I recently came across this great list of the 15 best British technology inventions ever on technology magazine website Tech Radar. While some of the inventions listed were pretty well known, including the telephone, TV and the train there were also a few surprises or unknowns amongst them.
The first being the iPod. I assumed that this was credited to us Brits because of Apple designer Jonathan Ive (another inventive Brit living and working in the US) but Tech Radar actually credits British investor Kane Kramer who patented the idea for a portable digital music player in 1979. According to the article, “Kramer was unable to find funding for the idea and his patent lapsed in 1988.”
Talking of music, stereo was also invented here by engineering pioneer Alan Blumenlein while working for EMI. He decided that current audio broadcasting techniques where poor quality and patented the idea of stereo in 1933. Unfortunately, EMI didn’t see the benefit of the technology and it wasn’t developed until much later.
The cat’s eye was also invented in the UK by Halifax resident Percy Shaw. Struggling to see roads and pavements when travelling at night, Shaw came up with the ‘glass eye’ that reflects headlights back at the driver in 1933 – proving that need is the mother of all invention.
Also as a technology PR agency, it’s only right that I mention that the computer itself was a British invention. In fact we owe Charles Babbage a big credit in starting to build the first programmable machine back in 1812 – although he didn’t ever manage to complete it.
Being involved in some of the biggest, game changing technological inventions should make us proud. Not bad for a small island me thinks.