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A great British invention? A motorised bath designed by students in Surrey.

A great British invention? A motorised bath designed by students in Surrey.

2012 has been an ego-boosting year for the British. With the success of the Diamond Jubilee, the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics, it wouldn’t be a bad year to go out on (and we will have to if the predictions of our impending doom become a reality on 21st December). With the aim of blowing our own trumpets a little more, we searched the archive for footage of good British inventions. Unfortunately, there were also many dodgy ones in there too. So, in the interest of balance, we thought we’d share both the good and the not-so-good contraptions created by Brits during the Twentieth Century that footage exists of in the British Pathé archive.

Good

Our collection of good British inventions includes not only the famous ones, but also inventions by members of the public that seem to serve some practical purpose. Here are some highlights. We’re mainly limiting ourselves to technological creations, rather than things like particular sports or habits. In each case, you can click on the still to be taken to some vintage footage of that invention, or you can search the catch-all collection we’ve created here.

One of our favourites, this. A film from 1922 shows what appears to be an early mobile phone!

One of our favourites, this. A film from 1922 shows what appears to be an early mobile phone!

In a similar category as the early mobile phone above is this film of what seems to be a 1920s Walkman that we recently posted on our YouTube channel. We’ve embedded it below.

But now onto the bona fide British inventions in the archive that came after the quirky (but impressive) attempts above, the first dating from the mid-1920s:

"When will the next marvel...television...become commonplace? A few years ago a Scientist named Baird experimented with this crude machine...." Newsreel covers the invention of television.

“When will the next marvel…television…become commonplace? A few years ago a Scientist named Baird experimented with this crude machine….” Newsreel covers the invention of television.

The De Havilland Comet, a record-making plane, built in Britain. It first flew in 1949.

The De Havilland Comet, a record-making plane, built in Britain. It first flew in 1949.

Okay, so this isn't a piece of technology, but we thought it was interesting. The British invented the pedestrian crossing in 1868.

Okay, so this isn’t a piece of technology, but we thought it was interesting. The British invented the pedestrian crossing in 1868. Zebra crossings were used from 1949.

Hovercraft.

A 1950s British invention – the Hovercraft.

Concorde

We can’t claim full credit for this as the French did help a bit. The Concorde had its debut flight in 1969 and was retired in 2003.

HARRIER_PLANE_2051_39_8

The Harrier Jump Jet was also an invention of the 1960s and is still in use.

And where would we all be without our hover barrows? Something that didn't quite catch on, but is undoubtedly a good idea.

And where would we all be without our hover barrows? Something that didn’t quite catch on, but it’s undoubtedly a good idea.

For some more, visit this collection.

Not-So-Good

And now to the disheartening other ones. Contrast the inventions above (even the 1920s Walkman and mobile phone) with these eccentric and/or useless creations. Click the stills to watch the film that they’re taken from or search our collection of dodgy inventions here.

Goggle Wipers for those rainy British days.

Goggle Wipers for those rainy British days.

If driving's not enough excitement for you, why not try these motorised roller skates? The video does not convince us that they're particularly safe.

If driving’s not enough excitement for you, why not try these motorised roller skates? The video does not convince us that they’re particularly safe.

Can't decide whether to spend your next holiday in a caravan or on a boat? With this amphibious caravan, you can have both!

Wondering whether to spend your next holiday in a caravan or on a boat? With this amphibious caravan, you can do both!

Control your own robot gardener with this compact control board from 1959.

Control your own robot gardener with this compact control board from 1959.

Wear these beauties at night - they'll help you see in the dark.

Wear these beauties at night – they’ll help you see in the dark.

Do you find yourself walking into lamp posts on a semi-regular basis? Don't fret! You can get one of these to warn you of approaching obstacles. From the same film as the face cones above.

Do you find yourself walking into lamp posts on a semi-regular basis? Don’t fret! You can get one of these to warn you of approaching obstacles. From the same film as the face cones above.

For some more, visit this collection.

Have we missed some important good or not-so-good ones that you’ve found in the archive? Are we taking the credit (or blame) for other countries’ inventions? Correct us in the comment box below.

For footage of good inventions, click here.

For footage of not-so-good inventions, click here.

Explore our Science & Technology board on Pinterest.

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