At a garage sale in March 2009, I spied an old piece of lab equipment for sale with the word "Quantumeter" written across the front. I had no idea what it was, or if it worked, but the $10 asking price seemed reasonable for a device that looked like it fell off the back of a time machine.
After getting the Quantumeter back home, some online research turned up a vague explanation of its origins as a pseudo-scientific piece of medical equipment, used to administer low voltages of electricity to sick patients in the first half of the 20th century. As awesome as it sounds to own a vintage electro-therapy machine, in practical terms, it was actually a bit disappointing. For a device that could have been Ben Franklin's lost extra-terrestrial communicator, the Quantumeter was just a piece of turn-of-the-century hokum.
If it hadn't had such an awesome name, I might have been content to give the Quantumeter a cozy place in the attic until "Antiques Roadshow" rolled into town. Instead, I did the only thing any self-respecting geek with some soldering iron skills would do: I turned the Quantumeter into the kind of bizarre gadget it deserved to be.
Using a $70 kit from Bleep Labs (the ThingamaKIT), my father in-law's garage, and some patience from my wife, I was able to turn the Quantumeter into a blinking, bleeping, tentacled mess of nerd fun.