‘What an interesting device, Sir Oswald. What does it do exactly?’ Albert Parkin straightened his cravat, leant back in the stiff leather chair and took a sip from his brandy glass.
‘This,’ said Sir Oswald, ‘is my latest invention. I call it the IM machine. It is capable of sending short messages to recipients anywhere in the world. Providing they have one of these devices of course.’
‘Doesn’t the Telegraph system already do that?’ asked Albert.
Sir Oswald nodded. ‘Yes, but this little beauty can be set up in a person’s own home or office.’ A huge grin spread over his face. ‘No waiting for the delivery boy.’
‘It does looks very impressive,’ said Mrs Parkin from the back of the machine. Her head appeared through a cloud of steam. ‘How does one send an instant message?’
Sir Oswald puffed out his chest and stood proudly in front of the contraption. He opened a small door and threw in a single lump of coal. A fresh burst of steam hissed from a valve at the rear making Mrs Parkin scurry round to the front. She laid a soft hand on Sir Oswald’s arm as a small cloud of smoke snaked from a funnel on top.
Let’s say,’ said Sir Oswald, ‘that I wanted to send a message to Mrs Pettigrew, my secretary at Crankshaft and Piston Ltd. All I would have to do is this…’
Sir Oswald pulled a red lever, twisted a dial, then pulled on a green handle. He turned to Mrs Parkin with a smile as a panel slid to the side and a typewriter keyboard presented itself.
Sir Oswald fingers danced across the brightly polished keys. As he hit return, the machine emitted a small toot. There was a crunching of cogs, and more steam hissed from the safety valve. To Mrs Parkin’s delight a thin strip of tape appeared from a slot in front of her.
At Sir Oswald’s invitation, Mrs Parkin pulled the tape from the slot and read aloud.
‘Mrs Pettigrew. Please reply to this message immediately.’
Sir Oswald fed the tape into a second slot just above the first, and pressed the return key again.
‘Shouldn’t take a minute,’ he preened. ‘We have an identical machine in the office. We’re hoping to have thirty of them littered around the county by the end of next year.’
Sir Oswald poured himself another brandy and strolled back to the IM machine.
‘It’s taking longer than usual,’ he said with a frown.
The machine began to vibrate, then shake. Boiling water dripped from the safety valve.
Sir Oswald stood back in alarm. Mrs Parkin leapt behind her husband’s chair and peered over the top. ‘It’s going to blow up!’ she cried.
The noise became louder as the contraption began to shudder violently. Hobson, Sir Oswald’s butler, placed his hands on the machine in an effort to steady it. He leapt back with a scream of pain as his fingers came into contact with the hot metal.
Suddenly the machine went quiet, then it belched and spat out a sliver of tape.
Sir Oswald picked it up and read aloud.
@SirOswald #FF @newfangledinventions, prizes for first ten to RT
Sir Oswald tore up the tape and threw it into the bin.
‘We’re working on a spam filter,’ he said.