back to article Boffin road trip! The Reg presents Geek's Guide to Britain

Which country is credited with designing more than half of the world’s most important inventions. Is it Germany, home of the VW? Japan, birthplace of the Walkman? The US, land of NASA and Google? No: Britain. Scientists, engineers, architects and inventors in Britain have made their mark on the world with trains, jet engines, …


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  1. Moktu


    I'm always looking for new ways to bore the wife.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Up

      Re: Excellent

      Well it lets you get revenge for all those shopping trips where you have to make a choice between the red outfit and the brown one (Who cares? Just pick one!) or trying not to get tripped up by "Does my bum look big in this?" questions.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Excellent

        I find that "I'll go to DKNY with you if we can go to Machine Mart afterwards" usually has the desired effect. She has more fun when she shops with her friends and generally buys less stuff.

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: Excellent

      Yer a brave man, Moktu, not posting anonymously.

      At least you've spared others from being accused of posting that!

      (What? You don't think the wifey checks up on what hubby's been up to on the web from time to time? I know mine did!)

      1. Mr Spock

        @Captain DaFt

        You said 'did'. Did she divorce you? Or did you kill her?

      2. Moktu

        Re: Excellent

        Not as brave as you think. That post was from work.

        You should see her reaction if I mention geocaching. cue much rolling of eyes, and deep sighing.

  2. Thecowking

    Love JB

    Spent many a hapy day there as a child and later as an astrophysics student.

    The Lovell is awesome, if you can see it being repositioned, it's worth the trip alone. I did hear from people who did actual research there that you can walk under the "new" surface and along the old one under it.

    Never done it, but if you guys can pull some press weight and get pictures...

  3. Ted Treen


    What an excellent reason for visiting the vulture...

    Beer for the bright spark who came up with this idea.

  4. Ol'Peculier

    Don't forget...

    Sir George Cayley.

    Who has a pathetically small area devoted to him at the Air & Space in DC. Worse, the curator at the big one had never even heard of him, despite the Wright brothers openly admitting they'd got inspiration from him

    1. Tony S

      Re: Don't forget...

      The home of powered flight - Chard in Somerset. (Possibly also the beginning of steampunk?)

      1. Justin Stringfellow
        Thumb Up

        Re: Don't forget...

        @Tony S Yeah! My very great very grand father. First to powered flight. All the Wrights did was improve controls and shove a human in it, and they were 60 years later.

    2. Robert Forsyth

      Re: Don't forget...

      The Wright Bros designed the user-interface (Wikipedia).

    3. Norman Hartnell

      Re: Don't forget...

      And don't forget Richard Pearse, born in New Zealand to Cornish parents, who probably achieved powered flight before the Wright brothers:

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Don't forget...

        The Wrights weren't the first to achieve powered manned flight by a long shot. Nor was Pearse. There were a couple of previous straightline takeoffs/landings, but only under ideal conditions (these crashed in the slightest crosswind, etc)

        The Wrights were the first to achieve CONTROLLED, REPEATABLE, manned powered flight - and it's ironic that the method they used (wing warping) is being considered for high-efficiency aircraft, given it was abandoned quickly in favour of ailerons because it was extremely dangerous in a turn.

        "Contrary to popular belief, porcines can aviate quite well, given sufficient thrust and vectoring. However manouvering and landing remain areas with outstanding issues."

        By all accounts Pearse ended up in a hedges on his first few attempts after (probably) stalling a wing in the edge of ground effect. While there are plenty of reports of him in controlled flight they all date from after the Wright Brothers sucess at Kitty Hawk. His real achievement was the invention of the lightweight opposed-piston engine, but as he never bothered making notes that wasn't realised until 50 years after someone else reinvented it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hurry up with it!

    Make sure it turns up soon, I need to book me hols!

  6. andy gibson

    Local Heroes

    The old BBC programme Local Heroes with Adam Hart Davis was a superb guide to where the best brains of Britain worked and lived.

    1. LinkOfHyrule
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Local Heroes

      It was indeed, but that dude had some dodgy taste in Lycra!

      This is a good idea by El Reg - maybe you could develop the idea further into a best-selling travel guide - something like - "Reg Round Blighty - by J. R. Paris"

  7. Longrod_von_Hugendong
    Thumb Up

    Come on....

    Everyone knows the UK invented the modern world.

    1. Crisp

      Re: Come on....

      And civilisation.

      1. Kubla Cant

        Re: Come on....

        And almost every sport.

        1. Fink-Nottle

          Re: Come on....

          Whaddya mean UK, paleface?

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Adastral Park*, Arrr the memories.

    Did a lot of biz there in my days with DEC *When it was called Martlesham

    I never stayed at the Suffolk Punch though. I preferred to carry on up the A12 and enjoy a pint of Adnams and some great food in Southwold.

    Pint Naturally

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Adastral Park*, Arrr the memories.

      Ah yeess... Martlesham.

      I did a short secondment there in the late 80's and remember three things about it specifically :-

      1. The 'inspirational' slogans hanging above doors (e.g. 'Research Is The Gateway To Tomorrow')

      2. Having to eat lunch at 11 a.m. otherwise the canteen would fill up and you couldn't get in

      3. Being asked in total seriousness 'Are there any women where you work?'

  9. Robert Forsyth

    Red-rag Last Paragraph

    "So dust off the GPS, fire up Google Maps and join The Reg’s Geek's Guide to Britain for a geeky potter around our nation's sci-tech hotspots."


    Marine chronometer (working), UK, 1761 - GPS still uses precise time

    Decca Navigator System, UK/USA, 1944

    AutoRoute, UK, 1988

    Ordnance Survey, UK, 1995 - large-scale electronic mapping

    1. Peter Simpson 1
      Thumb Up

      Re: Red-rag Last Paragraph

      Let's not forget the mechanical geeks:

  10. ukgnome

    This is my kind of geocaching!

    WIFE! bring me my boots, my hat and a thermos of lemon tea.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Lemon Tea... Lemon Tea... A plague on your houses for this abomination... Tea from a flask should be hot, sweet and strong enough to stand the spoon in.

      Mines the one with the tannin stained and chipped promotional mug in the pocket (broken handle optional)

    2. Phil Riley

      Would that be a flask of weak lemon drink?

      1. ukgnome

        Oh you lemon tea nay-sayers

        It's simply the only drink that is toxic enough to taste the same no matter what drinking vessel you choose.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Royal Greenwich Observatory, Hurstmonceux castle?

    Original home of the Isaac Newton Telescope.

  12. McBread


    Visit the Crofton Beam Engines in Wiltishire to see an original Boulton and Watt stream engine, still in its original location, and still capable of doing what it was designed to do two centuries ago. When it comes to tech that changed the world, you can't much important than the Industrial Revolution.

    1. Steve Williams

      Some time ago...

      ...(well, it was actually a long time ago ~30 years) I went on a brewery visit in South London where they were still using a Stephenson beam engine to transmit rotational power around the building. They claimed it was an economic proposition because they had lots of residual low-pressure steam available from the cask cleaning processes.

      I left the country, never to return shortly after, so I don't know if it still exists. The visit was the culmination of a pilgrimage to visit all the pubs that brewery served. I didn't make it to all of them, but was still invited. It was Young's, I think.

    2. Ed 13
      Thumb Up

      Re: Steamy.

      Not only does it still work (201 years old now), they even kept the Kennet and Avon Canal's summit level topped up (the job they were installed there for) when the electric pumps failed the other summer. When they are steam at weekends, the electric pumps are turned off too.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Steamy.

        Remember that the Crofton Beam Engine was secondhand when it was installed at Crofton. It had been used in a Cornish mine before that.

        Well worth the visit especially is there is a Steam special going down the 'Hants & Berks' line that runs close to the Canal.

        Then there is the Arkwright Mills in Derbyshire, Leadhills (public library) Scotland

        And naturally Ironbridge/Coalbrookdale where the true industrial revolution began (IMHO)

        Coat with a copy of my 'guide to the industrial archaeology of the UK' in the pocket

  13. Ralph B

    Late Arrival

    Sorry, Reg, Ben Goldacre got there first.

    1. Ralph B

      Re: Late Arrival

      Also, the UK sections of The Geek Atlas are well worth a look.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Late Arrival

        Found the "Museum of the History of Science" in Oxford thanks to the Geek Atlas. Well worth a short visit, small but perfectly formed :)

        1. SteveK

          Re: Late Arrival

          "Found the "Museum of the History of Science" in Oxford thanks to the Geek Atlas. Well worth a short visit, small but perfectly formed :)"

          Agreed, but after a little while you do start to overdose on brass instruments of every technical persuasion...

  14. Alfie
    Thumb Up

    How far back are you going?

    The pencil museum in Keswick is worth a visit (even if only to watch The Snowman on telly). And there is secret pencil tech from WWII. And you could stock up on mint cake while in town.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. gribbler

    Inspiring stuff...

    Well, I hope the guide will be inspiring but I was thinking more of whoever came up with the idea of going on nice trips around the country and billing them as work expenses. Good work.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Inspiring stuff...

      Yeah, it apparently inspired their vacation this year.

      I on the other hand have to ask the significant other where she wants to go, and then pray for time of to get to go.

  16. Stuart Saxon

    Adastral Park ... call it by it's proper name BT Labs

    and even remember chatter about renaming Ipswich to IP Switch ...

    Also what about including a tour round the Atomic Weapons Museum [requires SC clearance though and NO cameras]; and I cannot possibly tell you where that is.

    1. Pedigree-Pete

      Re: Adastral Park ... call it by it's proper name BT Labs

      I've always found "Martlesham Heath" means BT Labs to most comms tech (at least in the UK).

      Pint (because it's Friday as far as I'm concerned)

      1. graeme leggett Silver badge

        Re: Adastral Park ... call it by it's proper name BT Labs

        to me Martlesham Heath also means the aerodrome used by the RFC, the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, and then the Yanks during the war

      2. sarahemmm

        Re: Adastral Park ... call it by it's proper name BT Labs

        Spent a summer there in 91 - fond recollections of the onsite bank and fire engines, as well as 'the floor that doesn't exist' even though you can see it perfectly well from miles away!

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Adastral Park ... call it by it's proper name BT Labs

      I remember the pre-Adastral days when BT was adding to the campus there. A very high tech-looking building was going up near the entrance, and staff took great delight in impressing visitors, telling them that it was the new chip fabrication facility. It was, of course, the new staff restaurant...

  17. Bluewhelk

    Porthcurno Telegraph Museum

    Don't forget the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum down in Cornwall.

    Not just undersea cable stuff, all sorts of communications technology, actual working spark gap transmitters too. It's all housed in a shielded nuclear bunker so can demonstrate stuff that is not possible (legally) elsewhere.

    And while you're down there there's the Goonhilly satellite ground station.

    And if you're into steam engines there's a working one at one of the tin mines on the north coast. I forget the name for the moment though.

    1. Stuart Saxon

      Re: Porthcurno Telegraph Museum

      And whilst your down that neck of the woods; there is the GCHQ listening station at Bude ...

    2. Norman Hartnell

      And the Trevithick steam car

      The first self-powered road vehicle was another British invention - there's a replica doing the rounds which is worth seeing in motion if you can - the steering mechanism is especially entertaining!

      The original scored many points for Britishness by burning itself out while the drivers were in the pub...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Air Defence Radar museum is a fantastic find

    Ran into it by accident during a cycling trip around the Norfolk Broads. I spent 4 hours there, but an entire day is probably required to do it justice. The experience is enhanced by some of the curators having worked there during it's operational use

  19. Zimmer

    Secret Bunker

    Don't forget the Secret Bunker... it's signposted from Nantwich and environs....

    Secret Bunker, oh the irony...

  20. Red Bren

    Am I just too cynical?

    El Reg announces they are going to do a Geek's Guide to Britain, then we do the hard work filling the comments section with places to include...

    No wonder Journos are always down the pub!

    1. John McCallum

      Re: Am I just too cynical?

      Why do you think that they announced this article pre publication?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sadly, most of the inventions are at least 50years old. But of the more modern inventions, how many have we capitalised on? It's all very well inventing "things", but we need to capitalise on those ideas and actually make commercial use of the inventions.

  22. Jim 59

    Take a big coat

    You will be spending a lot of time in Scotland.

    Just south of the border (I'm English), try these:

    Newcastle (Steam turbine, Parsons)

    Sunderland (Lightbulb, Swan).

    Byker (reinforced concrete, Wilkinson)

    Stockton (Steam locomotive, Stevenson)

  23. Stevie


    Use of exclamation mark in story not about Yahoo.

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