5 things you didn’t know originated in the US

fortune

There are a whole host of inventions that come from America and we love to celebrate them all as well as the impact they’ve had in the UK and all around the world. However, even if you’re a seasoned reader you might not realise some of these are actually US-made.

1) Fortune cookies

This might actually be an obvious one to many people, but fortune cookies are so closely associated with traditional Chinese style food in the US (and also widely known in the United Kingdom) that most people assume they were created there originally. In fact, a Japanese-American immigrant named Makoto Hagiwara invented the modern design of fortune cookies in 19th century California. Chinese people think Americans are crazy for having these as part of their culture and generally have no idea what the basis for them is supposed to be.

2) Cupcakes

American desserts usually bring to mind disturbing, fatty creations like bacon flavour ice cream, waffles topped with bacon, or basically anything else involving bacon where it shouldn’t be. You might be surprised to learn that the innocent cupcake is also an American invention, although they were generally made by British immigrants in the 18th century.

3) Submarine warfare

Alongside Gatling guns and the nuclear bomb, military submarines are another crucial element of modern day warfare that originated in the States. The German fighters in World War I are widely credited with the first truly effective attacks made using submarines, but Americans invented the technique in the Revolutionary War and used it during the Civil War too. Unfortunately the technology wasn’t up to par yet and there were a lot of failed missions, so this isn’t widely known with good reason.

4) Games consoles

Long before the market became dominated by Japanese companies, the American games console known as the Magnavox Odyssey was launched making it the first of its kind. Unfortunately it was ahead of its time and didn’t explain itself well, so nobody actually bought it. Even before that though, the first American arcade game was a duck shooting game built into cabinet, closely resembling modern first person shooters but made of wood rather than pixels. At the time, Nintendo was still focused on playing cards.

5) The Internet

British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet itself, but little credit is usually given to the large team of American engineers who actually implemented it. They figured out how to construct the infrastructure required which is basically still in use today, so we think this qualifies for the list.

Should military uniforms be made in the UK more?

military

Recent figures suggest that only a small percentage of British military clothing and uniforms are actually made in the UK, which has been a surprise to some. Producing official kit used in real life combat by the army costs over £80 million in an average year but only around £5 million is spent actually within the UK. This is in stark contrast to the US, where the law dictates military uniforms have to be made in the country by domestic firms. The question is, does this matter?

There is an argument for doing this like the Americans, firstly because there is nothing more patriotic than supporting the military. Right or wrong, many people in the US feel strongly about supporting military action around the world and trying to ensure that peace is kept and allies are defended, but many of these people are also unable to help directly. That’s why many people feel it’s important to support the military in any way possible, including through the production of uniforms and kit domestically. It might be seen as strange to some people to imagine army uniforms being made in other countries. Not only that, but there is definitely en economic benefit to keeping production within the country that both the UK and the US could certainly benefit from given the large amount of outsourcing that already goes on in other industries.

However, there is a good reason the UK has chosen to outsource so much of its production including military clothing. Keeping costs down is important for any industry and money that is saved on military uniform production can be deployed more effectively in other areas, making the whole operation safer and more effective for everyone. It could be argued that it’s more patriotic to look at the issue from this perspective and not get hung up on where things are created, instead focusing on the end results. There are many companies within the UK that do produce military clothing and equipment, and many of these are also open to the public so it’s easy to find other ways of supporting domestic military clothing production, it’s just that the UK army won’t necessarily be doing more of this in the near future.

Fast food: from America to the UK and back again?

mcdonalds

McDonald’s is the definitive icon of fast food around the world, and having started in the 1950s and maintained this image for so long, there is no sign of it changing any time soon. However, there have been many subtle changes in its branding over the years, and this has only been made possible through its different methods of developing in different countries.

The iconic yellow M logo may remain the same in every country around the world, but there isn’t much else that’s set in stone for McDonalds’ branding. In Asia and Europe especially the incarnations of the brand are quite different to the famous imagery we see from America, and this is due to the company recognising the need to adapt to each very different market it has entered.

For example, across the UK and Europe the branding moved away from the yellow and red colour scheme many years ago, and the more neutral colours alongside an ongoing advertising campaign focused on authentic ingredients has helped enforce the idea that McDonald’s isn’t so unhealthy after all. Since countries like the UK are especially health conscious compared to Americans this change was necessary early on, and although people are under no delusion that fast food is exactly healthy, the brand’s image as a provider of fatty snacks has certainly softened.

In America, there have been examples over the past couple of years of this branding style making its way back across the pond. However, not only does the classic image of the fast food chain arguably need a long overdue makeover, but there is a business trend being incorporated too. Across the world McDonald’s has been improving its customer service with technology, adding touch screen menus that allow people to order and pay for their food without having to wait for service. American restaurants are gradually getting this technology installed along with the ability to customise your own burger from scratch, a new venture that could eventually revolutionise the way McDonald’s works.

We think this case study is a great example of how something can start off in one country and be influenced by progress elsewhere. Particularly the US and the UK are famous for helping each other make progress and this is what we like to see!

American-style beds and bedrooms coming to the UK more

bedroom

American-style homes are known for being big in every sense. Visual style is very important and there is the classic image of a massive open plan house that just isn’t seen widely in the UK. However, all this is gradually changing as US style beds and bedrooms are being increasingly favoured by UK home owners looking to add something different to their home.

Firstly there is the issue of space which continues to be a problem. Homes in the UK are physically a lot smaller than those in the US, with less land available and a higher population density even in suburban areas. There isn’t much getting round this, but for those people who do have some extra space available they tend to want to make the most of it more and more. Having more space and an open plan design for rooms indicates luxury and for many people it’s worth investing more in your bedroom above all else because it’s going to be the room you spend the majority of your life in. We sleep for a third of our entire lives on average, so why not invest in quality bedroom design and beds?

American style sizing for beds is an indication of how popular this is becoming gradually in the UK. Famous “California king” sized beds wouldn’t have been available a few years ago, but now there are many UK stockists offering these. In many senses the bed industry is still very traditional in the UK and many people still value trying before buying so they want to visit physical shops, but many of these that have been operating for a long time are now moving into online sales more and more. Many established companies now offer a full range of bed and mattress sizes in the same way Americans might expect, including the more luxurious “queen size” 4ft single bed and those giant king size models.

There is also an increasing demand for the different styles offered by American brands, and these extend to the whole bedroom with ranges of matching furniture available. There are many UK and European brands dominating the market still in the UK, but alongside these are an increasing number of US brands too. People are looking for something special for their bedroom and thanks to American trends this is becoming more possible all the time.

American business trends coming to the UK in 2016

business

America is known for being the home of many of the world’s biggest brands, and is of course a massive test market that the rest of the world can look to for ideas about what might dominate global business next. There are a few emerging trends that we expect to see more of in the UK as they grow in popularity across the Atlantic.

1) Having everything for nothing

There is certainly a growing trend for on-demand services of all kinds, something that has been seen in America for some years now but only recently begun to catch on in the United Kingdom. For example, streaming services like Netflix and the newly launched YouTube Red are redefining the rules about how people pay for their entertainment – music streaming services likeSpotify, Apple Music and Tidal are doing the same in their market.  Amazon has also been experimenting with food and drink delivery within hours, something they may be able to roll out to their whole product range within years. Everything is about paying a set fee for something and getting an unlimited amount back for your money, and since this is based around convenience and making life easy, people are increasingly getting on board with this. The idea of paying yearly subscriptions for music venues is something we expect to see launching within the next year, for example.

2) Brands get even more important

It’s now more common for small companies to launch themselves in a particular niche and gain traction quickly since people are more willing than ever to invest in brands that seem authentic and high quality. There has been a growing distrust for some time since the global economic crisis in big corporate brands, and supporting small business is known to be important to economic recovery, so expect to see more small brands taking advantage of this and growing fast in 2016.

3) Visual is key

It’s nothing new that visual marketing is incredibly important to any business, whether already established or not, but in 2016 we still expect this to become ever more important. Technology is allowing the fastest moving brands to get streets ahead of some of the competition, and people are spending more and more time in front of screens ready to absorb your visual marketing efforts. Video and social media are continuing to grow in terms of reach and the value they can add to your business in 2016.

Some of the most important American inventions – Part 2

airplane

Welcome back to our summary of some of the key inventions of the last few centuries that came from the United States. We have so many important ones to mention we have to make this one a double bill.

Airplane

Many inventors were determined to be the first to perfect a flying machine, and over the years there were many disastrous attempts, with the first major breakthrough being made by the Wright brothers in 1903. Their biplane was built in North Carolina and soon transformed the future of aviation, having great implications for the military and commercial travel within a few short decades.

Washing machine

Doing laundry has been a problem for centuries, and there was a clear need to develop a machine to aid the process, so again a number of inventors worked on similar ideas for some time. Several key stages of the evolution of the modern washing machine were patented in America, including the first hand-operated machine with a drum in 1851, and a rotary version seven years later. Industry leaders were mass producing machines by 1910, and now more than four in every five Americans has one in their home.

Television

Combining radio audio with moving images was actually a result of the combined efforts of Russian and German inventors working together in America. Throughout the 1920s the invention evolved quickly into what we would recognise today, although it did take a couple of decades before they became common in households.

Microwave oven

The potential of radiation waves for cooking famously first came up by chance when engineer Percy Spencer discovered his chocolate bar had melted after standing near the power supply for a radar tube. He took the idea and eventually a microwave oven was developed, although it wasn’t until the 1960s that the ovens could be made small enough to fit in home kitchens and effective enough to cook food evenly.

There are even more American inventions that have changed the world, some more famous than others, and many of them in fact collaborative efforts. However, it reminds you that great innovation has been coming out of the country for a long time and we look forward to seeing even more.

Some of the most important American inventions – Part 1

telephone

America may have a relatively short history compared with the UK and other countries, but a whole host of vitally important inventions and innovations have come out of the US in that time. Here is a roundup of some of the most crucial.

Light Bulb

Probably one of the most famous American inventions, the light bulb is the defining legacy of Thomas Edison who also brought us a number of other brilliant innovations. It was actually dreamt up by several before him, and was the end result of decades of experiments. Obviously the impact of this invention was massive and we still use products that very much resemble the original design Edison created.

Telephone

This is another invention that is technically American, since Alexander Graham Bell was experimenting in Boston at the time and not his home country of Scotland. He filed his patent just hours before Elisa Gray who came up with the same concept simultaneously.

Cotton Gin

Gin is short for engine in this case, a machine patented by Eli Whitney in 1794. It revolutionised the cotton industry, making it widely profitable for the first time by automating the process of making useful cotton from seeds grown on plantations. There was an unfortunate side effect of this because the need for bigger plantations led to a greater number of black slaves being deployed.

Ford Model T

The first commercially available motor car was famously the Model T developed by Henry Ford in Detroit. Until this breakthrough automobiles were rare and reserved for the ridiculously wealthy, but Ford designed a family friendly and affordable version that led to the industry as we know it today.

There are so many great inventions to come from the US that we’ll be completing our list in another instalment!