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All the times the Queen looked at new technology

The Queen donned 3D glasses to watch a display and pilot a JCB digger at the University of Sheffield in 2010 (Credit: Getty)

The Queen saw all kinds of new technology through the years — much of which has shaped the world we live in today.

From supermarket self-checkout systems to early email systems, she viewed innovations with an impressed — and sometimes sceptical — eye.

Her interest echoes that of royals that came before her, like her great-great-grandfather Prince Albert.

The husband of Queen Victoria was interested in early computer technology, having observed a prototype of computer scientist Charles Babbage’s proposed ‘Difference Engine.’

Babbage later wrote to the prince personally to share more information about his pioneering work.

Continuing the tradition, Queen Elizabeth II was pictured investigating new technology throughout her reign.

4 June 2020: The Queen joins her first lockdown video call

Handout screengrab issued by Buckingham Palace of Queen Elizabeth II and the Princess Royal as they take part in a video call with carers supported by the Carers Trust. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday June 11, 2020. The monarch chatted with four carers and the trust's chief executive Gareth Howells on June 4 from Windsor Castle. See PA story ROYAL Queen. Photo credit should read: Carer's Trust/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Princess Royal taking part in a video call with carers supported by the Carers Trust during lockdown (Credits: PA)

Sat comfortably from the Oak Room in Windsor Castle, the Queen dialled in to her first video call after the coronavirus put the country into lockdown.

Queen Elizabeth dialled in to chat to four carers about the difficulties they were facing during thepandemic. She was also joined by her daughter Princess Anne, who patiently helped her get up and running on the Webex video chat.

The Queen went on to embrace video calling technology and, in 2021, conducted 118 of her 192 engagements virtually.

During lockdown, the royal household staff was coined the ‘HMS Bubble’. And even after lockdown lifted, the Queen continued to use video calling tech to carry out some of her engagements.

22 May 2019: The Queen uses a supermarket self-checkout machine

Queen Elizabeth self-checkout

Queen Elizabeth II is shown a self-service checkout in 2019 (Picture: Jeremy Selwyn – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

During a visit marking the 150th anniversary of Sainsbury’s supermarket, Queen Elizabeth observed a self-checkout machine, possibly for the first time.

Asking about the device’s security measures, she was pleased to learn it contained scales to prevent customers sneaking extra products past its scanners.

She was also shown a shopping app, which she called an ‘interesting tool’.

24 October 2014: The Queen sends her first tweet from a tablet

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 24: Queen Elizabeth II sends her first Tweet during a visit to the 'Information Age' Exhibition at the Science Museum on October 24, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth II sends her first Tweet during a visit to the ‘Information Age’ Exhibition at the Science Museum in 2014 (Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Back in 2014, Queen Elizabeth II was pictured sending her first tweet from an tablet at the Science Museum in London.

She was there for the museum’s ‘Information Age’ exhibition, which celebrated the evolution of communication technology through the years.

October 2008: The Queen surveys Windsor Castle — from Google Maps

Queen at Google HQ

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are seen visiting the Google Headquarters on Buckingham Palace Road in London (Picture: Colin Davey)

During a tour of Google’s UK headquarters, the Queen uploaded a video to Youtube and took home a plaque of some of the search engine’s code.

Her and Prince Philip also had the chance to view familiar landmarks from the comfort of a computer screen. They were treated to a tour of Google Maps that featured both Big Ben and Windsor Castle.

8 May 2007: The Queen visits a Nasa space flight centre

Queen at Nasa

Queen Elizabeth II talking to three astronauts on the International Space Station (Picture: PA)

Queen Elizabeth II took an interest in technology used beyond our planet, visiting Nasa’s Goddard Flight Center in Maryland, USA, back in 2007.

During the trip, she watched a demonstration of a visualisation system, toured satellite building facilities and even had a video call with astronauts on the space station.

8 October 2001: The Queen surveys a flashing baton

Queen surveys a flashing baton

Queen Elizabeth II at the launch of the Queen’s Baton Relay for Birmingham 2022 (Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire)

Back in 2001, Queen Elizabeth II was pictured holding an electronic relay baton to commemorate the Commonwealth Games. The device’s blue light was designed to flash in time with the holder’s heartbeat.

Much like the Olympic torch, a ceremonial baton traditionally tours numerous Commonwealth nations to mark the games held every four years.

This year’s iteration was more high-tech than ever before, containing an imaging sensor, GPS, LED lights and a mechanised chamber containing the Queen’s message to the Commonwealth.

2 November 1977: The Queen inspects a Concorde plane

Queen Elizabeth aboard supersonic Concorde

The Queen reading newspapers during her flight home from Bridgetown, Barbados, in the supersonic Concorde after her Silver Jubilee tour of Canada and the West Indies (Picture: PA/EMPICS)

Queen Elizabeth II took a look around the cockpit of a supersonic Concorde plane she took from Bridgetown, Barbados in 1977.

She took the flight on the way home from a tour of the Commonwealth marking her Silver Jubilee.

26 March 1976: The Queen sends a really, really early email

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II smiles during a visit to The Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire, 30 October 2003. She is wearing a hat by Philip Somerville. /WPA POOL (Photo credit should read KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AFP via Getty Images)

The Queen saw all kinds of new technology through the years — much of which has shaped the world we live in today (Picture: AFP

The Queen was sending emails way back in 1976 — years before commercial firms like AOL started offering services for the average person.

The content of her message was highly technical, telling users of an early computer network called ‘ARPANET’ they could now use the ‘Coral 66’ language.

Although, as computer scientist Peter Kirstein told WIRED, he’d set up the system so all she needed to do was ‘press a couple of buttons.’

In case you’re interested, the email read: ‘This message to all ARPANET users announces the availability on ARPANET of the Coral 66 compiler provided by the GEC 4080 computer at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment, Malvern, England,’ read the message. ‘Coral 66 is the standard real-time high-level language adopted by the Ministry of Defence.’

12 December 1967: The Queen observes a telescope

The Queen observes a telescope

Queen Elizabeth II looks through telescope at St. Paul’s Cathedral (Picture: Credit: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

The Queen was pictured walking around the massive Isaac Newton Telescope at the Royal Greenwich Observatory in Hertstmonceux, Sussex back in 1967.

She was there to inaugarate the telescope, which featured a 98-inch mirror gifted by the US. The Isaac Newton would later be moved to La Palma in the Canary Islands, where it was given an even bigger mirror.

She went on to recommission the historical 28-inch refractor telescope at the Observatory nearly a decade later.

5 December 1958: The Queen makes a long-distance ‘trunk’ call

Back in 1958, Queen Elizabeth II made a long-distance (aka ‘trunk’) call to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh.

This was the first ever direct-dial long-distance call made in the UK, according to the Telephone Museum. It was made from the Central Telephone Exchange in Bristol.

You can watch her looking at a display about phone technology before actually making the call in the video above. She says: ‘This is the Queen speaking from Bristol. Good afternoon, my Lord Provost.’


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