Jilly: Post-Independence PR Campaign

21995185_sHappy Fourth of July to the other Ladies, and to all American readers of 8LW.

This side of the Atlantic, our weekend will be about Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix, the Ashes (cricket!), Princess Charlotte’s christening, Pimms, strawberries, and summer fetes. We certainly won’t be commemorating long-lost battles. I remember, years ago, some Texan friends asking how we would be spending Independence Day. I asked “Independence from whom?” Long silence down the phone followed by a light-bulb moment and a roar of laughter.

It’s nice that the Fourth appears to be a celebration of all things American rather than an orgy of Brit-bashing, but nonetheless I feel the urge to offer up a little positive PR on behalf of the old country. With the 8 Ladies and friends in mind, here are some other major historic landmarks brought to you by those really very nice people across the pond 🙂


Cocoa beans have been around forever, but in 1795, Joseph Storrs Fry patented a method of grinding them using a Watt steam engine, paving the way for large-scale production of chocolate. In 1847, his son, also Joseph, went one step better and molded cocoa powder, sugar and melted cocoa butter into the world’s first ever chocolate bar. Writing may have driven Hemingway and Faulkner to drink, but sooner or later it drives most romance writers to the confectionery store. Next time you reach for your anesthetic of choice, spare a thought for the pioneering Fry family.

Programmable Computers

Cockney Tommy Flowers, the son of a bricklayer, invented the world’s first programmable all-electric computer. Born in 1905, he was a mechanical and electrical engineer who worked at the research station of the Telecommunications branch of the General Post Office. From 1935 onwards he explored the use of electronics for telephone exchanges, and his unique combination of skills and experience enabled him to create Colossus, the first all-electronic computer, designed to decode high-level encrypted German wartime messages. Check out this picture of a Colossus, reconstructed in 1994, complete with its with its ground-breaking thousand-plus valves. Then look at your sleek, speedy laptop or desk-top, and marvel.

The automatic kettle

Given our national obsession with tea, it’s hardly surprising that as soon as we got a domestic electrical supply, we set to work inventing an electric kettle. The first models were invented some time in the late nineteenth century, but we never got around their dangerous tendency to boil dry until Peter Hobbs invented the first ever vapor-controlled automatic electric kettle in 1955.

The world-wide-web

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN (the European particle physics laboratory) invented the world-wide web, an internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing. He wrote the first web client and server in 1990, and transformed every fiction writer’s research process. Read more about Sir Tim in the Internet Hall of Fame.

So, sorry about the tea taxes and all that, but hopefully chocolate gets us some brownie points 🙂

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

16 thoughts on “Jilly: Post-Independence PR Campaign

  1. Thanks for the chocolate! Had a terrific 4th of July hanging out with the neighbors but making sure to be home in time to comfort my Abby-mutt, who does NOT like fireworks.

    • Chocolate is always good! Though I suspect Mr. Fry’s early offerings weren’t half as delicious as today’s treats. I love fireworks, but it must be terrifying for pets. Nice that you were there to reassure Abby.

  2. We had a nice 4th with friends and fireworks. And thanks to Peter Hobbs for our automatic electric kettle. It’s a very handy item in our kitchen and in dorm rooms across America.

    • Glad you had fun. The automatic kettle is a good one, isn’t it? Such a stupid small detail, but so useful. I remember we had a whistling kettle heated on a gas burner when I was a kid (I know, that makes me sound about 100). If I had to make my hot beverages that way, I’d spend my entire life in the kitchen.

  3. More importantly, we gave the world the Regency period, Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer….. and thousands of hours of reading pleasure!

  4. About programmable computers, just wanted to say that while I don’t want to take anything away from Tommy Flowers, other famous Brits also were crucial in the computing world. Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron, is widely thought to be the first computer programmer (of either gender) because her association with Charles Babbage and his “Analytical Machine” led her to write a sequence of “notes” for it that are now recognized as the first algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine. And Alan Turing! And so many others. Long may you tap those computer keys!

    • Turing – yes, absolutely. He was the man who got Tommy Flowers involved. I chose Tommy because who’s even heard of him? And yet, apparently Colossus 2 went into service on 1 June, 1944 and provided vital information regarding the D-Day landings, planned for 5 June. There’s a nice story on Wikipedia about a courier handing a note to Eisenhower as he met his staff on 5 June. If you put that kind of timing in a book, you’d be laughed out of the bookshop.

      Ada Lovelace! As Micki says, great name. I should know much more about her. Off to ask Mr. Bezos for recommendations 🙂

    • I wonder why he turned away from cricket – just think, the whole of America could have cricket as their national game, if only Henry Chadwick had kept to his youthful passion for cricket!

      • My daughter got into baseball in a big way last year, and ever since we tend to watch baseball during supper during “the season.” Ugh. It’s very hard to keep in mind the “lightning pace” of baseball when compared to faster sports like basketball or table tennis. But, compared to cricket (what little I’ve seen of it), I guess I should be grateful for the speedy action of baseball (-:. I’d hate to drowse off into my salad plate.

Let Us Know What You Think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s