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The Platinum Jubilee: British Tech Developments Throughout Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 Year Reign

Later this week Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her 70th year on the throne, a monumental milestone for the British monarchy. As a company born and bred in London, we’ve been seeing Jubilee content everywhere – whether it’s flags adorning the streets, celebratory festivals, or even purple-wrapped buses! So, as a UX company with interest in all-things-tech, we thought we would celebrate the Platinum Jubilee in our own way, from a tech-focused perspective. Queen Elizabeth II has overseen some of the most transformative years in terms of technology, so to begin our Platinum Jubilee mini series, here’s a list of 11 British tech developments that have arisen during her 70 year reign!

1955: The Automatic Kettle

Of course, a list of British tech developments couldn’t start with anything else. You might have heard of the brand Russell Hobbs, and even own a few kitchen appliances from them. However, what you might not know is that they invented the first automatic kettle in the world. Two British innovators, William Russell and Peter Hobbs, teamed up in 1952, one in charge of product development and the other taking care of sales. 3 years later, they brought out the first electric kettle that would automatically switch off when water boils and named it K1, which is the cornerstone of the kettles we use today!

1965: Touchscreen Technology

Highly associated with smartphones and tablets, touchscreens seem to be something relatively modern. Yet it actually dates back to 1965. E. A. Johnson invented the first finger-driven touchscreen at the Royal Radar Establishment, a research centre in Worcestershire. He came up with the idea of capacitive touch, and although the invention by Johnson could not process more than one touch at once, it paved the way for touchscreens we are familiar with nowadays.

1976: Lithium-ion Battery 

In 2019, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to the three figures that contributed to the Lithium-ion battery – Stanley Whittingham, John Goodenough and Akira Yoshino. Among them, Stanley was the one that discovered intercalation electrodes and applied it to make rechargeable batteries possible. The British-American chemist created the first Lithium-ion battery in 1976 and was granted the patent afterwards. Thanks to them, we are able to power portable devices such as laptops and mobile phones. 

1979: Digital Audio Player

22 years earlier than the launch of the Apple iPod, Kane Kramer invented the world’s first digital audio player, the IXI. The low capacity of memory chips at that time limited the potential of IXI. Nevertheless, Kane foresaw the potential and possibility before anyone else did. He set about building prototypes and the model of IXI was first sold in London!

1989: The World Wide Web

Spurred by a motivation to help fellow scientists easily share information across a community platform, Tim Burners-Lee invented the World Wide Web – a free, open, democratic platform for all (or so he hoped). Soon after, he developed the three fundamental technologies that remain the foundation of today’s web: HTML, URI and HTTP. His decision to make his source code royalty-free and accessible to all is what eventually led to the internet we know today!

1992: SMS Message

Before digital mobile phones were a commodity, the first SMS ever sent was from Neil Papworth via the Vodafone network back in 1992. Though hard to imagine nowadays, this development was an incredible breakthrough, which allowed mobile devices to exchange short text messages rather than phone calls or voicemails. Quickly rolled out during the same decade, it has become one of the most widely used data applications in the world!

1997: ThrustSSC

The Thrust SuperSonic Car (ThrustSSC) is a British jet car invented and developed by Richard Noble, Glynne Bowsher, Ron Ayers, and Jeremy Bliss. It currently holds the World Land Speed Record, set in 1997 by Andy Green after reaching a speed of 673mph – officially becoming the first land vehicle to break the sound barrier (travel faster than the speed of sound!). 

2001: Hawk-Eye Technology

Hawk-Eye technology is a visual-tracking system that allows for quicker, more accurate decisions to be made during sporting events. Developed by Paul Hawkins and David Sherry, it was first introduced during a Cricket test match between England and Pakistan. Now, the technology is regularly used in various sports, including: Cricket, Football, Tennis, Rugby Union, Volleyball and Ice Hockey. A major advantage of the Hawk-Eye tech is that it has greatly improved at-home viewing, giving fans high-quality instant replays of the action.  

2012: Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi Foundation was created in 2009, with the aim of promoting the study of Computer Science in schools all across the UK. In 2012, they developed the widely popular Raspberry Pi – a powerful micro-computer that enables people of all ages and abilities to develop their computing skills and learn programming languages. At the size of just a credit card, the Raspberry Pi is used in a multitude of contexts, even weather forecasting technology makes use of its extensibility! 

2014: Philae Landing

Philae is a robotic European Space Agency lander that separated from the Rosetta spacecraft to successfully land on Comet 67P – the first ever non-destructive landing on a comet nucleus, 10 years and 8 months after departing Earth. Though not as successful as scientists hoped (due to failed landing plans), this breakthrough still allowed scientists now have a better understanding of a comet’s physical characteristics, and are able to better plan for future touchdown missions. 

2022: The Elizabeth Line

Officially opened only last week, the Elizabeth Line is the newest trainline to be built through central London. Heralded as a ‘high-tech train’, it took 13 years to fully construct. With expansive stations and long platforms, the line can run on 3 different signalling systems (ERTMS, CBTC and conventional signalling) and has autonomous driving capabilities with Auto-Reverse. This allows the driver to walk from the front driving space to the rear, whilst the train reverses itself – a piece of technology that ensures a 24-hour service!

Clearly, Queen Elizabeth II has reigned during a time of huge technological advancements, and it’s incredible to see just how much has changed since she took to the throne back in 1952. The list of 11 inventions and innovations by British scientists only just scratches the surface of the amazing developments we’ve seen in the past 70 years, but we hope it demonstrates the extensive evolution of British tech!

UX Connections, the UX agency with UX/UI consultants to help your digital product succeed.

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