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AHC: Britain as tech capital of the world

Venocara

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As the title suggests, with a POD no earlier than 1975, what would be necessary to allow Britain (or a British city) to achieve the title of the "tech capital of the world", rivalling or even surpassing Silicon Valley in size and power?
 

Venocara

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Post-1975's a tricky one, by this point Santa Clara's already had decades of stuff going on to make Silicon Valley a thing.
Is there any way to derail Silicon Valley's growth by this time?

Also, could there be something in keeping International Computers in public ownership, or perhaps one of Tony Benn's myriad schemes?
 
From my own experience as the son of a senior polytechnic official/ teacher in the 1980s, I can add my own experience of what I heard then - ie that the govt and certain top officials were more keen on the number of students they could get into the system aged 6 or 18 than what was actually taught (and whether the latter would be useful to British industry, ditto to tech). Hence introducing a lot of not very rigorous or 'go-ahead' courses to the polytechics ahead of and after renaming them as 'universities' that would draw students in, and thus arguably wasting money and teaching jobs that could - and should? - have gone on 'elite' and more useful technical courses and stopped the 'Brain Drain' to California. (The usual cliche here is of 'Tourism Studies' courses.) To do that, you need to put the teachers and committed science planners in charge of the organization and of the funding, not 'bean-counters' obsessed with building up the numbers quickly and cheaply - and have ministers who are not just looking ahead to a favourable press headline and pleasing the PM ahead of the next reshuffle!
 

SinghSong

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As the title suggests, with a POD no earlier than 1975, what would be necessary to allow Britain (or a British city) to achieve the title of the "tech capital of the world", rivalling or even surpassing Silicon Valley in size and power?
Depending on the POD, couldn't Hong Kong potentially count as a 'British city'? And might it stand a decent chance of achieving the title of "tech capital of the world" before the hand-over took place? And/or after the scheduled hand-over, if it can conceivably be averted somehow- some form of joint sovereignty condominium agreement, akin to that suggested by the New Ireland Forum as a proposal for Northern Ireland to try to bring an end to the Troubles conflict in 1984, perhaps? The British government were dismissive of that, but might they, and/or the Chinese be willing to consider it for a far wealthy, more technologically advanced and liberal Hong Kong? Considering where Hong Kong's GDP, and tech sector, stood back in 1997 (second only to that of Tokyo in Asia, and one of the five largest in the world), when it returned to Chinese sovereignty; and that Shenzhen only overtook Hong Kong to become China's (and the world's) primary technology hub a couple of years ago, it'd be one of the likeliest and most interesting possible options, IMHO...
 
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Simon

Oblivious
Colossus isn't covered by the Official Secrets Act, and can be developed post-war.
More likely it's creation gets laundered – either Tommy Flowers 'invents' a version for the Post Office or he's seconded to work with Maurice Wilkes developing an earlier Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC) at Cambridge. Since it's post-war and they would be the first (public) digital computer there's less chance of people making the connection between them and cryptanalysis so the surviving Colossi can continue their work. This is all pre-1975 though.
 

Simon

Oblivious
Coming back to this thread
Also, could there be something in keeping International Computers in public ownership, or perhaps one of Tony Benn's myriad schemes?
You might be better off burning things down and then starting afresh. On the one hand nationalisation might help with funding, on the other – as sometimes occurred with other nationalised industries – that easy funding often becomes seen as a bottomless purse for requests regardless of logic. Samsung for example didn't get into the semiconductor business until the mid-1970s.

Edit: Somehow managed to quote and answer twice.
 
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Venocara

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You might be better off burning things down and then starting afresh. On the one hand nationalisation might help with funding, on the other – as sometimes occurred with other nationalised industries – that easy funding often becomes seen as a bottomless purse for requests regardless of logic. Samsung for example didn't get into the semiconductor business until the mid-1970s.
Interesting. So, from around 1975 onwards, what would you say the best course of action is?
 

Simon

Oblivious
Interesting. So, from around 1975 onwards, what would you say the best course of action is?
Not sure, this isn't really my area of expertise. One section of high technology that often seems to get overlooked is medical imaging e.g. ultrasound, MRI, CAT scan, PET scan etc. several of which which were invented or developed by British scientists and doctors. The story about income from the Beatles helping EMI fund development of the CT scanner whilst nice isn't really true IIRC, but I did have an idea one time about the company following up on it by successfully expanding into the wider medical imaging field.


... with a POD no earlier than 1975...
I meant to ask but any particular reason for this requirement?
 

Venocara

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I meant to ask but any particular reason for this requirement?
Late enough to make it a challenge (immediate post-war is fairly easy), but the 1970s was when things started to really accelerate in technology, and the fact that Labour were in power in 1975 helps too.
 

xsampa

Active member
Have Britain stay out of WW1 - without that weakening, and mainland Europe in ruins/revolution and the US confined largely to its backyard (at least culturally), and Japan likely neutral, Britain can become tech capital of the world
 

Dan1988

Sorry, sunshine, wrong place
Have Britain stay out of WW1 - without that weakening, and mainland Europe in ruins/revolution and the US confined largely to its backyard (at least culturally), and Japan likely neutral, Britain can become tech capital of the world
Only if there's massive changes within British society itself, particularly in terms of educating the working and lower-middle classes (which, knowing how British society operated at the time, is pretty unlikely). In that case, building up a vocational education system sooner rather than later would be the best bet, of which (in England and Wales, at least) the Higher Grade/central schools, the elementary schools' "higher tops" programs, the junior technical schools, and most of the Secondary schools could serve as a base (in Scotland, the advanced divisions of the primary schools would serve as the base) for junior secondary schools, which could lead (upon successful completion) to either a polytechnic - if also established early enough - or direct access to the job market. (Remaining secondary schools and virtually all grammar schools, à la Scotland, would thus be reclassified as senior secondary schools.) The only way Britain can get towards the level of being a tech capital is if it motivates enough students to move towards that direction - which is difficult during that period, because of how class-riddled British society was. Alternately, the Cockerton Judgement should be avoided at all costs.
 
Only if there's massive changes within British society itself, particularly in terms of educating the working and lower-middle classes (which, knowing how British society operated at the time, is pretty unlikely). In that case, building up a vocational education system sooner rather than later would be the best bet, of which (in England and Wales, at least) the Higher Grade/central schools, the elementary schools' "higher tops" programs, the junior technical schools, and most of the Secondary schools could serve as a base (in Scotland, the advanced divisions of the primary schools would serve as the base) for junior secondary schools, which could lead (upon successful completion) to either a polytechnic - if also established early enough - or direct access to the job market. (Remaining secondary schools and virtually all grammar schools, à la Scotland, would thus be reclassified as senior secondary schools.) The only way Britain can get towards the level of being a tech capital is if it motivates enough students to move towards that direction - which is difficult during that period, because of how class-riddled British society was. Alternately, the Cockerton Judgement should be avoided at all costs.
I think this is a bit of a red herring: popular distrust of science and poor technical training in the UK has been really overstated, I think.

I think the real problem has been a bit of dumb bad luck (most inventions/startups come to nothing, after all), combined with a smaller population (as against the US, Japan and China, in particular) and individual political errors (in crude terms, a series of 'companies' were over swaddled and uncompetitive under government financing but were then immediately fed to the wolves in the 1980s before they could adapt). One thing that really would have a helped is doing something to put the £ in a much stronger position by the 1960s and '70s (not sure how you'd do this - you might have to butterfly away entry into WW1), resulting in a much larger native VC sector (the real reason the American tech industry took off so much since the 1990s).
 

Thande

Jabs First Brexit
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A lot of this is semantics, because the vast majority of electronic devices nowadays (including Apple computers soon) use ARM-based processors which are a British invention from Cambridge startups in the 1980s. But that's not what we think of. I could imagine a situation where a government does a better job of promoting this, but it's not likely in our OTL climate of Selling Things Off Means You're Doing Well, Actually.
 
Put the pound in a much stronger position? I've seen it argued that one of the UK's economic problems has been that pound was perennially overvalued.
You're right, of course - "but we must protect the £" has been a disastrous rallying cry for British economic policy since 1945. I meant "strong" more in the sense of the £ surviving as a global reserve currency as the present $ does.
 
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