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Two Portions of Valves & Chips Please

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For a nation that 'invented' the Internet - and the Computer and the Television and the Telephone and, while we're at it, the Jet Engine - to read this week that Britain ranks somewhere close to Borat's beloved Kazakhstan at the bottom of the league-table for Broadband speed (or, in this case, the lack thereof), was a depressingly familiar tale.

Ever since The War - World War Two that is, for anyone born since 'Naam - consecutive British governments and, just as culpably, 'Merchant Bankers' (to put it kindly), have betrayed the nation's inventors, engineers and even entrepreneurs in spectacular fashion.

Curiously, this rot was inadvertently started by no-less than Churchill himself, when he ordered the destruction of 'Colossus' after The War. Colossus was the then Top Secret, but now famous, code-breaking machine (there were actually 11 of them) built at Bletchley Park by a team of scientists, mathematicians and GPO engineers (General Post Office - for anyone born after the re-taking of Port Stanley), that used thousands of wireless valves to decipher The Nazi's Enigma Code and is credited with shortening The War by up to two years - saving millions of lives in the process. The GPO engineers, incidentally, were from the quaintly titled Dollis Hill Research Station, which sounds like an establishment straight-out of an Ealing Comedy (and from an era when Ealing was famous for something other than riots). When I say "wireless", I'm not referring to something you can log onto whilst sipping a frappuccino at Starbucks but, of course, to big, chunky, old radios made out of wood and Bakelite by long-defunct (British) companies such as His Master's Voice, Bush, Murphy and Pye... there was actually another brand available on the British market in the Post-War-Years, known as 'Blue Spot', although this interloper was none-other than 'Blaupunkt', translated into and masquerading as English in a largely successful effort to deceive the Basil Fawltys of this world, who wouldn't have anything German if it was given to them.

I digress, however, as Churchill's rare lapse of judgment lies in the fact that he was, to all intents and purposes, a product of the Nineteenth Century and The Empire and, when The War was won, he lacked the foresight to envisage the colossal (excuse pun), civilian usage that this 'electronic computing device' would eventually be put to. What excuse did Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair have... or, for that matter, Call-Me-Dave ??! The answer, of course, is none... these sycophants chose, instead, to cosy-up to our Merchant Banker 'friends' in The City and to turn Britain into the gimmick of a '21st Century Service Economy'... which is more-than-ironic, as it was the self-same, myopic bankers - who could only see as far as their next bonus - who let-down our inventors so badly, by denying them the long-term investment that their collective genius was so obviously crying-out for. Instead, therefore, it was left to our American cousins to develop ENIAC after The War (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), that was the progenitor of IBM, microchips ('chips' to those born after the advent of Teletubbies), 'Intel Inside' and, ultimately, the ubiquitous iPods and iPads of today.

With similar resonance, Britain led-the-world in the development of jet-airliners in the 1950s, with the world's first passenger jet - the De Havilland Comet - and ultimately Concorde, which whisked its champagne quaffing cargo across the Atlantic faster than a speeding bullet... another, incredible feat-of-engineering that ended-up being commercially irrelevant, as the behemoth Boeing swallowed-up the world's airline market.

In a further example of our Post-War Decline - and, as Michael Caine would say, "Not a lot of people know this" - the Japanese actually invited engineers from Austin-of-England (as it used to be known) to teach them how to make cars... you guessed it, After-The-War... and Nissan's mainstay for many years was called the 'Datsun Cedric', because the Japanese thought that this made it sound More English and, therefore, more reliable and desirable - how the-worm-has-turned !!... for anyone born after the riots, Austin used to make cars - In England.

Neatly tying these last two, epic failures of British, industrial planning together, I currently have the pleasure - and enormous privilege - of being able to drive the last Armstrong Siddeley ever made (literally)... this automobile - as inscrutable as the Sphinx mascot perched on its bonnet - is not just superbly engineered (it had aircon, power steering, power brakes and automatic transmission - all back in the 50s), but is also sculpted as if a work-of-art and was made by the car division of The Hawker Siddeley Group, whose aviation division made Hurricane Fighters and Lancaster Bombers - during, You Guessed It, The War - and whose efforts also shortened Hitler's hegemony by at least two-years-or-more. This car, the aptly named 'Star Sapphire' ('aptly' as it was named after their jet-engine) epitomises both the excellence of British engineering and - sadly and simultaneously - what happens when British governments and British banks fail to invest in British innovation.

Anyway, on that note I must be off, as I've got a telecon with some showbiz clients in California... anyone got two tins and a piece of string ??!!!