Tatjana van Vark


Go to this site and you’ll be greeted by a crazy looking woman wielding a giant egg and a blunt object that looks like Jupiter with mischief in her eyes. This is Tatjana van Vark.  Her library of projects ranges from the mundane such as a couple of incandescent lamps, to a fully functional Antikythera mechanism. As you browse around at things like her one of a kind cipher based on the enigma machine and her inertial navigator platform shown above, you’ll find the quality of her work astounding. Randomly peppered haikus give us a brief glimpse into her mind as we look at, literally decades, of amazing work. We’re sure many of you are drooling at the thought of some build details, but you’ll have to work for it. Decipher the haiku on the coding machine’s page for the build details… if you can.

[thanks Verimius]


  1. Roman D says:

    That’s just amazing.

  2. Stunmonkey says:

    Definitely awesome.

    Thanks for starting to cover stuff like this. Good stuff.

  3. george says:

    wat! and Al Gore got a Nobel for a documentary and you have a genius like this in the wild..
    our world has truly lost it’s senses.

  4. Koray says:

    This is one of the best stuff I’ve seen lately… Thanks for posting!..


  5. googfan says:

    holy shit!

  6. Charis says:

    Wow! I have no idea what it is or what it does, but it’s beautiful!

  7. jeff-o says:

    She has surely attained level 50 Godlike Genius.

  8. devin says:


    al gore’s documentary was probably more helpful to the world than this woman will ever be (regardless of how cool her projects are); i’d say the nobel is justified.

  9. maken says:

    I found some pictures of her workshop here:


  10. Agent420 says:

    i love stuff like this !!!

    i’d also reccommend Guy Marsden:


  11. ClutchDude says:

    I’m to agree with Devin here. As cool and insightful as these photos may be, what will her legacy and contribution stack to that of others?

    An artist is not remembered for their art but what their art inspired.

  12. all i’ll say is holy shit (in the good sense) and note that she must have spent a fortune on brass over the years.

    and so long as she enjoys what she does, who cares what her legacy is. i personally am inspired by the machine shop skills alone.

    and it does say this is only a portion of what she does. who knows what the rest is like..

  13. Caleb Kraft says:

    If her legacy is only to raise the bar for everyone else, it is enough. How about inspiration? Everyone has role models, even the most successful impactful people.

  14. Tec says:

    Her legacy is right here. In discussions like these, and in the minds of people who now have a whole new idea of what is possible.

  15. calcomp says:

    Al gore didn’t deserve anything for his documentary…what a joke…

    This on the other hand, is awesome!

  16. Taylor says:

    I’m gonna have to agree with calcomp here, al gore didn’t contribute anything but a huge crock of shit that has made everyone paranoid about the environment.

  17. lazer-lock says:

    and to think there is one of those in my iPod, I wonder what the accuracy is?

  18. mikez says:

    hey taylor – incredibly off-topic.

    This work is incredible! I love the inertial navigator, though i have no clue what it does, or how it does it!

  19. toast says:

    This is some of the best craftsmanship I have ever seen. Truly amazing work even if I don’t know what it is all for.

  20. Taylor says:

    uhh, mikez, did you not read the other comments?

  21. soggy pretzels says:

    i want that haiku solved!

    here it is:

    1MF4L F+3,0 QHWKS H+53- ZMTBI


    somthing i notaced: the hover-over or title to the image is ‘1MF4L’ also the first “word” on the third line.
    the number of syllables should help

    this is not my specialty, but someone… please?

  22. Mephistopheles says:

    Sample at http://www.tatjavanvark.nl/tvv1/pht25.html
    may help in decryption

  23. CH says:

    Not to spoil the mood, but I’m skeptical towards ‘art’. Why obscure things like this? i.e. “Just look, maintaining internal silence, until the meaning of my work becomes clear.”. I’d look so much more favorably on her work without the meaningless* and mystical bullshit. If you have something to say, say it clearly; That’s what philosophy is for. If you want to ‘add value’ to something, business, marketing and ‘art’ are equivalent.

    *or possibly the opposite; too many possible meanings.

  24. gunpowder says:

    It’s not like she made the Litton LN3 INS, all she’s done is restore it, and put it in an acrylic cylinder.. Nice effort, but not Godlike.

    Looking through her site, I’m not even sure she has a machine shop?

    Just another wanky artist I suspect. Making ‘art’ out of old aircraft parts.

  25. gunpowder says:
  26. soggy pretzels says:

    yall be’in hate’n cuz you nose you will never be as awesome

    but no, i can see you you guys are saying. this is not “godlike” but some of it is impressive. there are certainly aspects which i admire and may incorporate/implement into my own projects

  27. speedpsycho says:

    totally unassuming website…

    mind-boggling contraptions…

    I feel tiny

  28. Tachikoma says:

    The quality of her craftsmanship is incredible. I wish there was more info with those pictures.

  29. Tachikoma says:

    Oh and check the oscilloscope section. The page is titled “Oscilloscope – 1958″ and underneath it says “Note from the editor : TvV was born in 1944″

    Holy shit, she built a scope at 14???

  30. jim says:

    Seriously creepy.

  31. jim says:


    the inertial navigator is the bomb targeting system from a 50s raf nuclear bomber, there is another piece which is the targeting mechanism from an actual bomb.

  32. Richard says:

    @ Tachikoma, yes, she did build a scope at 14 – from scratch too, rather than a kit.

    I know I’m gonna come out sounding like my dad, but many hackers today have it pretty damn easy compared to hackers a few years back… now you can buy an arduino for less than a packet of smokes, but only a couple of generations back it might take a teenager weeks or months to save for the components to build stuff – and if the ‘magic smoke’ escaped it was a real big deal if you couldn’t see why… you couldn’t just keep throwing components at it until you eventually changed the one that fixed it the way we do now.

    Because parts were so dear, teens back then tended to study to a much greater depth before a build because it was a damn sight cheaper that way, they’d break less stuff – and I’d suggest that made them better hackers than us … because they often had a much deeper understanding of how their circuits worked.

    *hides behind something solid for the inevitable backlash*

  33. agent420 says:

    ^ Damn straight ;-)

    I guess every generation says the same thing though.

  34. vic says:

    Yeah, teenagers 50 years ago worked hard to build a radio … Now, with the same amount of work they can build a webserver. I don’t think it’s a bad think that things become easier. It allows you to focus your mind on more high level stuff. I think that’s what we call “progress”.

  35. awake says:

    Yes, al gore’s documentary was *very* useful.

    prior to the movie, I suspected gore as being a slimy, self-serving, hypocritical, profiteering douchebag. after the documentary, I became *certain* of this.

    By the way, read the news. much of the “data” on which his man-bear-pig movie was based has subsequently been debunked.

    As for the nobel prize, I used to think that was something pretty special. Since they started doling them out to the likes of jimmy carter and al gore, a nobel medal now means about as much to me as a concert tee shirt… cool, but meaningless.

    >?@george said:
    >al gore’s documentary was probably more helpful >to the world than this woman will ever be >(regardless of how cool her projects are); i’d >say the nobel is justified.

  36. xav says:

    Also the background of the website is a repeated tile of Japanese characters. It might help with the Haiku

  37. Iv says:

    She asks for help on the completion of a crazy project : recreating the navigation and bombing system of the UK V-bombers. She lists the rare pieces she would need :


    Here is probably one of the best places to ask!

  38. Stefan_z says:

    That woman build some serious stuff in her life! Holy crap!
    She seems to be a jack of all trades – design, analog electronics, mechanics, just about everything!

  39. nubie says:

    “The quality of her craftsmanship is incredible. I wish there was more info with those pictures.”

    Posted at 8:54 pm on Aug 13th, 2009 by Tachikoma

    I think that is the point, to fire your imagination and get you to ask questions and answer them yourself.

    Brilliant. Cracked, but brilliant.

  40. Austin Van Vark says:

    does anyone know if she is still alive? See, I’m austin van vark, and I am kind of interested in finding out if I’m somehow related to her (seeing that there can’t be THAT many Van Varks :D)

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