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A tunnel

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, …
Gavin Clarke, 21 Mar 2013

Reg man bested in geek-to-geek combat - in World War 3 nerve centre

During the Cold War, Neatishead in Norfolk was theoretically the worst place in the UK to live: the nearby RAF base would be target Number One if the Russians nuked us. This was brought home to me in a guided tour by a retired officer, whose old job was to run Blighty’s air defence. Standing in the 1980s-era Cold War control …
Dominic Connor, 28 Mar 2013
The Register breaking news

Gov geek publishes 5000-word Twitter guide

The world was given an insight into how both Twitter and the UK's e-government work today when the national media discovered one of Whitehall's in-house self-proclaimed web geek's guide to using Twitter. Neil Williams, head of corporate digital channels at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, quietly posted his …
Joe Fay, 28 Jul 2009
The Falkirk Wheel

Meet the world's one-of-a-kind ENORMO barge-bowling bridge of Falkirk

Proving it's not just the Victorians who can make huge structures in steel, the Falkirk Wheel can lift six canal boats 25 metres in one go, moving them from one waterway to another. The Forth & Clyde Canal, running across central Scotland, used to be connected to the Union Canal, linking Glasgow to Edinburgh via a stairway of 11 …
Bill Ray, 27 Aug 2013
The machine hall

Boffins, Tunnel Tigers and Scotland's world-first power mountain

In the middle of a Scottish mountain is a man-made cavern 90 metres high and 36 metres long - tall enough to stuff an entire Cathedral in its belly - which is only accessible through a kilometre-long rock tunnel. This is the home of the Cruachan Power Station. In 1921 - with one world war down and one to go - the British …
Bill Ray, 23 Jul 2013
Hanslope Park

Hanslope Park: Home of Britain’s ‘real-life Q division’

Hanslope Park sits just outside the small, quiet North Buckinghamshire village of Hanslope. I grew up there, and the Park and its occupants would always be mentioned by conversing grown-ups in suddenly hushed tones. Who might be listening? Other villagers were quietly pointed out with the words: “You see him? He works at the …
Tony Smith, 05 Jul 2013
LEO I, credit Leo Computing Society

LEO, the British computer that roared

Just graduated and looking for a career in computers during tough economic times? Try breaking into tech during the 1950s when most people hadn't even heard of a computer. Yet, that's exactly what brothers Frank and Ralph Land did and within a relatively short time from the closing of their studies at the London School of …
Gavin Clarke, 26 Jun 2013
Confused computer keyboard

'Please don't make me spend more time with my family...'

I was finishing up a few things in the office well after 6.00pm when I got a call from one of our clients, a well-known OEM and off-the-page seller whom I visited twice a year and who readily accepted and acted on advice and ideas. He was due to meet his bank manager the following morning with draft annual results which would …
Eddie Pacey, 14 Feb 2014
The bay

TAT-1: Call the cable guy, all I see is a beautiful beach

A cabled telegram first crossed the Atlantic in 1858, but it took almost a century for voice calls to follow, being carried by the TAT-1 Cable which landed at Oban in Scotland, where we went along to see it. Back in 1955 a phone call to Canada, or the United States, would require booking several hours in advance as the various …
Bill Ray, 14 Oct 2013
Sea Harriers

Kingston's aviation empire: From industry firsts to Airfix heroes

He learned to fly aged 22, set up his first aircraft factory aged 24 and by 30 his fighters dominated the skies over the Western Front. Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith - later, Sir – founded the Sopwith Aircraft Company in 1912, turning out aeroplanes from a Edwardian roller-skating rink in Kingston upon Thames. Yes, the …
Gavin Clarke, 24 Oct 2014
 Adastral Park, in Martlesham, Ipswich - the epicentre of BT's research, technology and IT operations.

Inside Adastral: BT's Belgium-sized broadband boffinry base

Adastral Park is BT’s global research and development centre, one of the world’s most pioneering centres of technology and telecommunications. Like other visitors to the area, I’ve gazed at the Le Corbusier-inspired building and its iconic tower cube rising out of the surrounding flat Suffolk farmland. It announces its …
Dave Wilby, 26 Mar 2013
IBM mainframe engineer's portable toolkit

IBM Hursley Park: Where Big Blue buries the past, polishes family jewels

Would you like to work in a cross between Downton Abbey and Silicon Valley? For a small selection of IBMers, that’s the only way to describe their working environment, although the place we’re talking about is officially called Hursley Park. You can get there by turning off the M3 and rattling through some pretty English village …
Joe Fay, 10 Apr 2014

The bunker at the end of the world - in Essex

Kelvedon Hatch is a superb example of absurdist geek life. Not only is the site technically very impressive, it is also completely useless and frequently prompts the question “what on earth were they thinking?”... A tour reinforces this view as the experience now is as enjoyably peculiar as the history behind the place. The …
Ed Moore, 22 May 2013
National Lift Tower

Love in an elevator.... testing mast: The National Lift Tower

The Tower rises above the flat plain of the Nene valley near Northampton - for centuries home of Britain’s shoe industry, but these days better known as the home town of 11th Doctor Matt Smith, comics auteur Alan Moore and El Reg operations manager Matt Proud - like some kind of latter-day Barad Dûr or Orthanc. The sinister …
Tony Smith, 04 Jul 2013
The tape robot at the National Archive

How the UK's national memory lives in a ROBOT in Kew

The UK’s National Archives in Kew have enough gems and hidden secrets to keep Indiana Jones or Robert Langdon in sequels for the next couple of centuries, with everything from the Domesday book to the UK’s official UFO records socked away safely in its sanctum. But for the swashbuckling archaeological hero of the future, whips, …
Joe Fay, 11 Dec 2013
Rebuilt Bombe Bletchley Park, photo copyrighted mubsta.com

Bletchley rebooted: The crypto factory time remembered

The Battle of Britain: it was won by the RAF and pilots in Hurricanes and Spitfires assisted by a new-fangled invention called radar that gave the enemy's position away. It was the first campaign of the World War II fought entirely in the air and was waged by Germany's Air Force, the Luftwaffe, against the UK's Royal Air Force ( …
Gavin Clarke, 20 Sep 2013
Reading tape LEO II computer, photo: Science Museum / SSPL

Blighty's revolutionary Cold War teashop computer - and Nigella Lawson

The Victorian offices were bulldozed long ago for a stack of flats and mirrored offices, and there's not a single indication to the significance of this site - or what happened here. This isn't the scene of a lost battle, and the bones of a missing Plantagenet king do not slumber beneath the car park serving the offices. Sixty- …
Gavin Clarke, 27 Mar 2013
NPL Large Pressure Tank, photo: Gavin Clarke

Measure for measure: We visit the most applied-physicist-rich building in the UK

Shielded by lime trees in a quiet corner of south-west London, a low, modern building constructed of green glass sits on rolling lawns behind a high metal fence. It’s a discreet facility save for a huge white sign facing the road with an blue official crest and three large letters that spell out NPL – the National Physical …
Gavin Clarke, 12 Jun 2014
de Havilland Sea Vixen

Mosquitoes, Comets and Vampires: The de Havilland Museum

Approaching the museum down a bumpy single track road you start wondering if any of this makes any sense. Why is this museum in the middle of nowhere? Why are the opening hours so peculiar? Why are there bits of aircraft lying around? Why does it have two different names? All becomes apparent in due course and in the process …
Ed Moore, 20 Dec 2013
GCHQ Benhall doughnut aerial view

INSIDE GCHQ: Welcome to Cheltenham's cottage industry

For staff at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, there’s an air of Fight Club about the place. The first rule about GCHQ is you don’t talk about GCHQ. It’s a well observed tradition, even though there are road signs and a bus route directing you to this highly secret establishment, the nerve centre …
Bob Dormon, 24 May 2013
top of the bt tower

BT Tower is just a relic? Wrong: It relays 18,000hrs of telly daily

The Post Office Tower in London, adorned with microwave dishes and resembling a gigantic Star Trek gadget, symbolised the UK's white heat for technology in the 1960s. The tower in 2009 before the dishes were removed (Credit: David Castor) In an era of transistor radios as a fashion accessory, the space race, and the arrival …
Joe Fay, 21 May 2013
TNMOC

Rise of the machines, south of Milton Keynes

It’s the sounds that get you: wheels spinning, processors squeaking, the furious hammering of teleprinters, and some 1980s synth. Yes, computers really were this noisy – something you forget in an era when even the benign tap of the keyboard is giving away to the silent swoosh of finger on glass. I’m at The National Museum of …
Gavin Clarke, 29 Jun 2013
The Lovell Telescope, credit Mike Peel; Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester

Reg man goes time travelling at iconic observatory

There are two ways to approach Jodrell Bank. From the north you fly through the WAGish end of Cheshire, with towns like Wilmslow and Alderley Edge housing Manchester and Liverpool’s finest and their harems. I prefer coming from the south, under the Twemlow Viaduct, a 105ft high, 500 yard long symphony of red brick, completed in …
Joe Fay, 25 Mar 2013