Invented in World War One

In two new videos from Indy (our man in cyberspace), British Pathé presents some inventions that were rather surprisingly developed for the First World War – all of which we still use today! View the videos below.

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The Mallard – 75 Years

3rd July 2013 marks 75 years since the famous steam locomotive “Mallard” broke the world speed record. British Pathé has some interesting films of this great engine. This collection holds all five films, or you can view the individual clips via the links below.

TRANSPORT_MAKES_NEWS_1753_07_76

DRIVER JOSEPH DUDDINGTON

Duddington drove the Mallard during its record-breaking run. In this film from 1944, Duddington drives the famous train one last time before his retirement.

MALLARD AT DONCASTER WORKS

This 1964 newsreel features some nice close-ups of the train and we get a glimpse inside the driver’s cabin.

ROLLING STOCK EXHIBITION FILM 1 & FILM 2

The Duke of Edinburgh pays a visit to the Rolling Stock Exhibition in Marylebone in 1961 and takes a look at the Mallard on show in these two films from the archive.

MALLARD STEAMS AWAY

The “Mallard”, pulls out of a station before travelling at high speed down the line in this montage of steam power from the 1970s.

Mallard

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The First Mobile Phone

You may have seen in the news today that it is the 40th anniversary of the first mobile phone call. However, there may be competition for the title. Only a few days ago a video came to light of a woman in 1938 using a device that looks suspiciously familiar to modern-day eyes. The Daily Mail carried an article about it which seemingly explains the mystery of the wireless phone.

But amazingly, the British Pathé archive has some even earlier footage of a mobile phone call being made – from 1922! It caused quite a large amount of interest three years ago, and although we have shared it before, we thought the occasion called for us taking another look. For those who haven’t seen it – the world’s first mobile phone.

Simon Atkins, an ex-Royal Signals Officer, explained to us how the device works:

“The two ladies are using a small simple HF radio, probably a ‘Cat’s Whisker’ type. For it to work it needs to be earthed, which is why it’s connected to the fire hydrant. The antenna or aerial is the wire in the umbrella. On the receiving end the telephonist is using an HF radio and puts the microphone next to the record player. For the two ladies to hear she would be pressing the pressel switch.”

One of the visitors to our site indicated that the device is probably a “Home-O-Fone”, produced by the Radio Receptor Co. in New York.

View the film here.

A History of British Invention

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.

The History of the Helicopter: Early Helicopter Footage

We recently posted a compilation video of early helicopter footage onto our YouTube channel. The video uses eight different reels from the British Pathé film archive, and there are some others that didn’t make it into the final cut. The history of the helicopter and the quest for vertical flight in the early 20the century is a vast and interesting subject that was very well documented by British Pathé. We have to admit that in selecting footage for the YouTube video we went for a certain aesthetic, choosing images that “looked helicoptery!” when the truth is that there were several plane / helicopter hybrids such as the autogyro that pioneered for some years, as well as related projects such as zeppelin technology and bizarre prototypes for what would eventually become known as the hovercraft.

Here is an embedded version of the video and beneath it is links to the full length versions of each video used with the original Pathé title, dates and the length of the original reel (which you can watch for free by following the link).

And now for the videos used in this compilation:

Aerial Merry Go Round” (1921) – 1 minute 24 seconds

Shots of very large propellers slowly turning, we see an early helicopter taking off in a rather meandering fashion and men diving out of its way!

The Helicopter” (1921) – 1 minute 38 seconds

An early helicopter sporting a giant oblong balloon (as used in the thumbnail for the YouTube video) hovers and sways unsteadily with men rushing about beneath it and directing it along a field.

New Era In Flying” (1922) – 1 minute 22 seconds

Mr. Pescara, a key individual in the history of the helicopter, is seen with one of his first machines. The helicopter is much lighter than previous models and has four rotors.

Vertical Flight Soon” (1923) – 1 minute 14 seconds

Mr. Pescara appears with an improved version of his helicopter. The helicopter’s flight is still a rather higgledy-piggledy affair and the vehicle lands nose first.

Perseverance Rewarded” (1924) – 1 minute 41 seconds

The final video of Mr. Pescara used in the YouTube compilation. We see him in an open cockpit flying in his new and improved helicopter!

Helicopter Demo” (1940) – 1 minute 34 seconds

Various shots of helicopters (possibly Sikorsky helicopters) flying over factory rooftops and in group formations.

U.S. Air Force Tests Helicopter” (1943) – 1 minute 43 seconds

A great clip that didn’t make it into the YouTube edit, this video shows men jumping out of helicopters from a height of several metres, and good close-up shows of a man manoeuvring a helicopter a little bit like an arcade game!

Mass Flight” (1948) – 1 minute 45 seconds

Shots of photographers on the ground filming the helicopter as it takes off. Nine helicopters seen flying in formation and flying over water.

Welsh Airlift” (1949) – 1 minute 51 seconds

A Sikorsky S-51 helicopter is seen hovering over the Welsh hills in Croesor Valley, Festiniog. The YouTube edit uses a clip of the helicopter crashing and pilot Dennis Bryan leaving the vehicle seemingly unharmed before explaining what went wrong.

Helicopter Service For BIF” (1950) – 1 minute 56 seconds

A great clip showing the first ever public helicopter service, like a bus service. We see a sign with information about the service and then footage of people waving the helicopter off into the distance.

For more helicopter clips please do conduct your own search in the British Pathe film archive. We recommend going to the homepage www.britishpathe.com and typing in “helicopter” into the search bar and then selecting the Sort By: Year option.

You can ask us any questions by joining our Facebook page, or by chatting to us on Twitter, or via the contact page on www.britishpathe.com