Sony goes steampunk with gaming laptop
An artist designed the removable steampunk case for the gaming laptop. The computer keyboard also was steampunk'd.
January 10th, 2012
10:50 AM ET

Sony goes steampunk with gaming laptop

What happens when you combine a laptop nicknamed The Beast with a subculture that is sweeping across the nation like a maelstrom? Sony has been steampunk’d, and the company asked for it.

Marrying modern technology with an elegant Victorian aesthetic is what steampunk is all about. So when social commerce specialist Reena Leone, a relative newcomer to Sony, decided to spruce up her geeky workstation with another subculture twist, steampunk seemed liked the perfect solution.

But she didn’t want to just “glue some gears on it and call it steampunk,” as the viral video goes. Leone needed a fully functioning VAIO F laptop she could use for work, with steampunk incorporated in the casing, utilities and desktop. The finished product, featured in a video from Sony on its Web show, "SGNL," has been making the Web rounds.

More than a few people want to swipe that steampunk laptop right out from under Leone, but she’s only willing to let it travel to cons and shows for now - no house calls allowed.

CNN Geek Out chatted (and yes, geeked out) with Leone for a few moments about her new steampunk laptop, and talked about if Sony is really considering more subculture mash-ups in the future.

CNN Geek Out: How did you come up with the idea of the steampunk laptop?

Reena Leone: I’m online a lot, and I’ve really tapped into the geek community. One of the main steampunk artists, Datamancer, had done a steampunk laptop prototype a while back, and there was an announcement over the summer that he was going to start producing them and people could order them and have their own. I had just started working here around that time, and I actually have a VAIO F.

So I was like, "you know it would be really cool if I actually had a steampunk laptop to go with my geeky desk setup I have here." And we have this online show called "SGNL," so I came up with the idea, pitched it, and they gave me the green light to go find someone to do it. I did try to get Datamancer to do it first, but he was slammed with his own line, so I jumped on Etsy to see if I could find an artist who could take on the project, and that’s how I found John Dunn.

CNN Geek Out: Why the VAIO F?

Leone: This is our largest laptop model, so there is more space to work with and more ability to put gears and copper and wood and things on it, so it has more surface area. It’s our super gaming laptop. A lot of people refer to it as The Beast, myself included. It’s quite a powerhouse. When I approached him about doing the project, he went to the Sony store and checked out the laptop first before agreeing to it to see if it would work. And the flat surfaces that this laptop has made it easier for him to attach things, and then he found out the keyboard was backlit, and he had been meaning to try out this idea for translucent keys, so he was really excited about that, too.

CNN Geek Out: Have you seen steampunk incarnations of other tech products?

Leone: Yes, there’s actually quite a community. Even the artist that we used usually does cases for tablets and iPods. A lot of people have also been doing cradles and chargers so they can attach an iPod or MP3 into it, and it has a steampunk feel for the smaller devices that don’t have as much surface area to play with. I go to Comic-Con every year, being here in San Diego, and there is always a variety of crazy steampunk gadgets.

CNN Geek Out: What kind of response have you received since you put out the video featuring the laptop?

Leone: It’s been overwhelmingly positive. I’m actually pretty psyched about it. I know it’s a subculture, but I wasn’t entirely sure how well it would translate originally to the group in general, which is very tech-savvy and gadget-focused. A lot of people have asked if it’s for sale. No, it’s mine! I get to keep this one.

There has been a lot of talk about the widgets from the video, and I got in touch with Dean Beedell, who made them - they’re free Yahoo widgets. He’s been interacting with the community, too, and people have been downloading those. So it’s an easier way, and it doesn’t void your warranty to have that steampunk feel on your own computer.

CNN Geek Out: What did the folks at Sony think about steampunk and modern tech together?

Leone: They thought it was pretty cool. I think they took a leap of faith with me a little bit, just because a lot of time and effort goes into the design of our laptops, so it takes a little convincing when you’re going to alter something that took so much time and thought.

Other than the keyboard itself, the top part comes off. It was only the keyboard that was truly modified. The laptop is fully functional! The keyboard totally works, everything functions the same as the standard VAIO F. I showed them a bunch of examples that helped, and I think they took it on my geek advice that this would be a cool thing to do.

There really wasn’t much hesitation in letting me do the project. I think that’s because being an electronics/tech company, there is definitely an innovative spirit here. I’m lucky to be around a lot of creative people so when I pitch sort of out-of-the box ideas, there is a lot of support, which is great since I’m still kind of the new kid on the block.

CNN Geek Out: Are you planning any other steampunk technology mash-ups in the future?

Leone: We’re talking about it, and it’s definitely a possibility. We might do something with it in 2012. the laptop has traveled to CES, so it’s on vacation right now. That laptop will probably make the rounds, and then we can talk about doing things with other products.

We love old and new. We like to have a sense of history anyway, so doing something like this really fits in.

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    March 15, 2012 at 2:36 am |
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  7. Thannak

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    Fallout series for the win.

    February 5, 2012 at 3:38 am |
  8. Jalen

    That rocks!

    February 4, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  9. ann west

    me want!!!😍

    January 27, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  10. BlueDestiny

    SORRY Sony – but with 3 home theaters and projection rigs, 4 computer workstation locations and one of which is 5 rigs and screens in one combined gaming station that looks like Darth Vader's command pod, you can rest assured that I have not, and will not, buy any Sony products since the horrific destruction of SWG that impacted and devestated hundreds of thousands of Star Wars fans, and your recalcitrant position, only admitting to your blunders years later, and never correcting them. Never again, Sony. Never again.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  11. Spurrior

    Not a huge pc gamer, but can't deny, really want this laptop.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  12. jmaxx30

    This is a steampunked laptop:

    http://www.datamancer.net/steampunklaptop/steampunklaptop.htm

    The one above doesn't even compare.

    January 17, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • NAW

      Oddly enough it is by the same people. Check the link in the answer to the first question. Goes to that website and talks about that laptop.

      January 17, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  13. Ties & Gearwheels

    [...] Steampunk findet längst nicht mehr nur auf Cons und Buchcovern statt. Jetzt hat Sony ein Steampunk-Notebook vorgestellt...

    January 16, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  14. Ties & Gearwheels

    [...] Steampunk findet längst nicht mehr nur auf Cons und Buchcovern statt. Jetzt hat Sony ein Steampunk-Notebook vorgestellt ...

    January 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  15. ix

    I like the 3 plates that you stick copper tube through when piping sinks to hold the hot and cold lines in place when stubbing out through the wall.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  16. Bill

    All this talk about what laptop they used, but only ONE lousy picture of it? What gives??

    January 11, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • Rob W

      This trend is as ugly as dog vomit and completely retarded.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:57 am |
      • Jeff

        Really? Just because you don't like it doesn't mean other folks can't enjoy it. Grow up.

        January 13, 2012 at 7:57 am |
      • Tripp

        Oh Rob, what do you know? Obviously nothing. I happen to love the Steampunk look and have been following it for 15 years. It looks like it was built with 1880's tech. Very cool.

        January 13, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  17. JeffinIL

    I am preparing to Steampunk an old monitor as my first project. I'll be duly embarassed if it turns out as poorly as what is pictured here.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Gilgamesh Wulfenbach

      Go for understated elegance instead of pipes and dials.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  18. M'aiq

    What?! This article is still here?! Take this poor representation of steampunk DOWN!

    Kitchen cabinet with crap on it. AWESOME!! How about more pics or ....uh oh, a VIDEO?

    January 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Sarah L.

      Apparently, the editor/writer of this article is thoroughly unqualified to cover this style.

      January 10, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • John MM

      I second that request!!!!

      January 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  19. SilentBoy741

    Meh, it's just some wood and non-functional tubing attached to the case. To really qualify, it needs to have something more functional, like a set of ratcheting gears that opens the lid when you press a lever, or analog gauges that indicate processer, speed RAM utilization, or disk access.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • SilentBoy741

      Oops, malfunctioning punctuator and spellotron *should* have typed "processor speed, RAM utilization, or disk access".

      January 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Getting rid of all the non-functional c rap and sticking to straightforward period-specific design would have worked a lot better. A simple mahogany case, with joining where joining needs to be and possibly brass in high-wear, high-stress spots would have been significantly more successful. One thing often overlooked about Victorian era engineering design is how extremely minimalist it can be.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:30 am |
  20. SixDegrees

    Despite the claim that he didn't just glue some gears on it, it looks like something he just glued some gears on. It's all pointless decoration that serves no actual purpose, and doesn't even hint at one.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  21. M'aiq

    All the great steampunk stuff in the world and this JUNK makes the cut. Come on.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • John MM

      This is the type of pitiful craft-work that would give any genre a bad name. It's true that this feature writer knows nothing about Steampunk, regardless if she considered the Sony connection a genuine news article. How pathetic!

      January 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Bubba

      But it's giving us an opportunity to educate people, so it can't be all bad. Publish and be damned, just spell my name right.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
      • John MM

        I'm forced to disagree, as readers see this post and assume that all Steampunk design is as awful as this picture.

        This does a great disservice to a burgeoning and exciting new style.

        January 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Alamgeer

      From personal eaierpxnce I would recommend agaisnt Dell or HP. My HP laptop did the thing we all joke about, break the day after the waaenty ran out *which was just after christmas) and all 3 of my freinds with Dells have come to me asking about problems. 1 of them has had his screen fall off and another has no keyboard!Anyway, I would say Sony are the best, they can be expensive but they are well worth the extra money if you want to use it alot. If you have got the money (and dont mind the compatability issues) Id go for a Apple Mac, although I understand they can be inpractical and expensive, they are extremmly good.Hope this helps

      March 5, 2012 at 2:34 am |
  22. Sarah L.

    In his work, Dunn has simply copied all of the great Steampunk artists of the last seven years..... and he did it really, really poorly! Shame on him and Sony and for CNN for covering such a copy cat.

    January 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  23. Elliot Burns

    I regret to say that I would like to have seen it rendered with quite a bit more finesse and a better design sensibility.

    From the amateur wood finish to the hodge podge of hardware store items, it's poorly designed and assembled and NOT AT ALL representative of great Steampunk design.

    January 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  24. svann

    Who wants a bigger laptop? Laptops gotta be lighter not bigger.

    January 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Bubba

      They are pretending that it runs on steam, or springs, or phlogiston instead of using electricity, as if the technology came from the 1800s. Completely the opposite of 'no moving parts.' Remember, this is not actually serious. And yeah, I've seen better stuff.

      January 10, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
      • SilentBoy741

        The fact that CNN /quote "geeked out" over it /endquote indicates the level of savvy and awareness that they [don't] have for the subject matter.

        January 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  25. Richard Nixon

    did anyone see the video? he just glued birchwood veneer and typewriter keys on the damn thing. hardly a build.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Elliot Burns

      Agreed.

      January 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • SherwoodOR

      No, it's not a "build." It's a manufactured product sold at an agressive price-point.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  26. Hammertime

    "Posted by Ashley Strickland", Well Ashley.......... /slap, from 4chan!

    January 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  27. Hammertime

    Heres a new subculture thats "sweeping" the nation................. Its MASTURBATlON!

    January 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • emaho4444

      Hammer: Agreed; and the "M" that's sweeping us all into the dust bin is, for the silly, stupid, dumbed-down and irrelevant ones, all a "mental" exercise. Geek Out...Freek Out.....Duh??? Why not seek out the Wizard behind the curtain that the "Blue Pillers" DO NOT want you to see. Man...It's, like...like...like...like...just too much effort, man...like...man? Steampunk is nothing but a big "Blue Pill". A needless...but necessary...diversion to keep punkers from focusing on the really important things going in the world they can't even imagine!!!!! Best news is, I guess, Steampunk is a big seller on internet auction sites. So I hear.

      January 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
      • Gilgamesh Wulfenbach

        Steampunk creates jobs, and should have a huge tax exemption so it can create more. In fact, if this isn't done soon, I'll write my name on the Moon with a giant laser.

        January 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  28. God

    Even I can see that this article is completely moronic in every possible way. We are all dumber for having read this idiotic and pointless story.

    A subculture sweeping the nation? Just shut up. Shut up and never write another story again. Please. You make my baby son cry.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Mephistophilis

      He's not your son. Check the DNA, sucker.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
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  29. Hammertime

    more like a steamyturd...............

    January 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  30. GRS62

    "...a subculture that is sweeping across the nation like a maelstrom". Seriously? While the author may live in this sub-culture, this is only the second time I've read about Steampunk. The first being another article on CNN a couple months ago. No featured stories in the news, no Magazine covers, not talk among friends/co-workers, just these two articles.
    Not to take away from Steampunk and it's enthusiasts, but please keep exaggerated statements like that out of future articles unless you have facts to back them up.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Bubba

      Subculture is inaccurate. It's a literary genre that has spread out into movies like the current 'Sherlock Holmes' and into graphic novels like GirlGenius, and inspired artists and musicians. Jim Blaylock was one of the first novelists to use it, and hundreds have followed his lead. I think K. W. Jeter coined the term, punning on William Gibson's 'cyberpunk.' Gibson and Sterling wrote THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE in 1990; it depicted Babbage's adding machine evolving into a mechanical computer with celluloid punch cards and changing the entire world in the Steam Age. Something is happening here but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

      January 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
      • RJKL

        Bubba, Steampunk started as a literary genre, but can now be found in fashion, music, artistry, and movies, as well as literature. There are huge gatherings (see WA, MI, and PA), organized local events, and regional groups all over the world who hold everything from afternoon tea to sideshow and burlesque performances. There are even Steampunk bookstores/coffee shops now, as well as restaurants and bars catering to the Steampunk, Dieselpunk, and Clockpunk crowds, and indie record groups (I could name about a dozen Steampunk bands off of the top of my head). Adherents dress in a neo-Victorian influence almost all of the time, some even to their day jobs (guilty as charged). I'm not sure what your definition of "subculture" is, but Steampunk definitely fits mine.

        By the time a "subculture" (whether you think that's what it is or not) has made it's way into mainstream movies, it's already well established, GRS62, especially in this day and age. Nothing is made anymore without a pre-tested market.

        January 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
      • Waffle Follower

        You = Moron. I hope you die.

        January 11, 2012 at 11:35 am |
      • Bubba

        "You = Moron. I hope you die." But we won't. Did a literate person do your sister or something? Why all the childish resentment?

        January 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
      • Gilgamesh Wulfenbach

        "Did a literate person do your sister or something? Why all the childish resentment?"
        Obviously a mad scientist has turned his brain into a waffle and released him to wreak havoc upon the world. Pity the poor victim of Steampunk Subculture, and give to the Society to prevent Science-Related Memetic Disorders.

        January 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Leaf on the Wind

      GRS62, Steampunk enthusiasts are just that: enthusiastic. And therefore prone to exaggeration. In the pop culture world, Steampunk is indeed a sweeping phenomenon.

      Bubba, it is much more than a literary genre. It truly is a subculture. Steampunk enthusiasts LIVE this stuff, donning costumes and attending clubs and conventions (there was a national Steampunk convention in Bellevue, WA last October). At Comi-Con a few years ago, I even saw a wheelchair-bound young woman in costume, and she had that chair totally Steampunked out, complete with fake "gaslight" and a large rotary-engine mounted on the back. If that isn't subculture, nothing is.

      January 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
      • RJKL

        Nice name, by the way :)

        I think I know the woman you're talking about. I've seen here at several Midwest events, including the Doctor Who convention *lol*

        If you want to see some really interesting things people have done, I recommend checking out the photos from TeslaCon. It's in Madison, WI, and they do a different theme every year. This year was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the get-ups that a lot of the attendees had were amazing! A couple had made diving suits, and one woman had a "portable party machine", I believe it was called, which was a small trunk strapped to her back that served as an iPod dock. There were adjustable speakers that came out the side and over her shoulder. Very creative stuff :)

        January 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
      • Bubba

        Leaf, I guess it depends on your definition of 'subculture;' I'm pretty sure none of the cosplayers or artists actually believe they are living in an alternate world where computers and gaslights both existed. I'd say 'fans' or 'enthusiasts' instead of announcing the existence of a new culture; are you prepared to call Bieber fans a subculture? If Biebs or little monsters fit your definition of subculture, then go for it. "Movement" might be more accurate. RJ, there wasn't much market for this stuff at first; it is a genuine phenomenon. No way to stop an idea once people start having it.

        January 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • tekstep1

      Where have you been? Steampunk has been around for years and is quickly gaining traction in the fashion world. Sorry you're out of the loop...

      January 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
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      September 15, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  31. 634ylk5ht

    This just in: Steampunk is now a subculture

    January 10, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Sarah

      But only the subculture knew

      January 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
      • Kurt

        I'm replying to your reply so that I can be subsubculture.

        January 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Gilgamesh Wulfenbach

      My steampunk submarine will allow me to rule not only the world, but the Sub Culture as well.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |