London Did It First
Competition between cities is a funny thing. I remembered a terrible, pointless staged TV debate between two young men extolling the virtues of New York and London respectively. The New Yorker went into long intelligently reasoned argument, honed from years of being in debating societies, as to why New York was the ‘better’ city. The Londoner just stared him down and told him to f**k off.
So, for the record, here are a few random achievements from Londinium, offered for debate.
The first underground trains; the Metropolitan line opened in 1863, running for almost four miles between Paddington and Farringdon Street.
The first ATM; The comic actor Reg Varney opened the first cash machine in 1967.
The first miniskirt; the fashion designer Mary Quant first displayed them at her King’s Road boutique ‘Bazaar’.
The first Scotch egg: They’re only Scotch because that’s where the beef came from, but they were invented by Fortnum & Mason in 1738.
The first jigsaw puzzle; invented in 1766 by John Spilsbury, an engraver and mapmaker.
The electric telegraph; invented by Francis Ronalds in 1816, who offered his world-changing invention free to the British government. Typically, they turned him down.
The first tuxedo; Made for the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, who wanted a casual dinner suit.
The first handheld computer; that arrived in 1984 from PSION, and started the trend for pocketable electronic devices.
The first neon light; In 1898 William Ramsey wasn’t aware that his invention would eventually become an essential disco requirement.
The vacuum cleaner; in 1901 Hubert Booth was inspired to create this after watching cleaners at St Pancras Station.
Also discovered, invented or created in this fair city; the machine gun, the nuclear chain reaction, the expresso martini, the CT scan, penicillin, the toothbrush, the fire extinguisher, stamps, Christmas cards, rubber bands, the bowler hat, weather forecasts, the pop-up restaurant (1827!), magazines and coin-operated toilets.