And now for 5 of the very, very worst
Every silver lining has its cloud. These are ours...
1. The Advanced Passenger Train (APT)
We might have invented the first one (The Rocket), but we've been making up for it ever since, partly by coming up with the worst rail infrastructure in world and then gifting the British people with the Advanced Passenger Train. The APT itself was pretty clever - thanks to a tilting mechanism and some innovative water turbine brakes. Unfortunately early high profile failures ensured that the project was stillborn at launch as the media feasted on stories of brakes freezing in cold weather, and of complaints of motion sickness. The APT - or Accident Prone Train, as it became known - never entered full service.
2. Digital Audio Broadcasting
DAB was supposed to have wrested us away from our love of analogue radio by boasting numerous advantages - not least of which was the promise of a wider choice of stations and better sound quality. Unfortunately, since it launched in the late 1990s, a huge number of compromises and failures have become apparent: sound quality has been progressively scaled back - even on 'quality' radio stations - to the extent that much of it now sounds worse than analogue; DAB radio still hasn't replaced analogue versions in cars and we've back the wrong horse technologically - we're stuck with vanilla DAB, while the rest of the world is adopting the much better DAB+ standard.
3. The unsinkable ship (Titanic)
OK, so it's a little unfair to include a specific product, but you try telling that to the descendants of the 1,500 people that died on the boat. Conceived and built in Northern Ireland, the unsinkable ship RMS Titanic proved, of course, to be anything but - its sinking in 1912 brought on by a catastrophic combination of complacency, arrogance, bad design and a ruddy great iceberg. Not our finest hour.
4. The Sinclair C5
OK, so here's another one. Sir Clive Sinclair may have arguably brought the world the first pocket calculator (the Executive) and the first mass-market computer (the ZX81), but he was also responsible for 1985's C5 - a disastrous attempt at producing a mass-market electric car. The C5's biggest problems were obvious from the get-go - it was simply too small, too slow, too low and too unreliable to actively use on Britain's roads - something not helped by a complete inability to withstand the British climate. The whole project was heaped with ridicule and, facing commercial disaster, production was abandoned in October 1985.
5. The surveillance society
In February, the House of Lords Constitution Committee argued that Britain was fast becoming a surveillance society - with its citizens under constant threat of having their privacy compromised by the widespread use of CCTV cameras, national ID cards, the national DNA database, as well as on several databases about children. The Committee's conclusion is nothing new: civil liberties and other groups have been banging on about it for years. However the government's actions in the defence of our freedom has now scaled new heights, from plans to use BT to spy on people's email and web traffic to the sharing of information across governmental and non-governmental websites. The British Computer Society said last week that proposals in several new piece of legislation "would permit the restriction - and ultimately the destruction - of the right to personal and corporate data privacy" in this country. That's something none of us should be proud of.
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