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lfby chance. and it‘s a slim one I agree. you were in the Central Hotel. Glasgow on 2-1 May. 1927. you would have likely been intrigued and possibly perplexed by the excited activities of a group of scientists scampering about the place with cables and aerials. valved instruments and other electrical gadgetry. What you may not have realised at the time is that you were witnessing the staging ofthe very first television broadcast in Great Britain. In London. transmitting the pictures to his prototype televisual machine in the Glasgow hotel room. was ofcourse the acclaimed Scottish inventor John Logie Baird.

If by chance. and this time it‘s a little more likely. you were in the same hotel on 22 August of this year. 1988. you could have been forgiven for again looking on with some degree ofincredulity at the arrival of unfamiliar objects and their fond creators. as the hotel once again played host to the inventive genius of Scotland. Assembled were the twenty-eight finalists ofthe SSEB Scottish Invention ofthe Year competition for the final round ofthe search for the most ‘useful and revolutionary Scottish invention‘. The competition which is free to enter and open to any one. aims to bring innovators out of their potting shed workshops and into contact with the business community. This. the competition organisers hope. will help speed bright ideas from the rough sketch and doodle stage onto the production line and earn money. hopefully not least for the inventor.

The inventions were varied and extremely entertaining. So too. of course. were the inventors. It is curious and gratifying to see how indiscriminately infectious the ‘inventive bug‘ can be striking regardless ofsex. age training or background. The Glasgow gathering was no exception to this with knitters. farmers. opticians. students. the unemployed and many others all represented. For most their participation in the competition stemmed from an innocent desire to make a gadget that would help them solve a problem specific to their everyday experience. For others. however. the symptoms of chronic and incurable inventiveness were clear to see. These were the masters of the late-night-workshop-tinker, uniquely adept at persuading common household objects they'd much rather be something other than what they‘d started out life as.

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Simon Gage meets the inveterate inventors. '- demonic devisers and compulsive contrivers. who are plugging some illuminating and uplifting creations

at the final of the SSEB’s Scottish Invention of the

Year competition.

Singled out for concerted brainstorming by no less than four of the inventors was domestic enemy number one. the 13 Amp plug. And who can wonder when it takes 10— 1 5 minutes. two or three screwdrivers and a penknife to wire one up. The ‘Safe and Simple Electric Plug‘ designed by John Vicars of Edinburgh. a seasoned inventor at the age of74. was a step in the right direction. John who‘s been working on the electric plug for seven years told me ‘I wanted a quick way to fit the wires. . . I came home one day with a new pair of braces and realised

the brass clips were just what I was after'. So out came the fiddley brass screws and in their place three Clasps. and already the time to fit a

plug had been slashed to 4 minutes. Jon Roy of Glasgow had gone a step further: ‘I looked at the plug and thought let‘s throw out all the junk.‘ And he did. finally arriving at a very elegantly designed plug that pushes together without the need for any screws at all. If none ofthese make it to the shops very soon suspect a conspiracy!

For those of you frustrated not by fitting plugs but by finding your underwear. rest at case because Mrs Nan Barnett of Gourock has something to help. No. she hasn‘t invented a pair of knickers that Churps back to you ifyou whistle the right note. she has in fact come up with the Nicker Box. As she

explained. ‘you put your underwear or socks in at the top and then pull them out as you need them through the round holes on the front'. Made of transparent plastic this handy home help allows the easy choice of the appropriate garment to suit the weather conditions. your mood or whatever you regard as important criteria in choosing your underwear. It also gives you an instant status report on your reserves so you can plan in advance trips to the launderette. This is not an invention for those whose underwear. through years of honest toil. has taken on an appearence that makes it preferable to stuffit well out ofsight at the back of a drawer.

The most exciting exhibit was the Glow Phone. Designed by Bernard Donnelly of Glasgow who enthuses wildly about his invention. the Glow Phone not only makes calls but glows in the dark. Bernard asked me to consider the scene of a potential catastrophe such as a hotel fire. ‘Pow! the lights go out and you can’t find the phone to call for help. so what do you a need‘.’ A phone that glows in the dark.‘ And it certainly does glow. as I found out in his portable dark-room come catastrophe simulator.

The prize for perseverence. ifthere was one. must go to the inventor of the ‘Rigid Flexible Aerodynamic Wingcovering‘. William Dawson of Paisley. His design for an aircraft wing with a collapsible concertina-like structure is revolutionary enough and his claim that it produces 30 per cent more upwards lift. ifit is true. will send aeroplane designers into a spin. What is even more fascinating is that this wing is just a small part of his pursuit of bird-like man-powered flight. ‘It took us six years to get this far doing all the work in the garage‘ William explained showing me his bandaged knuckles. ‘We‘re planning the biggest bombshell since Leonardo da Vinci'. I couldn‘t help but believe him. although I hoped his talk of bombs was nothing more than an unfortunate choice ofwords.

Ifyou‘re interested in seeing these inventions and talking to their creators they can be found at the Scottish Industry and Commerce Trade Fair at the SEC(‘. Glasgow from Sunday 4 Sept. until Tue 6. The winner will be announced on 5 Sept. lfyou fancy yourselfas something of an inventor I'd strongly recommend a visit. Information from the SECC on 041 248 3000.

58 The List 2 15 September I988