Innovations to like, and innovations that disappoint

I am all in favour of new technology. It can deliver more to us for less. It can help us in ways we did not imagine. It drives good change in the corporate world, forcing businesses to adjust to new competitors and to rethink their goods and services. It often produces a product or service which becomes a must.

There are also times when innovation produces a product or service which is little or no improvement on what it seeks to replace. Change makers can become mesmerised by the technology and think less about the customer. Much change is healthy, but some change can be expensive, disruptive or simply unnecessary.

I was an early adopter of mobile phones, as it was a big leap forward to be able to contact people from wherever you are. Many of the improvements made to cars, to their safety and comfort, are most welcome. Modern computers enable us to find information without going to the library and to send out material without having to persuade an editor or publisher.

I ask myself which innovations that are currently being discussed would do most to improve my life? Clearly a self driving car that took responsibility for my travel would provide a big increase in freedom and give me back the hours I spend in traffic jams studying the safety of the road ahead. I would like a self controlled hoover that could clean a room whilst I was doing something else in another room. More automation of other cleaning routines would also be good news.

There are some changes which have not brought obvious benefits. As a taxpayer I get my share of the big bills for switching trains to electric drive, but as a passenger I do not see any improvement of an electric train over a diesel. All the time we generate electricity from coal and gas it is difficult to see the environmental case as well. Electricity as a secondary fuel incurs energy losses at the power station and in transmission as well as in turning the energy into drive power in the engine.

I have given up on my digital radio at home and gone back to the old analogue one, despite the poor BBC signal. The digital radios are difficult to tune in, slow to warm up and often provide a poor quality output. The one I have to have to have in the car regularly cuts out in busy places.

Quite a few of the digital control systems are far less effective than old fashioned switches and dials. Fiddling about with a light display operated by applying finger pressure to a pad is not as quick or easy as setting a dial to a required setting.

I would be interested to hear your list of good and bad new ideas.

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129 Comments

  1. Fedupsoutherner
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    I agree with you over the car radio. I would like to see better reception for mobile phones where there are none at the moment. I would also like Sturgeon to concentrate on providing a faster broadband service for rural areas. So many of us are trying to run a business and it is very frustrating sometimes when you cannot access your bank account. She is threatening to use money from Scotland’s national banks to prop up subsidies for wind turbines! The woman should do her homework. She should be helping genuine businesses not inflicting higher costs on them for energy.
    This digital age is only offering advantages to the few as usual.

    • James Mansfield
      Posted April 10, 2018 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      It might be worth contacting Virgin Media if you can get the village interested in clubbing together for a 350mbps fibre installation…See the link below for how people in rural Hampshire managed to get this done:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43372054

      Or maybe you can do it via 4G instead.

  2. Peter
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    I am not an early adopter. Maybe it is an age thing, but I find I have enough ‘stuff’.

    My TV lasted a couple of decades until the change in signal forced me to buy a new one. The old one had no remote. I considered remote control something for the lazy. The new TV had a 3D facility which I never use.

    I had a minidisc system which is now obsolete. Same applies to VHS recorders and cassette tapes.

    The consumer society has lost its appeal for me.

    • APL
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      “I am not an early adopter. Maybe it is an age thing, but I find I have enough ‘stuff’.”

      It’s not just age, but definitely a factor.
      Observe the market for a while and you realise ‘early adopters’ usually pay a premium. I’ve been quite happy buying items that were perfectly good when released, but are now out of fashion. With a little self restraint you can often buy a bargain at a third of it’s ‘first wave’ price.

      And yes increased age tends to make one less fashion conscious.

  3. Peter
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    I do like new watch technology. Solar powered quartz movements with synchronisation to the atomic clock. A complete game changer over mechanical movements. Much cheaper to buy and minimal service costs.

    However, there is still cachet in high end Swiss mechanical timepieces and people buy them despite the fact they offer less accuracy and can incur high maintenance and service costs. I suppose it is the most widely accepted form of male jewellery.

    Youngsters don’t bother with wristwatches. They take the time from their phones.

    • NigelE
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Not just youngsters. Not had a watch for 10 years.

  4. David Cockburn
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    I’m so glad to find someone else who finds push button digital controls inconvenient but I do react positively to most innovations; Sat Nav is a great improvement over trying to read a map while driving or shouting at your spouse when you get lost. Adaptive cruise control and lane keeping remove some of the tedium of driving. My battery powered lawn mower is more convenient than cable powered, easier to start than petrol and less work than push. A pumped shower delivers a good amount of water, unlike an electric one, at a consistent temperature, unlike a gravity one. My grandfather had a water softener but operating it required a qualification in engineering, which he had, while my digital one only requires me to add salt every 6 weeks.

  5. MIke Stallard
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    “I would like a self controlled hoover that could clean a room whilst I was doing something else in another room. ”

    My daughter in law in Singapore has one of these already.
    She is a Catholic lady called Mary-Lou.

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      My friend has one here too. She’s had it for about 8 years. Bought at a wholesalers in Glasgow.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      I need some glasses that recognise people’s faces and reminds me who they are, what they do, what their wife and children are called and when I last saw them!

      • mancunius
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

        Reminds me a bit of Rob Wilton’s ‘Never forget a face’ sketch which ended with sudden enlightenment: ‘Wuz ye in the Red Lion this mornin’?”

    • stred
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      I have one and have to rescue it every 2 minutes when it gets stuck or is about to fall down the stairs.

  6. David Williams
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood

    Some time ago, I enjoyed a blog entry you wrote about the way in which mobile phone had become smarter but have far less endurance, for use as telephones, with resulting inconvenience. I agreed.

    I have recently noticed that there will soon be a phone with long battery life but which can be used for tethering one’s tablet or laptop to.

    If launched next month or so, and modestly priced – c£80 – I might try one. In black, not yellow.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5432975/Nokia-revives-8110-banana-phone-continues-mobile-comeback.html

    Kind regards
    David Williams

  7. Student
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Dear Dr Redwood,

    Off topic, but what is your view on all of this blue passport noise? My inclination is that we want to be a more global Britain, so the location of where the passports are made shouldn’t matter. Protesting against outsourcing our passport manufacturing to the cheapest and most competent bidder is giving the impression that Brexit will result in “Little Britain”.

    I think it would be good to have some Leave MPs pointing out why choosing the best bidder is the best option for the country/taxpayer.

    Reply This is now the subject of court action so I will not be commenting. I do think once we are out of the EU we need to revise our rules for public procurement, currently designed by the EU.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      The question to ask is why could the UK not compete? Daft employment laws, expensive energy and property, gender reporting laws, restrictive panning, huge over taxation, expensive slow banks, over regulation of everything or what?

    • Wessexboy
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      I’m all in favour of a global trading nation, but where security is concerned, I prefer it to be ‘in house’. What price a British passport?

    • Ian wragg
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      But it’s not necessarily the best bid when taxation etc is taken into account. The preferred company is part owned by the French government and may very well be a loss leader underwritten by the French taxpayer. No other G7 country allows foreigners to print passports on security grounds.

    • Andy
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      EU rules do not stop France buying French passport. Perhaps it is theTory government getting it wrong again? In any case I thought Brexit was about a global Britain – in which case we should ignore the Little Englanders demanding we spend £120m subsiding a British company. Let’s fund the NHS instead.

      • Edward2
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        So do you agree we should follow EU procurement rules or not ?

      • NickC
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

        Andy, So you’ve promised to fund the the NHS with an extra £120m?

    • Richard1
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      I agree with Student, this issue is a nonsense. The winning bidder already makes driving licenses and had a cheaper bid. who cares what colour the passport is, these docs will be obsolete in a few years anyway. I would like the govt to be under the maximum pressure at all times to secure the best value for taxpayers. when the govt has the flexibility to make political gestures we get policies like spending £5bn on an aircraft carrier which has no planes and needs a bunker-ship for fuel to follow it around, all so it can be built in a key Scottish constituency for the Labour ministers who ordered it.

      • NickC
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

        Richard1, If you only buy the cheapest every time, you will get what you pay for.

        • Richard1
          Posted April 4, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          cost is not the only selection criteria. but its certainly important.

  8. Epikouros
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    In theory a new technology that is introduced that is either unnecessary or does not perform better or even as good as that which it replaces should quickly be removed from sale/introduction as consumers do not purchase them or show in other ways their diapproval. The marketplace is a wonderful system for sorting out good from bad. If it does not then the chances are that some external force is being applied that disrupt the normal market function of separating the wheat from the chaff. That external force it can be confidently claimed to be being exercised by either politicians/government, bureaucrats, government agencies, vested interests and most likely a combination of two or more of them.

  9. jerry
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    “Clearly a self driving car that took responsibility for my travel would provide a big increase in freedom and give me back the hours I spend in traffic jams studying the safety of the road ahead.”

    I think they are called Taxi’s! 🙂

    If you think congestion will improve with self-drive cars think again, unless the govt. starts spending real money on better roads things will get a lot worse once even more people have personal access to using the motor car – after all if the car is autonomous, the on-board control systems never needing to cede control to the ‘driver’ who will then need a driving licence, who will need to sit in the front seat facing the direction of traffic, surely we will also soon see such cars with four seats facing each other, perhaps with a useful table between for laptop, snacks or wine glasses…

    “I have given up on my digital radio at home and gone back to the old analogue one, despite the poor BBC signal.”

    A signal regulated by Govt, Ofcom and the privatised companies who own the transmitters.

    As for DAB, thank goodness for it, now I can listen to BBC R5L or the BBC World Service, the latter having being very difficult since the 1980s when the govt of the day shut down the UK’s analogue WS frequency. On top of that I can access many more independent commercial and not-for-profit radio stations, never mind stations dedicated to a specific genre or era of content.

    OK so DAB radios take about the same time to ‘boot-up’ as most computers do (basically the same process is going on), but so what, still a lot quicker that the old valve radios.

  10. MickN
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    O/T Yesterday I visited the Churchill War Rooms. In the shop I saw a book entitled “How to think like Churchill”
    I wondered if I should buy a copy and send it to the Prime Minister. I didn’t in the end as I didn’t think she would read it.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      She certainly needs help, every single thing she comes up with is about 180 degrees out. Early punishment manifesto elections, more religious schools, gender pay reporting, the highest taxes for 40 years, P Hammond as chancellor, lying over control of out border while in the EU, sending go home immigrants truck adverts out, grossly failing to control immigration while pretending to, talking about the nasty party, failing to cut the green crap ………….

      Then we have the EU total cave in, Brexit in name only and the “transition” period!

  11. Bernard from Bucks.
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Simple electronic items have become so complicated and provide far too many functions that may never be required. Manufacturers have been providing too many ‘bells and whistles’ to compete in the market. With all these extra attached functions, 120 pages of instructions are required. Do they provide these? Well not directly, one now has to ‘go online’ and download
    the bl**dy thing.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Indeed you buy something for £50 and they expect you to spend say 20 hours of time (worth hundreds times this £50) just to work out how to use it. Plus another six months trying to stop it spying on you with privacy settings.

      Phones that have poor battery life, batteries that cannot be changed easily and cannot be read in bright sunlight are particularly annoying. My old Nokia lasted at least a week and could be read easily in bright sunshine.

    • Adam
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      Useful facility is fine, but needless add-ons obstruct.

      Businesses pinpoint individual customer accounts, yet send them communications lazily referring to several ‘if this applies to you’ differences, already well-known from their own records.

      Web pages are full of content that necessitates reading it solely to recognise it as irrelevant. Short & simple is better.

      Technology should adhere to simple logic. A choice solely between two enables progress. Software that needs studying instructions to use it tends to be unfit for purpose.

  12. Student
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Social media has had a big effect on many people’s lives, and I cannot decide if I think it is the best or the worst idea.

    It has allowed me to stay in contact with many people I may have not otherwise. I have connected to new people, coordinated study & project groups, and just last week I met in person with two students who I had never known before to discuss a business idea they had in mind having connected with them through LinkedIn. They could see my background and that I was at the same university.

    On the other hand, I have seen how social media promotes bullying and trolling. Scrolling through a Facebook feed is probably one of the most mind numbing, time wasting and unhealthy guilty pleasures that can unwittingly suck hours out of a day or week. Not to mention the issue with data selling, which we still don’t know the full implications of.

    I cannot decide whether it is a good or bad idea because I cannot decide if it is making lives better or worse. On the whole I think it might be making them better, otherwise I and so many others wouldn’t be using it. But I think there may need to be some serious government regulation to enable competitiveness in the industry; Facebook can do anything it wants because it has a complete monopoly. Because of the ‘network effecf’, it is now impossible for another company to come in and compete in the same space as that which already has 2 billion users. In such unchartered territory, I think there needs to be some clever innovative regulation to enable a competitive market. This will probably sort many of these issues.

    • Student
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Network effect*

  13. Stred
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Dazzling blue LED headlights should be uninvented.

  14. Caterpillar
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    The wheelie bin – lids open with Bernoulli effect, recycling ones fall over due to insufficient weight, give excuse for dustmen not to collect rubbish just to wheel bin, a handful for elderly to wheel to roadside rather than dustment to collect. Many councils have innovated a rubbish disposal service that includes such a bad device and no service.

    The innovation of children always being right and adults being evil is destroying schools and social behaviour.

    The innovation of allowing serious offenders freedom is not a deterrent.

    The innovation of too much high end kit in the navy and air force is leading to loss of existing capital.

    The innovation of an independent BoE has led to a nation of borrowers not savers.

    The innovation of devolved power has left England behind.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      or even “hear of”

  15. Sakara Gold
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I think that the best all-round new idea is the concept of harvesting free energy from offshore windfarms. The UK is a world leader in this technology and, being a first adopter, is now reaping the benefits.

    National Grid have annouced this morning that in March, more than a third of the electricity generated in the UK was achieved with wind power. This excellent article (“Reaping the wind with the biggest turbines ever made”) on the BBC website gives further detail:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43576226

    Of great interest to us in the UK is that several major players in this field are building manufacturing facilities here, to make the huge blades and other components required to build the new generation of North Sea mega windfarms. New offshore wind is now far cheaper than new nuclear and will be built entirely free from subsidy; the electricity generated will also be extremely cheap.

    The Dutch firm TenneT has proposed a huge facility in the Dogger Bank capable of generating 30 GigaWatts. To put that in context, the average daily electricity demand for the whole of the UK is 36GW. Your mobile phone may soon be charged using extremely cheap renewable energy!

    • Edward2
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      It isn’t free energy.
      The wind farms be they on shore or off shore cost hundreds of millions.
      Wind power generation is developing and that is good.
      But don’t forget the costs oll the back up generating stations kept running all the time for when the wind doesn’t blow or blows too hard.

    • NickC
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

      Sakara Gold, Harvesting wind energy is not free; and it is intermittent. Therefore despatchable backup must be installed – which is also not free. So the capital cost is about double the backup on its own. Running costs including maintenance must be included, and fuel for the backup.

      According to Mott Macdonald, without “carbon costs”, bearing in mind reliability of supply is essential for national efficiency, Coal is the cheapest followed by Gas and then Nuclear. Offshore Wind is at least 50% more expensive than Onshore Wind. Since Wind utilisation is in the region of 20% – 30%, the conventional backup is running for most of the time.

  16. Lifelogic
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Some rules to prevent built in obsolescence might however make sense in some areas if done well. Things should be built to last a reasonable length of time and spare parts should be available.

  17. Know-Dice
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I guess you mean “vacuum cleaner” rather than the trade name you mentioned 🙁

    Maybe better to say Dyson, which is named after a Brexit supporting James Dyson…

    Certainly digital is not always better, my old Volvo had three rotatory heater controls which you could easily set without needing to take your eyes off the road. Whereas my current German built car, quite often you need to look at the central screen in-order to fine tune the heater settings.

    DAB digital radio, other than the issues with very variable received signal strength, quite often the quality of the broadcast sound on any particular service is down to economics (the cost of different transmitted bit rates). Certainly with DAB+ there was/is the option of better quality but too often broadcasters have opted for cost savings rather than quality.

  18. Rien Huizer
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    You should ask your famous MP colleague how he manages without domestic automation.

    Anyway, as in your example of diesel driven trains and digital displays, most of it benefits te consumer only indirectly, because it makes the service or product less expensive to produce. Electric trains especially use up base load power that must be generated anyway and once electrified the system has lower costs. In fact, hypothetically converting electric track to diesel by taking out the power lines and buying diesel engines, is somewhat analogous to the combined tasks of messrs Davis & Fox, the brexit custodians…

    • Ian wragg
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      We don’t have an excess of generation especially in winter so fossil fuels will be required to power the trains
      Your analogy of Davies and Brexit is of course 100% wrong.
      We are the trail blazers shedding the yoke of communists inspitred subjugation.

      • Rien Huizer
        Posted April 4, 2018 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        Well, at least you are not a closed shop Corbynista brexiteer..

      • WA Laugh
        Posted April 4, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        « We are the trail blazers shedding the yoke of communists’inspired subjugation ». At least, something that cannot be said is that you are lacking some sense of humour.

  19. agricola
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Some innovations are progress. Parking sensors and cameras alleviate aging stiff necks. Others are just sales gimmicks. Anyone dependent on anti collision warning and automatic breaking should not be in control of a vehicle.

    The politically driven surge to everything electric is a strategically dumb move, due to it’s inherent vulnerability and our inability to generate enough of it within the UK. At the domestic level I like the flexibility of electric ovens, a gas hob and a BBQ. Electricity cuts are a feature of life in Spain so having options is important.

    Some innovation is ignored, yet again for political reasons. I often speculate that every MP must have a rent earning windmill in their back garden, but seriously dare I mention yet again, the development of a super efficient petrol engine by Mazda, the development of very low emission diesel engines using ACCT in Loughborough, the development of an emission free coal burning power station in Madras. You havn’t seen air pollution until you have experienced it in Madras (Chennai). Government seems to have been frightened off fracking by a rag tag of nimbies. Both the fear of it, and the lack of resolution to get on with it, based on ignorance.

    I would vote against the automatic vacuum cleaner because it only does floors and I would miss the arrival of Marie each week who has the added advantage of improving my abysmal Spanish. I am all for innovation , but lets keep it real

  20. Adam
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Innovation is fine, yet many now folk pronounce its adjective strangely.
    Somehow ‘InnOvative’ changed to ‘InnIvative’ without useful purpose.

  21. Adam
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Car bumpers were added to avoid small impact damage to vehicles.
    Manfrs presenting them as cosmetic destroyed their value at high cost.

    Clothes needing ironing are as backward as a butler needing to iron his master’s newspaper.

    Email may have done most to reduce waste.

  22. TomTomTom
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    The productivity gains from the IT revolution over the last 30 years are vast and often underestimated.

    As one trivial example. When I was a teenager in 1988, I used to save up and buy CD’s from my Saturday job.

    One album cost around £15. I used to be able to buy 2 or 3 a month.

    My teenagers though have a family subscription to Spotify. That costs £15 a month shared by all three of them – a fiver each.

    For that, they get an almost unlimited amount of music. And some of it is even quite good 🙂

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      The productivity gains from the IT revolution over the last 30 years are vast and often underestimated.

      Indeed but largely grabbed/defeated by the state sector just getting more bloated and inept.

      • WA Laugh
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        UK deficit has been typically positive since 1980, UK government debt as a %age of GDP is rising, but interest payment on public sector debt as a %age of government expenditure has had an average downward trend from 1980.
        The primary sector employment has decreased over the last 40 years, tertiary employment has increased (schools, hospitals, retail industries).
        The public sector workforce stood at ~57m in mid-2013, made up about 20% of total employment, LOWER in %age than at any point in the last 40 years (ifs.org.uk, IFS Briefing Note BN145, Feb.2014).

        Whether it is inept is another question, but bloated? 350,000 posts cancelled since 1990.

        • Edward2
          Posted April 4, 2018 at 7:02 am | Permalink

          Many public sector jobs have been turned into agencies and quangos.
          Then there is the charity sector doing government work and given large lumps of money from Govt.
          Then there are the quasi public sector companies like Network Rail.
          That’s why direct public sector jobs look to have reduced when the overall size of the state has grown.

  23. Leslie Singleton
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Dear John–If, as you imply, you are unable to buy a new analogue radio, maybe (as I have done) you can get one from a breakers yard and with luck they will fit it for you in a trice while you wait. There are specialist breakers (at least there are for BMW’s) which are my first port of call for all certainly expensive spares. Why does the TV zapper have to be so small? Given that it doesn’t go anywhere and just lives by the set why cannot it be much bigger with buttons fewer and larger and easier to read and press (one at a time). Why do the controls on a printer have to be such gobbledigook? There are people including me who do not carry a mobile because we don’t like being pestered–No longer having to carry one is a joy of retirement–I keep it in the car for emergencies and nobody knows its number (including me). I now learn that BP reckons I should be using a mobile to buy petrol–can’t imagine why. Another reason for buying an older car is that one doesn’t have to be burdened by SatNav–I would rather keep my wits’ about me and navigate myself TVM. Things aren’t made properly any more–What they used to call craftsmanship–Old fishing reels for example. Beauty in the eyeballs of the beholder and all that. Bring back Bakelite and grease proof paper. Cheese wrapped in plastic is disgusting.

  24. Peter Parsons
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    It’s a shame that a little bit of research wasn’t done before criticising electric trains. Diesel trains don’t run like cars, they are actually mobile power stations as they carry a diesel generator which produces electricity, and it is that electricity which then actually moves the train.

    As such, diesel trains are heavier since they need to carry a generator that electric trains don’t, along with a giant fuel tank to power that generator, which makes for worse acceleration and braking performance, along with increased maintenance cost and complexity. I’d suggest a quick read of the issues in serving the new Green Park station on the Reading to Basingstoke line without electrification.

    They can also offer increased passenger capacity, as evidenced on the Great Western line where the new electric trains offer 10 carriages for passengers in the same space the old diesel trains offered 8 due to the fact that the space occupied by the generators and fuel tanks in the old diesel traction units can be given over to additional seats.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      But they need the whole line to be electrified which does not always make much sense. Especially as self driven cars come on line and in the smallish UK.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        Then the track made more secure for safety and litigation reasons and maintained after gales, crashes, tree falls, flooding and the likes.

    • Jagman84
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      The new ‘electric’ trains on GWR are Bi-modes that also have diesel capacity as standard. How do you think they get to Bristol and beyond, from Didcot, without any overhead wires? The new commuter trains (Class 387) are electric only and are a big improvement on the old diesel stock.

      • 37/6
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        Indeed.

        The problems of both electric and diesel in one package. Dead load being carried in either mode.

    • 37/6
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Electric trains must carry pantograph gear a transformer (full of oil) and rectifier which are not inconsiderable in weight.

      • 37/6
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        I’d also argue that a single engine pulling 8 coaches is not a heavy train over all. An electric train has motors under each bogey.

        The main advantage over diesel is that electric trains can be stabled anywhere. A diesel must reach a fuel point which means more empty coaching stock moves.

        Toilet tanks negate this advantage somewhat meaning that trains need to reach discharge aprons each day.

      • Peter Parsons
        Posted April 4, 2018 at 7:04 am | Permalink

        Still lighter than the diesel equivalent which contributes to better acceleration and performance, which is why the extra stop at the new Green Park station needs the electric units to maintain the service on that line under its current operating model. With diesel, additional units would be required to maintain the current service frequency.

  25. JimS
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Back in 1964 the Rover 2000 made a feature of the fact that the control knobs on the dashboard were a different shape so their function can be ‘felt’. My latest car has a touch screen that can’t be easily/safely read while driving yet should I brush my hand against it when I grope for a nearby manual knob will instantly change the radio channel to I know not where. Talking of radio controls, my first car radio with remote controls had them on ‘sticks’ that kept their place. my last two cars have them on the steering wheel so I never know exactly where they are. (How come my central heating timer can do GMT/BST but DAB radio equipped cars can’t?).
    I agree with you that digital radios and TVs are slow to switch on and tune. One of our sets is slow to switch off so one tends to push the on/off button twice in frustration; the TV rewards us by eventually switching off – then switching on again!

  26. Man of Kent
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I look forward to ringing for a driverless electric car to take me to my country pub about 2 miles away and then bring me home again an hour or two later .

    The rebirth of the country pub ?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Indeed. Certainly safer than staggering home drunk down dark country lanes!

    • Peter Wood
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      And no doubt the quality, variety and taste of the English ale in your pub has improved greatly over the last 20 or so years, as mine has.
      Sometimes change comes in strange and unexpected ways.. “-This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.”

      • Man of Kent
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

        Yes it has !

    • Anonymous
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      You will still need to be sober in order to be insured.

      • Man of Kent
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        Oh no – please don’t spoil the dream !

  27. Lifelogic
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Massive opportunities for innovation and massive cost savings could be made in education and training too from information technology and videoed lectures & lessons etc. These are held back by the large degree of state monopoly in education, vested interests and the unfair competition (to the private sector) from “free at the point of use schools” and the loan funded government university grants.

    As usual it is the government holding everything back and damaging innovation & progress or trying to funnel it in certain usually daft directions. Climate alarmism and the endless grants given to push this hugely exaggerated religion perhaps the most damaging of all. This particularly at universities where research funding seems to demand that you bow to the green crap, group think religion.

    In private I find that most of the sensible engineers, energy experts, physicists and scientists I meet (mainly at Cambridge events) think global warming is a best a huge exaggeration and at worst a gigantic con trick and fraud.

    But most dare not say so in public. The BBC has a great deal to answer for in pushing their misguided left wing, big government, green crap and anti-science agenda. Another example of state funded & grossly unfair competition.

  28. Spinflight
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Automating a lot of the 3D jobs that blokes disproportionately do would be a good start. Would maybe redress the balance of workplace deaths and life expectancy a tadge.

    Trouble is that would mean increased competition for the more comfortable lifestyle jobs that feminists are always, exclusively, screeching about.

  29. Mark B
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    . . . I do not see any improvement of an electric train over a diesel.

    That is because you are not running a train company and can see it from just one perspective. Diesel has to be bought, transported and stored. That all costs time and money. A Diesel engine takes up one or more carriage spaces, so less seating. They are dirtier and noisey. Take time to run up and operate and are more unreliable.

    It is not only hardware that can be said to be less effective compared with older generations. Software too can be a nuisance. My mobile phone has taken upon itself to tell me what I really want to say and swap words for something totally different. Well that’s my excuse 😉

    Social Media is another plus or minus. It can be used for good or harm but its control and malign influence is becoming ever more apparent. It is not just the people using it that can be a problem, those running too ! Governments, rightly or wrongly, are becoming fearful of losing the narrative and wish to control it. Far too much Big Brother.

    Automatic ticket machines in place of people at underground stations is one. The London has a high number of tourists who simply have problems with the complexity of ticketing and a person is not always around to help and advise.

    Driverless cars are not a good idea and will not solve traffic problems. Not unless you intend to introduce rationing.

    https://www.petro-online.com/news/air-clean-up/16/breaking-news/what-is-car-rationing/44562

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-36051628

    Electric cars too are not a good idea. They take too much precious resources and do not deliver on what they promise. But hey, the UK Government will ban all these so . . . ?

    Or maybe we are all just getting old and need replacing ourselves. That’s what some on the Left would like to see happen. Forgetting the fact of course, as they so often do, that their insane ideas will apply just as much to them as they do to anyone else.

    Happy days 🙂

  30. IwasGnarth
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    And not a mention of digital photography? Surely the definitive disruptive technology (I’m sure Kodak would agree).

    • WA Laugh
      Posted April 4, 2018 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      Seconded.

  31. Hi Ya'awl
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    A state of the art with knobs on, lottery random number generator…and a three-year university course BSc on Digital Random Lottery Number Generator Technology, an idea generated randomly by a Labour Party Think Aquarium

  32. Peter Parsons
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    DAB radio signals in the UK are provided by a private sector company called Arqiva. As such, the poor “BBC” signal referred to in the original article is actually nothing to do with the BBC.

    Again, some simple background research would have helped rather than using incorrect information as grounds for criticising the BBC incorrectly.

  33. John S
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    “Scan and go” at supermarkets. Pain to register and logon. Bags are examined at the checkout in any case to reduce fraud. It will not catch on.

  34. bigneil
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    One for the good side – -the large screen flat panel HD tv. Better in all respects than the 22″ square 625 lines.

  35. margaret
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Wouldn’t it be good for a self automated vacuum cleaner , but I fear it would not be able to get into the corners. Lawn mowers which are self automated could be improved upon .We are led to believe that robots will be a feature in every ones home; this has got to be a way forward.
    For me the internet is not as good as it should be . I have daily troubles with it and sometimes for days cannot get access. although BT’s modem swears we are connected. Internet use and capacity can be improved upon .
    The pubs will have better occupancy with automated cars , but the taxi drivers will suffer or perhaps not.
    My digital radio is Ok , but tends to wander now and again.
    The telephone connection in my car could be made more user friendly , by the time I have sorted out which to press for hands free the caller has hung up .
    All in all the main aim should be improvement to present devices.

  36. Eh?
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    A clock for which you must have batteries to make go.

  37. Recyclable ivy
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Really on sale.
    Artificial ivy covered garden fencing. Just the thing if you can’t make a rapidly-growing naturally occurring woodland weed make the pace in your garden. A must-have for the plastic lawn grass brigade.

  38. frankD
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I would like to see a mandatory button positioned on my smart phone that i can push to record phone conversations with insurance companies and energy providers etc. Increasingly now a lot of these companies refuse to communicate by letter or email so it means there is no record is kept on my part of what has been discussed. From their side they usually start off with the warning that ‘this call is being recorded for training purposes’etc. I believe I should also have an easy button on my phone to record the same conversation- over to you Samsung

    Alternatively our legislators could bring in the laws to stop this shoddy practice- but they won’t until they are forced to- maybe it’s time to try the EU courts??

  39. Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I’ve been looking for a new car and when I visit a showroom, the first thing the salesman is keen to show me is the in car entertainment and communications system which seems to occupy half the dashboard. No doubt it has DAB radio, which as you say is pretty useless, but apparently I can tether my smartphone to the system an play my own choice of music and make hands free phone calls. They don’t know what to say when I remark that I have a PAYG phone which can only be used for phones and texts; half this expensive system would be useless!

    But when you enquire about parking sensors or automatically folding external mirrors they either don’t have them or they are only on the top of the range. One model had automatic parking to park between cars alongside the kerb, something that I rarely do, I’d much prefer a system which could get the car into a supermarket parking slot!
    As for keyless systems, if you believe the media, they have made cars easier to steal and you can buy the necessary gadgets in Amazon. Apparently you need to keep the key in a metal enclosure to prevent hacking as you do with your touch and go credit card.

    So lots of new fancy innovations, but the ones that many of us really want, some of which have been available for years, are now not provided. And don’t expect a spare wheel, you get a cylinder of some gunge which is supposed to fix a puncture.

  40. GilesB
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    The greatest threat to Western Civilization is the idea of ‘hate speech’.

    ‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’

    ‘Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don’t let our people have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?’ Josef Stalin

  41. ferdinand
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Some progress has both positive and negative effects. Modern digital cameras enable almost anyone to take clear pictures, but the standard falls each year. Phone cameras are lowering standards even further. Soon digital cameras will be the province only of enthusiasts or true photographers .

  42. backofanenvelope
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Reversing sensors are the best thing since sliced bread!

    • Anonymous
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Not when your second car doesn’t have it.

  43. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, JR, it was good to listen to your Speaker’s Lecture broadcast yesterday:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09thrhm

    In particular it is important to remind people that as well as being pledged to developing and maintaining good relations with neighbouring countries, Article 8 TEU:

    http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-european-union-and-comments/title-1-common-provisions/6-article-8.html

    the EU is also supposed to be committed to the promotion of global free trade, and not only under its own treaties as previously summarised here:

    http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2017/08/30/mr-draghi-wants-more-free-trade-so-why-not-accept-the-uk-offer/#comment-886295

    but also under the WTO treaties including now the Trade Facilitation Agreement:

    https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/tfa-nov14_e.htm

    Of course this is the EU, and we know from past experience that while it likes to make a lot of noise about being founded on the rule of law:

    https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/policy/policy-highlights/rule-of-law_en

    “The EU is based on the rule of law: every action taken by it is founded on treaties approved voluntarily and democratically by all EU member countries.”

    the eurocrats will nonetheless stretch or break the EU’s treaties and laws when that seems convenient and they think they can get away with doing so; and no doubt they would be equally prepared to break the WTO treaties; but their hypocrisy should be exposed to the world if they decide to reinstate unnecessary impediments to trade.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      I would also like to refer back to an earlier comment on Article 7.4 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, about the requirement for “Risk Management”:

      http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2018/03/20/uk-energy/#comment-925993

      which in my view should compel the EU to make a proper assessment of the new risks which could arise from simply continuing with current arrangements with respect to the land border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic after the UK had left the EU and its Customs Union and Single Market.

  44. Dave Andrews
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    May I suggest an innovation for the insurance industry?
    I would like to take out a policy, while I am fit and well, which pays out in the future should I ever need long term care.
    I’m informed that no such policies are available, which means I have to speculate on the chances that I might land up in the cheapest care after my money runs out.

  45. Potty
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I have stacks of plastic plant pots. Efficient, easy to clean, do not harbour plant viruses, light, unbreakable if treated well. But they are not like proper plant pots which are something of a garden work of art, evocative of childhood happy lazy days of summer 🙂

  46. formula57
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Electric cars as offered at present may prove a poor choice over alternatives, notably James Dyson’s matching technology but with solid state batteries (to overcome fire risk) or the hydrogen cell alternative technology.

  47. Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    The innovations in healthcare that make us all live alot longer surely has to be the best.

    It’s amazing what they can do now. We need to tackle prostate cancer the same way we have attacked breast cancer.

    I suffer from gout but even in 5 years the way they treat it now is brilliant. One more month and I’ll never get an attack again. You’ve no idea what that means to me and my quality of life.

    When it comes to innovation it all depends on what skills and resources you have as a country. The fiat currency does not matter you just have to make sure that you have enough skills and resources to absorb the government spending so that you don’t cause inflation.

    I’ve never really understood why the treatment of cancer and guide dogs etc etc are charities. The monopoly issuer of the £ could buy as many guide dogs or cancer scientists that it wants. Once they are trained and skilled up to do the job. It is a tradegy to me that these things depend on charities it makes no sense at all. We act as if the monopoly issuer of the £ can run out of £’s which is impossible and it only holds us back.

  48. Atlas
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    … Agreed John. I especially agree over Digital Radio!

    I would have included in your non-exhaustive list ‘Smart’ electricity meters (which are not smart at all) as an example of money not well spent.

  49. Peter Davies
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I would like to see better management of waste. Easier to recycle product packaging and all other waste to be incinerated to produce something useful (energy) with the harmful emissions filtered rather than dumped into dirty landfills.

    That way at least waste would have some value hopefully resulting in less fly tipping etc

  50. Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Maybe someone could explain it to me on here why guide dogs need charities.

    I contacted my local MP to ask him to contact Hammond’s office with a written question:

    “For every £100 the government spends, how much is returned and destroyed as tax?”

    For the accounting period in question, the answer was £94.60.

    So out of every £100 spent the private sector saves £ 5.40 as savings.

    So all government spending pays for itself with any positive tax rate and it is quite clear to me that taxes are too high in this country. The private sector should be allowed to save more than £5.40 out of every £100 spent by the government.

    Anyway lets say there is a unit that specialises in training guide dogs and the government wanted to buy 1000 guide dogs. There’s nothing to stop them from doing that. When government spends it requests that its Treasury’s account at the BofE be debited and the reserve account of the recipient’s bank be credited and that the recipient’s current account at his bank be credited. Job done. Then it collects nearly 95% of that back.

    When government raises tax or sells gilts, the reverse happens. The payer’s current account is debited, the payer’s bank’s reserve account is debited and the Treasury’s account at the BofE is credited. (there is an intermediate step that involves the GBS when paying taxes, but, this just clouds the big picture). Government taxing or selling gilts (to the non-bank sector) destroys broad money.

    The money paid to the guide dog unit will be spent in the economy they pay their tax and whoever receives it pays their tax and they spend in the economy and whoever recieves it pays their tax and they spend in the economy and whoever receives it pays their tax and son and son on until 95% of it is returned and 5% is saved by the private sector. As everybody’s spending is someone elses income.

    So why do guide dogs rely on charities ? When it is very clear to me the UK government can buy as many dogs at it likes. It makes no sense at all. Nobody in a civilised society should be waiting on a guide dog.

    Are we really saying as a country we would rather have our skills and resources stacking shelves in Tesco rather than training guide dogs?

  51. formula57
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    As to the bad, worry arises in relation to the internet of things, where machinery (from vehicles to washing machines) are connected.

    As Cambridge expert Professor Ross Anderson has noted, once software and communications is in everything, the key issue that arises is safety. If it becomes possible then to break into your car’s systems remotely and turn it into a weapon that could kill you, clearly a new set of risks arise.

  52. Ron Olden
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure a self driving car is as universally a valuable innovation as is made out.

    It’s great for public transport, but for many of us, driving distracts from the boredom of the journey. Which is why many of us prefer manual gearboxes over automatics and don’t use the cruise control.

    In any case many of us already have ‘self driving’ cars insofar as we have partners, spouses or colleagues who can drive instead of us. But quite often we still prefer to drive.

    I myself for example always get severely travel sick, if someone else is driving a motor vehicle on the road, but never suffer with it, when I’m driving myself or am on a boat or a train. It’s something to do with the workings of the brain.

    Some people get caught drink driving because they like to drive rather than get a taxi.

    As for ‘innovation’ in general, a lot of it isn’t ‘innovation’ at all. It’s changing the design or appearance of something for the sake of it. I myself hate the never ending ‘upgrades’ to ‘Windows’.

    If changing them makes them significantly better that’s fine, but how many of us require whatever it is that Windows 10 has, that Windows 7 doesn’t, and have the time to waste finding out?

    I’ve also stopped using my expensive iphone because my old Nokia Mobile does everything I want of a mobile phone easier, is much lighter and smaller to carry around, and the battery last five times as long. And it doesn’t smash to smithereens if I drop it.

    I don’t blame any of these manufacturers for making all this stuff though. If mugs are willing to buy it all good luck to them.

    Incidentally my own favourite innovation is my Amazon TV FireStick. I no longer have to pay for TV licence because I don’t watch live broadcast TV or iplayer at home. Neither do I need an aerial or a dish.

    Yet I can watch TV morning noon and night. I only need to break off occasionally to come and see on the computer what John Redwood has to say.

  53. Hugh Rose
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    The demise of coal-fired power stations is to be welcomed in order to reduce harmful emissions and reduce global warming but the unreliability of renewable energy sources designed to replace them means we must continue to rely on fossil fuel generation as a back-up to cover peak demands. The renewable power turbines also tend to be in remote areas or at sea far from the consumers.

    It would be great if you were to support my suggestion that a mini-nuclear power plant should be built on site to replace each decommissioned coal-fired power station. The land is already contaminated and the power distribution infrastructure in already in place so there would be no need for more ugly pylons to be built across our green and pleasant land.

    The technology of mini-nuclear plants is well-developed and their cost is small compared to the huge nuclear power stations which are proposed. The power they generate is where it is needed i.e. near to population concentrations and industry and there are other complimentary industries which can use the heated water from cooling plants etc. As a nation we need to become leaders in this technology which will become increasingly attractive to power the industries and domestic power requirements of developing countries.

    Your support in Parliament for this proposal would be welcomed.

  54. Trainee oppressor
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I like that online sharedealing allows me to trade in shares. I guess this makes me a capitalist. So too anyone who received shares in privatised building societies and utilities. Oddly, I do not have a desire to oppress the working class, of which I am paid up member and colonise foreign climes. Corbynism is dopish.

  55. Bob
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    In the Volvo they replaced a throttle cable (very reliable, cost £38 easy to replace if necessary) with an electronic throttle module (ETM), prone to sudden failure, very dangerous and cost £800 including fitting and calibration.

    That’s not progress, it’s inbuilt obsolescence.

  56. Stock Breeder
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Amazon, Facebook, General Electric and Apple all down yet the US stock markets are up …now that is news indeed for anyone into Technology. The tide is turning perhaps .

  57. sm
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Three cheers for the domestic freezer and microwave!

  58. Andy
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    The ability to pay for things on your phone or with your watch is a game changer.

    We need a government brave enough to take on the pensione lobby and to abolish cash.

    The technology exists to do this.

    It is then much easier to monitor transactions, eliminate cash in hand payments, clampdown on contrabands and to enforce the rules that most of us already play by.

    • Anonymous
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      So old people take jobs that millennials need.

      Oh. It’s already happening.

    • Edward2
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      You have no evidence that older people are against a cashless society.
      Most old people I know use credit cards use Internet banking and use contact less payment cards.
      The grey pound is a big feature of online trading.

    • Richard1
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      Only in a police state does the government need to monitor all transactions. There is plenty of technology available to prevent use of large scale cash payments for crime. If people wish to make legal purchases anonymously using cash they should be able to do so. Cash remains an essential lubricant to the economy, especially for low paid people.

    • Bob
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      “abolish cash”

      Yes, that would the government total control of all citizens. Upset the wrong official and your ability to buy food, fuel your car or board a bus, train or plane could be instantly revoked.

      Good thinking Andy, a brave new world awaits.

    • mancunius
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

      And the next move is that the government imposes a high negative interest rate on any savings account, to penalise anyone who’s in credit, and reward anyone in debt. And cashlessness means nobody can defend themselves against the robbery.

    • Droletarian
      Posted April 4, 2018 at 4:39 am | Permalink

      Most people except the filthy rich don’t have and could not possibly afford a phone under Tory working class oppression. Did you inherit it Andy?

  59. ian
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Tax for company director and shareholders this year for small or med firms should be, a salary of £8.424 and dividends of £37,926 in the tax year 18/19, your personal tax bill will then be £2,427, nice one.

    • Edward2
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      You forget to include the corporation tax the company pays.

  60. Dunedin
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    There is no DAB coverage where I live so cannot comment except to say please do not turn off FM.

    Innovation is generally a good thing, but a short list of pet peeves is:
    1. Bank/credit card companies issue contactless cards whether we want them or not. The Chief Cashier of the Bank of England recently said she does not trust the technology. Moves towards a cashless society should be resisted if we don’t want the government/banks/advertisers etc. monitoring our every move.

    2. Energy companies pushing smart meters so we can monitor usage and save money. It is simple enough to work out which appliances use most energy and switch them off/use less. I already send meter readings online, but some companies send the meter reader round a week later to read them again.

    3. It used to be possible to get appliances repaired but now we throw stuff out and buy new.

  61. ChrisS
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    We are currently at an interesting point in time over trains.

    The government have, wrongly in my view gone ahead with HS2 but the decision to cancel further electrification elsewhere was, to misquote Eric Morecambe, the right one, but, taken for all the wrong reasons.

    Network Rail undertook a project to electrify Brunel’s flagship line from Paddington to Bristol and on into Wales. The Treasury select committee report was highly critical of the truly heroic level of cost overruns. This has rightly led to the moratorium on future electrification schemes. ( And bodes ill for the actual cost of completing HS2 ).

    Meanwhile Germany is going ahead with the introduction of Hydrogen Fuel Cell trains designed by Alstrom, the first 14 train sets have been ordered for passenger use.

    These will cost little more than a conventional electric train and require a minimum of infrastructure consisting of very few Hydrogen refuelling stations which are no more complicated than a conventional Diesel fuel station.

    The train sets ordered for Germany so far are for regional lines but even these have a range of 1,000km. Extra fuel tanks under the rolling stock could easily provide enough fuel to run a full 24 hours of mainline operation.

    Yet I have enquired of Network Rail and almost no work is being done here to exploit this technology which could provide zero-emission electrification for a tiny fraction of the cost or conventional electrification : For example, there would have been no need for any of the 7,000 unsightly overhead catenary masts that have been installed between London and Bristol. Of course, all, this new infrastructure will require expensive maintenance.

    If our host would like to pursue this worthwhile cause, I have published two articles on the subject in specialist journals and would be happy to provide copies and all the background information I have.

  62. John
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    I like the willow branch that I can bend to many shapes to make useful housings for many different vegetables. It lasts long as it lives fed with water stuck in soil and is 100% bio degradable.

    I look at the very expensive metal and plastic alternatives that are not as versatile and don’t require the buyer to think. They also cause problems for the environment and animals.

    Innovation is good as long as we don’t loose or replace that ability to think or create.

    Are we tipping over that edge?

  63. Norman
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Until I was aged 7, my parents lived in a tied cottage, with no electricity, no water except from a tap or well in the garden, no flush toilets, no cooker, no fridge and no telephone. We had paraffin lamps, a range stove and a ‘wireless’ run on an accumulator, charged at a local garage – upon which we heard the news ‘Hitler is dead’ (1 May 1945). However, I can testify that those were happy times, and an improvement in our circumstances did not make us any happier -if anything, quite the opposite.
    Now, 70 years later, I’ve just read that we’re so dependent on electricity and digital technology, that countries could be thrown into serious chaos within days, due either to magnetic storms, or cyber warfare, and that there is a serious need for governments to have contingency plans in place. A powerful solar storm in 1859 (the Carrington Event) blew telegraph systems, with sparks flying from them! Water and sewage systems would cease working, cities become uninhabitable within 2 days, and the country would be 4 meals away from looting and anarchy.
    Sounds as if keeping my allotment going won’t help much!

  64. NigelE
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    My vote for best modern electronic devices is for the smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. Should be compulsory in every house.

    I am also in awe of modern hand held GPS systems either as a standalone item or as an app on your smart phone. They now have high-res OS maps and all sorts of features but the number one thing they do is tell you exactly where you are (well, to within 10m). When you are on a hill and can only see through the mist about 10m, they are very reassuring. And yes, I carry the map and the compass, know how to use them and often do but the joy of knowing exactly where you are … (sigh!).

    Goodness knows what a smart phone will do in 10 years time. Probably be the size of a pea and will be implanted at birth.

    On the down side, I hate (semi) auto toilets. Press which button to open/close/lock the door?

    • NigelE
      Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      Following my rather flippant remark, I was thinking further about implanted devices. I’m aware of a few that are used for currently medical purposes – heart pacemaker, heart ICD (used for arrhythmia) and a pulse generator used to alleviate Parkinson’s symptoms – but the possibilities must be considerably wider. Our bodies are largely regulated by autonomous systems delivering electrical pulses or small concentrations of chemicals such as hormones – a situation which must be amenable to control by small digital devices.

      Taking this further could an implanted device not monitor heart rate, temperature, breathing rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation and CO2 concentration, blood sugar levels, hormone levels etc etc? Further could the device not communicate via your home router or other wifi hot spots with medical servers which could analyse, diagnose and if needed take action should your medical condition warrant it, including instructing the implanted device to release appropriate medication? This would be a game changer for any health service, and would certainly reduce the need for GP visits.

      Potentially, the cost would not be enormous – the current new iPhone costs about £1000 but the scale of small implanted devices for all would bring this way down. Even at a £1000 per person, that’s £65 billion or so for UK population – half the annual NHS budget, so not impossible if implemented over time.

      Of course, issues of privacy and security would need to be addressed thoroughly – who would want a hacker having access to their device? – but are not insurmountable if the benefits were real.

      I’m willing to bet that there are research groups working on this now.

  65. Gollum
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    PS I didn’t use mixed metaphors. I used ones which were of the same family of the original metaphor.

    • Gollum
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      PPS or analogies. ( analogy ) to make things perfectly clear May-style

  66. ian
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I read somewhere that the railway is bringing in new signalling for trains that you have on about, somewhere near london this year, 23 trains an hour instead of 14.

  67. Gary C
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Why on earth would anyone want a BBQ with bluetooth connectivity when everyone knows the idea of a mobile phone is to order food ready to eat and delivered hot to your door?

    Bluetooth enabled tooth brushes are another stupid example, is bluetooth tech being used to try and make the stupid look intelligent?

  68. mancunius
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    John – Re your problem with digital radio: the problem is inadequate bandwidth – we need to roll out DAB+ nationally.
    This Tech-Radar article explains what is wrong with our national DAB transmission chain, and what needs doing to bring it up to scratch.
    https://www.techradar.com/news/car-tech/why-dab-radio-in-the-uk-is-broken-and-how-to-fix-it-1217586
    e.g. on P.2: “We tried streaming music over EE’s 4G network from London to Bath via the M4 – one of the UK’s major trunk roads. It just doesn’t work… If you want to listen to the news when it’s actually news, you need an essentially unbroken stream and certainly no major breaks in connectivity. The UK’s 3G and 4G networks aren’t even close to being able to delivering that. Fundamentally, then, streaming over the internet is a woefully inefficient way to go about getting live audio into cars. As for what is to be done, part of the answer is simple. Switch the UK to DAB+ … In an ideal world the spectrum available to DAB+ would be upped and the cost to access the network would be lowered, making it commercially viable for new entrants…any day now the government is expected to announce plans to open bidding on a new DAB multiplex – essentially a second parallel DAB network. Maybe the second multiplex can be DAB+…”
    Anyway, it’s worth a read, as such initiatives need political advocacy, otherwise the usual suspects will always lobby for their comfort-zones to avoid investment outlay.

  69. JJE
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    I assume you are driving a Jaguar. I would talk to the dealer about the DAB issues. Just google Jaguar DAB poor reception and you will find a number of discussions on issues that are peculiar to their cars.

    Reply No, I am not driving a Jaguar

  70. APL
    Posted April 4, 2018 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Third attempt to inform a sitting Member of Parliament about an innovation that I particularly dislike in the UK.

    The predilection of the UK Parliament to pass ‘right on’ laws, so members of the Parliament can pretend to be upright moral citizens, yet once the law is on the statute, it is utterly ignored by the Police and the Courts.

    For example, The modern slavery act 2015. The provisions of which you might think could be used against gangs that have often kidnapped, and exploited vulnerable citizens already living in this country.

    Any prosecutions under the provisions of the statute yet, Mr Redwood?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Slavery_Act_2015

    • APL
      Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      According to the Guardian:

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/21/seven-uk-police-forces-report-zero-charges-under-anti-slavery-law

      “Data from two thirds of police forces obtained through freedom of information legislation shows that across England and Wales the number of reports under the act rose from 469 in the financial year to 31 March 2016 to 1,214 in the same period a year later and 1,042 in the eight months to November 2017.

      But during this period the total number of charges declined, from 94 to 43, with 4.13% of cases leading to formal action in 2017 – down from 7.58% the year before.”

  71. Posted April 4, 2018 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    May I propose speed cameras, aka “fatuous instruments of oppression” in the long forgotten words of one chief constable, and bus lane cameras for “uninvention”? Any good that these objects might be perceived to achieve is far outweighed by their effective substitution of “victimless crime by machine” for the discretion of enforcement officers. Now, if technology could invent the smart bus lane, whereby they were deemed open to all motorists at all times unless a bus was approaching, that would be another story…

  72. ian
    Posted April 4, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Edwards, you forgot free pension credit for that year from gov, for the old age pension.

  73. ian
    Posted April 4, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Also, Edwards, if they put their salary of £8424 into a private pension they receive another £ 1624,40 form gov towards their private pension on top of the free £8000 plus a year for the old age pension which goes up 2.5 % a year, plus the 20% tax limit going up to £50,000, plus heating fuel allowance, tv licence, bus pass, I think they are giving me a lot of perks to get all of my company tax back and make a profit out of them as the years go by and don’t forget the free healthcare, free shcools and other benefits for nothing.

  74. WA Laugh
    Posted April 4, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    « I do not see any improvement of an electric train over a diesel ». More electric trains are likely to be necessary if, as JR was advocating not that long ago, the frequency of train services is to be augmented on busy lines. Joined-up thinking, anyone?

  75. HEATHER SIMPSON
    Posted April 11, 2018 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    You can just download a Radio app onto your phone or tablet and listen that way. No need for a separate radio. Say Radioplayer, LBC or the BBC Radio app. That is how I listen all the time.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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