Creative Services / Technology Industry
A Nation of Creators Pt.2

Content by Mashable Branded Editorial Team

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A Nation of Creators, Part 2

The UK is a world-leading hub for business with an unrivalled network of experienced and innovative companies. Our businesses offer exceptional products and services that have transformed the day-to-day lives of people around the world.

World Wide Web

It’s hard to believe that the world wide web is less than 30 years old. Today’s teens know nothing of a life before the web, and that’s thanks to British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee. A graduate from Oxford University, Berners-Lee began his groundbreaking work while working at CERN in Switzerland, after noticing the difficulty employees had in sharing information. Creating HTTP, HTML and URI – now known as URL – Berners-Lee built the foundations of the web and watched its expansion across the globe unfold.

Raspberry Pi

A decidedly more modern invention than the radar or telephone, the Raspberry Pi computer is a fine example of British tech at its best. Disrupting education the world over by providing low-cost, high performance computers, Raspberry Pi allows people to learn in an interactive, intelligent environment that’s engaging for all. As the best- selling British computer, the Raspberry Pi has sold over 12 million of its single-board computing devices, helping communities in developing countries and beyond tackle the basics of computer science for less.

Geostationary Satellite

The idea of geostationary satellites was being circulated around the end of World War II, when Britain at large was likely preoccupied with how their immediate future would pan out than how machines in space could change their lives. Arthur C. Clarke – a sci-fi author – began spreading the word about how satellites could revolutionise global communications in 1945, suggesting that satellites could be used to transmit TV signals. Beyond this, Clarke theorised the exact distance such satellites would need to be from the earth to ensure a 24-hour orbit – we won’t delve into the physics of this, but we will tell you this makes it geostationary – and thus the idea of a satellite transmitting radio around the clock was born right here in the UK.

Radio Waves

While Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi is widely credited for his work with radio waves, there was a Brit working on just how radio would work years earlier. David Hughes is well recognised for his work with the carbon microphone and early telephone mechanisms, but his work had hidden depth. His carbon microphone invention led him to the ability of transmitting sound into one device to be heard by a separate counterpart device – the earliest discovery of what is now thought to have been radio waves.

Radar

The British physicists at the heart of radar technology were making waves – literally – back in the mid-19th Century. Although research began long before, the first practical radar system was pioneered by Sir Robert Watson-Watt in 1935, creating the beginnings of an English radar system that stretched along the country’s south and east coasts to detect threats from air and sea. A staple detection mechanism throughout World War II, the radar system became increasingly more intelligent throughout the mid-20th Century, able to detect enemy aircraft in all weather conditions and at any time.

Wind-up radio

At the risk of painting the UK as a radio-mad, frequency-frenzied isle of comms pioneers, it’s time to talk about the wind-up radio. Invented by Trevor Baylis, the battery-less radio aimed to provide radio in developing countries where educational programming was limited. Baylis had the idea while watching a documentary about how a lack of education was fuelling the spread of AIDs in Africa – wildly, the first wind-up radio prototype was mocked up in under half an hour.

Jet Engine

Moving on from all things radio, the prolific work of a Coventry-born RAF officer brings us to the next great UK innovation. Sir Frank Whittle’s contribution to the invention of the jet engine began in his cadet days – Whittle wrote a thesis on how aircrafts needed to travel at both high altitude and speed, and set about experimenting with ways this could be possible. Fast forward a few years and Whittle’s jet engine spread its wings for the first time in May of 1941. Shortly after, a team in the US heard the tale of the jet engine and began their own work, following Whittle’s engineering example.

Photography

Do you remember a time before taking a photo simply meant unlocking your smartphone and snapping away? The earliest imaging technology was actually pioneered in the UK by Fox Talbot in 1834, and it’s safe to say photography has come on leaps and bounds since then. Talbot’s first photographs didn’t even use a camera – he placed objects onto paper covered with light-sensitive silver chloride and exposed it to the sunlight. Imagine going to that effort for your next Instagram photo.

Automated Teller Machine

This particular invention is a popular one. The ATM – “hole in the wall”, cash machine, money tree, you name it – was actually invented in the UK by John Shepherd-Barron. Frustrated with not being able to withdraw money when his bank was closed, Shepherd-Barron came up with his ATM innovation in 1940, pitching the idea to the chief general manager of Barclays Bank over a pink gin one lunchtime. And to put in good measure, Shepherd-Barron can also be thanked for the idea of the four-digit PIN – though he’s not to blame for the amount of times you’ve forgotten yours.

Carbon Fiber

One of the many inventions to come out of the UK military, carbon fiber has myriad uses in today’s world. As a strong, lightweight material, carbon fiber has wound its way into the manufacturing of thousands of areas, from motorbikes to sports equipment.

 

RELATED STORIES: A Nation of Creators, Part 1 & Part 3.

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