, but can't find a photo of that at the moment.)