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Gabriella: Hello and welcome back to englishclass101.com. I’m your host Gabriella
Gina: And I’m Gina.
Gabriella: This is Culture Class, Season 2, lesson 5 – The Top Five Most Influential Figures in British Technology. In this lesson we will be talking about people that have shaped British technology to make it what it is today.
Gina: You’ll be hearing some new names and some old names, but whether old or new, they have all had an impact.
Gabriella: At number 5 is a new name, Charles Dunstone.
Gina: Charles Dunstone was born in 1964 and started a business degree, but never actually finished the course. Instead, he started working for a computer company and later as a sales executive for NEC. In 1989 he was living in a flat on the famous Marylebone Road in London, and it’s here that his story really begins.
Gabriella: In his flat?
Gina: Yes, in his flat! Dunstone saw the potential in mobile phones and started selling them from his flat. In the beginning, he had a capital of only £6,000, but he made a success out of it!
Gabriella: How much of a success?
Gina: Well, alongside a quieter partner he founded the Carphone Warehouse. By 1993, there were 20 Carphone Warehouse stores. In July 2000 the company floated on the stock market and was valued at about £1.7 billion.
Gabriella: And that all started from his flat and an initial capital of £6,000?
Gina: Yes. Sir Dunstone, as he is now called after being knighted in 2010, saw that mobile phones would be popular in the future. The Carphone Warehouse initially only sold phones but it covered all of the major networks so it was the best place to go if you wanted a mobile phone as they had the most choice.
Gabriella: There is a Carphone Warehouse phone network now though, called Talktalk.
Gina: That’s right. TalkTalk also provides broadband and pay TV services. The Carphone Warehouse also bought AOL UK in 2006 for £370 million.
Gabriella: Wow. Up at number 4 is Lord Alan Sugar.
Gina: Lord Sugar is influential for two reasons. Well, firstly, Lord Sugar founded Amstrad. The company started as an importer and exporter but entered the manufacturing field itself a couple of years after it was founded. Amstrad were able to undercut their competitors and charge lower prices.
Gabriella: I bet that was popular with the consumers!
Gina: Of course! During the 1980s, Amstrad doubled its profit margin every year and at one point, was worth £1.2 billion.
Gabriella: But Amstrad aren’t a major player now. What happened?
Gina: Their business PCs suffered some major problems and they tried to enter the gaming market but were unsuccessful against major rivals Sega and Nintendo. In 2007, the company was bought by BSkyB for £125 million.
Gabriella: So the first reason Lord Sugar is influential would be due to Amstrad’s success. But what is the second reason?
Gina: Lord Sugar was able to use his money from Amstrad to buy the football club Tottenham Hotspur. He was very outspoken during his time at Spurs and became very well known, probably more so here than for his business ventures.
Gabriella: Ah, that would be why he was chosen to be the star of the Apprentice, right?
Gina: I think so. He was known in the public eye for being fierce and outspoken with a successful company behind him. He was the ideal star for TV. On the show, contestants compete for a 5-figure salary-job with his company.
Gabriella: And that’s the second reason why he’s influential. It’s because he’s one of the few businessmen that has moved from business to being a TV personality.
Gina: That’s right!
Gabriella: Number 3 is an old name – John Logie Baird.
Gina: The father of television! At the turn of the 20th century, many people were trying to make a working television. There were different ideas and components being made everywhere. Baird was able to take some of these components, such as the Nipkow disk, and be successful.
Gabriella: What’s a Nipkow disk?
Gina: It’s a disk that is spun mechanically and has holes in it. Many people used this when they were building television systems.
Gabriella: But Baird was the first one to be successful.
Gina: Yes. In 1923 he demonstrated a working television set to the Radio Times and later did public demonstrations too. In 1925 he broadcast the first greyscale pictures.
Gabriella: How about colour pictures?
Gina: He was the first to demonstrate those too, in 1928. He also managed the first transatlantic broadcast in that year, and his technology founded the BBC and the first network in France.
Gabriella: Truly the father of television!
Gina: Yes. Although the television we use today has different technology to what Baird invented, he started the ball rolling and was the first to do most of the major and important points in television’s history.
Gabriella: Our number 2 is Dr. Richard Michael Lynch.
Gina: Dr. Lynch is Irish, but he moved to England as a child and has lived there ever since. In 1996 he co-founded the Autonomy Corporation.
Gabriella: What do Autonomy do?
Gina: Their main technology is used to search and process information from different types of media – databases, text, video and audio for example.
Gabriella: It must have been difficult to tie all of those different types of media together.
Gina: I think so too. When the company was bought by Hewlett Packard in August 2011, it cost HP just over $10billion US.
Gabriella: The company was worth $10billion US?
Gina: Well, HP doesn’t think so now. They accused Autonomy of not disclosing some information before the sale and wrote off $8.8billion of assets.
Gabriella: What about Dr. Lynch in all of this?
Gina: He disputes HP’s claims, but left Autonomy in May 2012 due to poor performance. Since then, he has raised £1billion to invest in smaller British technology companies.
Gabriella: Ah, that’s good at least!
Gina: Yes. He is highly influential in British Technology and was named as one of the top five most influential technology people by a website in 2006. Time Magazine also listed him in their top 25 most influential technology people in Europe in 2000.
Gabriella: Shall we move onto our number 1?
Gina: I think we should!
Gabriella: Our number 1 is Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Gina: Who else? Sir Berners-Lee is credited with founding the World Wide Web.
Gabriella: Now, this is an interesting story, listeners.
Gina: While working for CERN, he developed a system using hypertext that allowed researchers there to share and update information.
Gabriella: Wow, that must have been a very basic and localised version of the internet.
Gina: Yeah. He left CERN for a while and learnt about networks before rejoining CERN and in 1989, connected his hypertext idea and the existing internet network and created the World Wide Web.
Gabriella: Do you know when the first website was opened?
Gina: Yes, it was by CERN themselves in 1991. It consisted of information on how to create your own websites and how to search the web.
Gabriella: And from there, the web expanded and became what it is today.
Gina: It did! Sir Berners-Lee has many accolades and awards to his name now, including his knighthood and inductions into the internet hall of fame. He really brought together the existing ideas, added his own hypertext idea, and then created something special out of them.
Gabriella: And that is why he’s our number 1.
Gina: He should be number 1 on any of these lists, I think.
Gabriella: I think so too. And on that very global note, that’s all for this lesson.
Gabriella: Attention perfectionists! You’re about to learn how to perfect your pronunciation.
Gina: Lesson Review Audio Tracks.
Gabriella: Increase fluency and vocabulary fast with these short, effective audio tracks.
Gina: Super simple to use. Listen to the English word or phrase...
Gabriella: then repeat it out loud in a loud clear voice.
Gina: You’ll speak with confidence knowing that you’re speaking English like the locals.
Gabriella: Go to EnglishClass101.com, and download the Review Audio Tracks right on the lessons page today!


Gina: We’ll see you in the next lesson!
Gabriella: Thank you listeners. Goodbye!

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Would you add anybody else to this list? Who would be the number 6?!