Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Oh dear – Dyson has threatened a ‘radical’ electric car

Dyson Mega Electric

While I actually have some admiration for (now Sir) James Dyson for making his fortune from something he invented, I can never work up any enthusiasm for most of his philosophy. And he does seem to have set up something to help aspiring inventors.

Possibly this is because I see his products as tainted by being over-priced and aimed at people who can afford to buy something gimmicky.

I don’t have any issues with his cyclone-based bagless vacuum cleaners (other than their ridiculously high price – they’re even more expensive now than when they arrived) which can be shown to work, and he also succeeded in showing he was maligned overseas as regards power consumption. But then again, I see too many lying around, apparently discarded.

But he lost me with the so-called ‘bladeless fan’, which merely hides the blades into the base, and costs an absolute fortune.

I’m not sure about the hand-dryer, which I’m not buying just to try, and seems to come in for quite a lot of negative criticism (and jokes) online.

Back on track, I should declare that I don’t think the UK rates much attention regarding EVs (so far). I’ve spent the last seven years following US developments and uptake, and consider this country be up to 5 years behind, both in technology and, more critically, mindset. You’re more likely to get snide remarks here, than any appreciation of the technology

For example, back then many US ‘experts’ predicted the US power grid would collapse as soon as EVs began to appear. Guess what… it didn’t. According to sensible people, the US was under much greater threat decades ago, when air-conditioning became cheap enough for the masses to buy. But the increased load was just absorbed by the existing system, no panic, no disaster.

Last week, I read a UK ‘expert’ predict the National Grid (and even local street distribution) would be overloaded if (not when) EVs were adopted.

I should have kept a US analysis to hand (from years back) as it showed a proper analysis, and how the load was distributed. Overloading was shown NOT to be an issue.

Before you start kicking me, I’m fully aware the UK case could be different, I merely draw attention to a claim I find alarmist, and probably from the crazy anti-EV brigade.

The Dyson car announcement doesn’t inspire me with confidence. I don’t think the ‘great inventor’ has invented much, and while his adverts tout claims for things like ‘digital motors’ I’m sad to say I happened to come across some online teardowns of them by others, and they failed to find anything ‘digital’ or innovative, just conventional electric motors with a few modern tweaks.

I worry that claims of £2 billion to be spent developing a ‘radical’ electric (battery powered) car to be launched in 2020 are spin, and the split of £1 billion on the car and £1 billion on the battery seems trite.

A further claim that 400 staff have been working on the secret project for the past two years at his HQ seems like more spin, with not even a teaser outline of a prototype, reportedly not even existing yet.

Sir James declined to give further details of the project. “Competition for new technology in the automotive industry is fierce and we must do everything we can to keep the specifics of our vehicle confidential,” he told staff in an email. Everything is still a secret, including any annual production total, the cost of the car, its range, or top speed.

By 2020, the rest of the EV industry will have moved on from where it is now – I predict/suggest that, without an actual product on the market to develop and refine, by then, Dyson will be behind, and might not be much different from Sinclair.

The fallout from Sinclair was negative, and is still with us even today when EVs are mentioned in the UK.

I hope Dyson does not reprise past events, and do the same damage with his ‘vision’.

Via Dyson to make electric cars from 2020

From the past, 24 March 2016…

I was looking for related info, lest any genuine technical info had been leaked, and found this:

Dyson using government funding to work on electric battery technology at Wiltshire headquarters

Government documents have revealed that Dyson, best known for its vacuum cleaners, hand dryers and fans, is working on electric car technology at its factory in Wiltshire.

“The government is funding Dyson to develop a new battery electric vehicle at their headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire,” the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan said. “This will secure £174m of investment in the area, creating over 500 jobs, mostly in engineering.”

The government has since updated the document reportedly to remove references to the Dyson car, according to the Financial Times and Dyson has not yet responded to TechWeekEurope’s request for comment.

The revelation comes after Dyson, set up by Sir James Dyson (pictured left) revealed earlier this week that it would be investing £1bn on developing electric batteries over the next five years as it looks to expand and grow its product sales across the world.

Via Government Documents Show Dyson Is Working On Electric Car

That’s actually MORE interesting than the current 2017 story.

Apparently, this was spotted by The Guardian, before being redacted:

The Guardian newspaper spotted the documentation that was included within a National Infrastructure Delivery Plan published on the website. As you would expect the details revealing Dyson’s plans to create an electric car have been hastily removed from the Government site but not before the Guardian was able to grab a copy of the text which read :

The government is funding Dyson to develop a new battery electric vehicle at their headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. This will secure £174m of investment in the area, creating over 500 jobs, mostly in engineering.

Via Dyson Electric Car Under Development Reveals Government Website



Not sure if good or bad – ‘Industry’ seems to have thought about this, and agrees with me:

Dyson: industry experts cast doubt on electric car project

It seems to have provided the opportunity for more people to kick the Dyson hand dryer I mentioned.

I rather liked one user who claimed the design was poor, allowing water to collect in its base, to later allow the dirty aggregate be sprayed back out onto the unsuspecting user once enough had gathered.

But, maybe they had kids, and they were pouring water into it… for fun!

I also saw another negative report about the hand dryer:

One of his products, the Dyson bathroom hand drier, where you dip your hands down and pull them up as a blade of air blasts them dry, turns out to be a major spreader of airborne microbes and viruses in restrooms (a study found).

Going back to the car, I’ve seen some better versed writers with more info, and while there is nothing on the car, they noted:

Executives from both Aston Martin and Tesla have left their positions to join Dyson.

Earlier this year, Dyson hired Ricardo Reyes, former Tesla communications executive, which fueled speculation the British company had ramped up its rumored plans for an electric car, according to an Autocar report.

Last month, Dyson brought on David Wyer as its head of procurement. He followed another former Aston Martin worker, product development director Ian Minards, who left the British luxury brand for the same position at the appliance maker.

Looking at comments from people closer to the industry, the view seems to be Dyson is copying Tesla’s original model, and going for a premium model to sell expensive and make money.

But… that seems flawed. Tesla benefited from that model, and used it to get to money from luxury cars sales, and bring out its lower cost mass market car, launched recently. Tesla has also revised and simplified its luxury models, suggesting that is being consolidated, and concentration is moving to the cheaper cars, and their support. Notably, their service and support model has also changed recently, also changing to suit greater numbers.

Sadly, Dyson might be an EV dinosaur by 2020.


September 28, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Third list found – this time Glasgow inventions

Seems I have something of a ‘List Theme’ going on these days, and I have now found a third list for the third day, this time “11 Glasgow inventions that helped change the modern world”.

There are more, and this is, of course, not MY list, just one I spotted and thought I’d dig into a little, just for fun.

  1. The (improved) steam engine
    Good to see they credited this to James Watt, a scientific instrument maker in Glasgow University during the mid 1700s, who did not (as many still say) ‘Invent the steam engine’, but brought about a vast improvement in its efficiency by adding a separate condenser, and eliminated the highly wasteful steps of alternately heating and cooling the whole cylinder for each power stroke.
  2. Antiseptic
    Joseph Lister discovered the antiseptic effects of phenol (carbolic acid) while professor of surgery at Glasgow University in the late 1800s. This single discovery and it development must have saved millions of lives over the years since it was discovered.
  3. The cash machine/PIN
    I tend to avoid this subject, since TWO inventors have been credited, and even given OBEs.
    Today, Paisley-born inventor James Goodfellow, a development engineer working in Glasgow in the 1960s, has become generally accepted as the inventor, having been involved in a project to design a machine able to dispense money when banks were closed. His design featured a coded card and personal number to access the machines, and this is the security check we all recognise today. However, John Shephard-Barron (born in India of Scottish parents, died in Inverness) had his cash dispenser installed a month before Goodfellow’s, so has generally been credited with the invention over the years. But he had not employed a card and number security system, instead issuing special cheques to the account holder. These included a security number printed in (mildly) radioactive ink which the machine could read, then compare with the number entered by the user to confirm validity. It has been noted that the amount of carbon 14 in the print was such that some 136,000 cheques would have to have been eaten before the radiation level might be considered potentially harmful, but the hysteria always whipped up around the mere mention of ‘radiation’ by various Green Loonies probably means the idea would never have caught on.
  4. Waterproofs
    Where else but Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, would chemist Charles Macintosh have been born, and go on to patent the first ‘waterproof’ fabric in 1823? I can’t be too certain, but I suspect the Scottish weather just might have provided the tiniest piece of inspiration for this one.
  5. The fridge
    While not an actual fridge, it seems the history of artificial refrigeration can be traced back to 1755, when Scottish professor William Cullen (physician, chemist, and agriculturist) used a pump to create a partial vacuum over a container of diethyl ether, causing it to boil and absorb heat from its surroundings (even producing a little ice). Sadly, this had no practical application at the time, and some years passed before it was transformed into commercial refrigeration and used for preservation and ice-making. The latter being quite significant, since ice had to be collected and stored during winter (cut from frozen pools for example) for later use (so most of it melted even before summer arrived), or collected from places where it formed naturally (think mountain tops), and shipped where needed.
  6. Television
    There are endless arguments about ‘Who invented television’, but the truth is simply that over the years a number of people were working on the many principles it relies on, but John Logie Baird (from Helensburgh, who studied electrical engineering at the Royal Technical College in Glasgow and at the University of Glasgow) was really the first to bring them all together, and make them work successfully. He transmitted the world’s first long distance television signal from London to the Central Hotel at Glasgow Central Station in 1927. While a plaque in the hotel records this event, sadly, nobody knows or has ever been able to identify exactly where in the hotel this experiment took place.
  7. Beta blockers
    Born in Uddingston, Sir James Black established a Veterinary Physiology department at the University of Glasgow, and won the Nobel Prize for his work in medicine in 1988. His invention of beta blockers was seen as a great advance in clinical pharmacology, and has been described as one of the most important drug discoveries of the 20th century.
  8. The police
    In 1800, the authorities in Glasgow successfully petitioned the Government of the day to pass the Glasgow Police Act, creating the City of Glasgow Police, thought to be the world’s first modern type municipal police force. Note that the more well-known Robert Peel (and his Peelers) did not create the Metropolitan Police with his Act until 1829. The words ‘imitation’ and ‘flattery’ come to mind.
  9. Ultrasound
    Invented by Ian Donald, while professor of Midwifery at Glasgow University, the world’s first diagnostic ultrasound machine was inspired by the use of ultrasound used to detect flaws in metal, as seen in Glasgow’s shipyards, It seems he was the first person to realize its potential for use in medical diagnosis. His original machine was on show in Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum last time I managed to fall in the doors, and may still be (not sure if it was a permanent exhibit). It really was huge, and probably scared the life out of any non-tech ordinary person it was used in its day, unlike the elegant designs such devices have evolved into.
  10. Glasgow Coma Scale
    The Glasgow Coma Scale was created by Sir Graeme Treasdale and Brian Jennet while they were working at the Institute of Neurological Sciences in Glasgow. It is now used worldwide as a means of reliably measuring the conscious state of a patient. I even came across it use, after being involved in an assault case in Glasgow, where it seems it is frequently referred to in courts due to the nature of many assaults – apparently it is quite common for a victim to lose consciousness, maybe only momentarily, after an initial blow the head, and while this is not ideal, it is not necessarily serious in itself. The problem is that the now unconscious  and limp victim is unable to break their fall in any way, so will collapse uncontrollably. This is the real problem and where serious injury can result, should they fall backwards the back of their head can strike the ground (pavement) with the equivalent impact/force of a fall from 2 metres. This can cause fractures and/or internal bleeding of the brain, not only serious, but potentially life-threatening.
  11. Chicken tikka masala
    I’m told legend has it that the chicken tikka masala was invented after a Glasgow bus driver complained that his tikka dish was too dry. I can’t really comment, I think all curry is disgusting, and go with the history that says curry is as Indian as London is Scottish, and that curry is actually a British invention created in the days of colonisation when the troops sent to India had to find some way to disguise the revolting meat they were given, so doused it with all the spices and flavouring they could find so they could down it without throwing up as they ate.

So, as is often said, Glasgow (and as a result Scotland) does quite well in the invention stakes.

One day it might learn how to cash in on them too, instead of turning them over to others to profit from them.

August 23, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , | 6 Comments

The cash dispenser – another Scottish invention

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I see from the news that the funeral of John Shepherd-Barron OBE took place recently.

Credited with inventing the cash machine, Mr Shepherd-Barron was born in Meghalaya (then Shillong), India, on June 23, 1925, and died on May 15, 2010, at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, aged 84. He had been living in Portmahomack in Ross-shire.

The idea came to him during the 1960s, after he was unable to get access to his money after arriving too late to get into his bank. He later described how the idea of the machine came to him while he was in his bath, and had been inspired by a similar machine used to sell bars of chocolate. Barclays bought into the idea almost immediately, the then chief executive signed a contract with the inventor, and the world’s first ATM (automated teller machine) was installed in a branch of Barclays in Enfield, north London, in June 1967. First to use the machine and withdraw cash was Reg Varney, well-known for his role in the television comedy series On the Buses. The site is marked by a blue plaque, but it is reported that few visitors take any notice of it.

In order to withdraw cash (initially limited to a maximum of £10), the user had to complete and insert one of their cheques into the machine. As the plastic card and magnetic strip had not been invented then, the user’s PIN (personal identification number) was encoded on their cheques using ink tagged with radioactive carbon-14. The machine could read this, and compared it with the number input by the user. Carbon-14 is a well-known radioactive marker, and in this application harmless. The inventor calculated that someone would have had to eat 136,000 such cheques before any harm was likely from the ink. The health effect of eating the cheques alone does not seem to have been considered.

This was also when the four digit PIN was invented. Although Shepherd Barron could remember six digits (as per his Army number), his wife declared she could only remember four, so this set the length of the PIN, and became a worldwide standard.

The invention was never patented, and he described a conversation with Barclays’ lawyers where he was “advised that applying for a patent would have involved disclosing the coding system, which in turn would have enabled criminals to work the code out”.

Many years later, he was awarded the OBE for services to banking in the Queen’s New Year Honours List for 2005.

This leads us on to one of the more controversial aspect of the invention, which I believe was told some years ago, during a television documentary.

Another Scot, Paisley-born James Goodfellow OBE, was a development engineer working on ATMs at the time and holds a 1966 patent for the ATM, however his machine was tested one month later than Shepherd Barron’s. Goodfellow came up with the idea of an encrypted card to be used with a PIN number, and devised the mechanism of keying in a number code to cash machines in the 1960s.

When Shepherd-Barron was given his royal honour, Goodfellow was quoted as saying: “It is one thing for him to be awarded an OBE for services to the banking industry, but not for him to be portrayed as the inventor of the ATM. I have never bothered with this thing for 40 years, so it was a shock when it said he invented it. It’s not sour grapes. He invented a radioactive device to withdraw money. I invented an automated system with an encrypted card and a pin number, and that’s the one that is used around the world today.”

Goodfellow was awarded the OBE in 2006.


2011 saw the cash dispenser redesigned to take account of various tricks and frauds committed against its users:

BBC News – Cash-machine fraud: foiling the tricksters

Russian copy – Needs some work

May 28, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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