50 Glorious Imperial Years! 1965-2015

October 4th, 2015

Colin in StudioOn Monday October 4th 1965 my 50 year association with Imperial College of Science and Technology (no Medicine then) began. It was my first day of working at the most amazing place I’d seen. And, all these years later and even though I’ve retired, my association continues with this Video Archive Blog.

If you’ve read or watched some of the videos in the blog then you will have seen various people talking about what the college was like ‘back then’. One quote that Rogers Knight made when we interviewed him in 2006 was that it was ‘a different place back then…’. Although he was referring to pre-war days I can concur with those feelings myself from when I joined Imperial in the 1960’s. Boy, how the place has changed since then. Just look at some of the videos in the blog and you’ll see what I mean. I recall the final fragment of the old Imperial Institute being demolished and Sherfield Building (then called College Block) being built. Before then, the walkway simply stopped at Electrical Engineering.

August 1967I don’t have any photos from 1965. But one photo which was taken, simply for fun, was in August 1967 with three colleagues, including Eddie Bristow on the far left. These were the very early days of using video at Imperial and in this case was exclusively in Electrical Engineering which used it for teaching, training and demonstrations. Looking through this blog will give you a better idea of how it’s been used in the years since then. But at the start it was not as easy as it is today. Videotape was the only recording method and even that was, at times, very difficult.

Philips EL3400In the black and white photo you’ll see our pride and joy, a Philips EL3400 one inch videotape machine which was FULL of valves and got extremely hot. Could you imagine anything running with valves these days? The image you can just see on the screen really is off of the videotape, the quality of which was none too bad. When you consider that videotape was only in service in the USA around ten years prior to when this photo was taken, great developments had taken place to achieve what was possible with this Philips recorder. Soon after, we replaced the recorder with an Ampex (one inch Ampex tape seen on the right),26082010060 made by the company that produced the first videotape recorder in the USA about ten or so years earlier. We stayed with this format until 1979 when we eventually switched into colour, using the Sony U-matic cassette format. If you read my two blogs on the MANY problems trying to now access these archive videotapes you’ll appreciate the saying “I wished we’d realised back then…”.

And finally, as this is a somewhat self-indulgent blog, here’s something almost 50 years old, but in fact it’s only 45 years ago. In early June 1970 I made a demonstration video for an Electrical Engineering student who had made a very basic video effects unit for the TV Studio. It was a crude demonstration because of the way the studio cameras were then able to run, but it made the point I think. This is just about the oldest video I have and I was just 19 years old, how times change! A former Imperial colleague of mine, Steve Bell, points out that there are not many people who can say they have a video of themselves that’s 45 years old.

Colin Grimshaw October 2015

Sir Brian Flowers interview: 1976

September 8th, 2015

I was recently ploughing my way through yet more archive videotapes and discovered another piece of Imperial College history. On the 11th November 1976 we recorded an interview with the then Rector of Imperial, Sir Brian Flowers. Later he was to become Lord Flowers of Queen’s Gate.

During the interview James Sinclair, who was then the STOIC Chairman, discussed many topics, including the current building extension application for Linstead Hall, one of the accommodation buildings around Prince’s Gardens (east side) which was rejected by Westminster City Council. The extension finally happened in 1980, both the original and extension buildings have subsequently been demolished and replaced by Eastside. Brian Flowers was the most cooperative of our rectors when it came to being interviewed, either in the studio or elsewhere. I think he felt that such collaboration with the studio and other ‘media’ on the campus would pay itself back when discussions took place on student matters or affairs. He was certainly one of the most popular rectors.

TV Studio 2006When the interview was recorded we were still operating in black and white, colour was three years away. However, the ‘new’ studio had only opened during the summer of 1976 and was once again to be modified when colour arrived in 1979. I reckon this was the first rector interview in the new studio, which for those that remember, was on level 2 of the main walkway. The photo on the right was taken in 2006.

Colin Grimshaw September 2015

Management School Video – 1995

August 21st, 2015

We made this 1995 promotional video for what was then simply called, “The Management School”. Its base was across the other side of Exhibition Road at 53 Prince’s Gate, a building already owned by Imperial College. 0082_02 The school opened in 1987 and was headed by David Norburn. At that time the department planned to teach about 120 students in a full-time MBA course and about 150 part-time MBA along with about 150 undergrads in a business degree course.

The idea behind the Management School was for Imperial to compete with the best business schools in the country. It was quoted as saying “the primary aim of the Management School is to become a top international business school”. A few names changes later, the Imperial College Business School is now based in a new Norman Foster designed building on Exhibition Road.

Colin Grimshaw August 2015

Parallel Computing Research Centre Royal Opening – May 1994

August 1st, 2015

An AP1000 Super Computer was donated by Fujitsu Labs to Imperial College to inaugurate the Imperial College/Fujitsu Parallel Computing Centre, opened by HRH Princess Anne in May 1994. It had been in continuous use since then and achieved remarkable longevity for an experimental parallel machine. AP1000The facility had been funded by a partnership between Fujitsu, the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), the Higher Education Funding Council and the Office of Science and Technology. The award on the UK side amounted to £1.65M. This was backed by a significant contribution from Fujitsu, continuing a fruitful collaboration between Imperial College and Fujitsu.

In 1997 Imperial College based a new campus-wide service on an 80 node Fujitsu AP3000 parallel computer, which was linked to the Fujitsu VX vector system, a resource amongst the most powerful in the UK. The systems provided a theoretical aggregate peak performance of nearly 50 Gflops with 15 Gbytes of memory and more than 400 Gbytes of high speed disc storage. With the way technology moves, I suspect that’s all a bit ‘last century’ by now (which if course it is).

In the year 2000 the following announcement was made:

fujitsu“Shigeru Sato, President of Fujitsu Laboratories of Japan, visited the department of computing on 15 March 2000, to give a seminar and switch off the Fujitsu AP1000 in the Imperial College Fujitsu Parallel Computing Centre. Mr Sato’s talk was followed by the ceremony to switch off (seen on right) the AP1000 with the rector, Lord Oxburgh. The AP1000 pioneered much work in parallel applications (CFD, artificial life, visualisation, environmental modelling) and parallel methods research (Parallel Software Technology, Performance Modelling, data mining, optimisation). The machine was still in active use prior to its decommissioning and the groups using it will be transferred to newer machines”

I made this video to commemorate and archive this important event both for Imperial and Fujitsu.  Once again the commentary is by Michael Rodd.

Colin Grimshaw August 2015

Not just another university: 1987

July 6th, 2015

In 1987, the University of London (of which Imperial was then part of) made a film called ‘Not just another university’ to promote and showcase itself to a wider audience. The ULAVC (University of London Audio-Visual Centre) was based at 11 Bedford Square and served the needs of any of the schools or colleges that made up the university. As the centre had the skills and facilities to make professional 16mm films it was the natural facility to make this promotional programme. Imperial College is featured in it too, initially with some aerial shots and mind boggling statistics prior to Sir Eric Ash, then Rector, who is seen in the original Rector’s Sherfield Building office. ALICE the Imperial College built computer is seen running. Felix issue 758, 1987 The Chemical Engineering Pilot Plant is featured with Prof Kerschenbaum talking about its uses and operation. Felix, the student newspaper (photo on right during filming) is shown being produced, along with Dave Jones, Editor talking about the weekly publication process. Having spent 12 years as Rector of Imperial College, Lord Brian Flowers then moved on to become Vice-Chancellor of the University of London and he is seen sitting casually on the edge of his desk in his Senate House office. Towards the end of the programme Wye College, as was, is seen during its heyday bustling with students, this must be the only time it was featured on film a unique record.

The film also got a one-off airing in December 1987 on Channel Four, one of the UK’s main broadcast TV stations.

Colin Grimshaw July 2015

Reactor Centre opening: 22 June 1965

June 22nd, 2015

1965_Reactor--tojpeg_1417970787838_x2It’s 50 years since the official opening of the University of London Reactor Centre housed at Imperial’s Silwood Park campus. Silwood Park is located about 25 miles West of Central London, near the village of Sunninghill, Ascot, Berkshire. On 22nd June 1965 the official opening took place with the Principal of the University of London, along with the Imperial College’s Rector Sir Patrick Linstead, Pro Rector Sir Owen Saunders and Chairman Lord Sherfield. In 2011 the process application to decommission the ‘GEC 100kW Consort’ reactor was started and is being continued today. Sadly, although the archive has BBC Footage shot at the 1965 opening ceremony, it’s minus the sound track, so P.HSN Reactor Under Construction. From above. Spring 1964the on-screen presentation and interviews mean very little. That’s rather a disappointment as it captures a key part in the college’s history. The photo on the right is during construction. What I do have is a segment from the 1982 documentary that I made about Silwood Park and fortunately we shot a section about the reactor and its operation. Tracy Poole spoke with Dr McMahan a lecturer in Physics about the operation of the reactor centre. We shot inside the main reactor hall, control room and experiments lab. I’m so glad we did this because it will be the only archive material shot about the reactor before it eventually disappears for good. 1135902Because it’s a ‘pool type’ water cooled and water moderated reactor it’s possible to open the reactor up and seen inside the core (yes it’s true). Then you will see a bright blue glow caused by the Cherenkov radiation. The image on the left show this glow which I witnessed myself when I took the shots for the video whilst standing on top of the reactor. When we made this video the reactor centre was still relatively new and only 17 years old, now it’s celebrating 50 years! As indeed I do myself, later this year, with 50 years of working at (and since early retirement, occasionally with) Imperial College!

Below is the documentary extract about the reactor centre and also some lovely aerial helicopter footage we had shot, which shows the beautiful Silwood Park campus.

Colin Grimshaw June 2015

Compulog Net: 1996

June 1st, 2015

CompulogNetIn 1996 we were asked to produce a promotional video for Compulog Net, Europe’s Network of Excellence in Computational Logic. Imperial College was one of eighty or more ‘nodes’ of this network and also acted in a managerial role. Making “The Benefits of Logic Programming” was to take us to locations in the UK, France and Germany over several months. Compulognet 3One of the biggest problems to overcome was the packing-up and transportation of the camera equipment from Imperial to locations in Europe. Extra baggage weight on aircraft and customs are things I prefer to not get involved with. The number of forms that needed to be completed, to prove to customs that we actually owned the equipment and were not trying to export/import it, was ridiculous. However, it was all overcome and we shot the required footage as planned. There Compulognet 1were only a few occasions when we went overseas and it’s such a pity that more departments with projects linking into Europe didn’t make professional videos like this one, especially with the potential of YouTube these days. My colleague Martin Sayers had only been with me a day or so before we went off to France to shoot some video, a nice way to start a new job! A favourite person to record our voice-overs was Michael Rodd, formally of BBC’s Tomorrows World and as usual he did an excellent job for the Compulog Net video. Michael now runs his own company Lipfriend Rodd. I shot the photos, above, whilst we were in Germany at the DFKI in Saarbrücken.

Colin Grimshaw June 2015

Postgraduate Awards Ceremony: 2003

May 1st, 2015

The May 2003 Postgraduate Awards Graduation Ceremony was the first time that we had taken cameras into the Royal Albert Hall for this particular event. Graduation RAH The previous October 2002, we had relayed the scenes from the stage onto a large projection screen. This was for the special Commemoration Day visit by Lee Kuan Yew. However, I asked the company providing the cameras if they would record the event anyway, even though we didn’t have a use for it at that time (other than archival). Those videotapes are still in our archive and I will, at some point, run them off into digital form for the benefit of those who graduated that day. The following May 2003 we were asked to once more make arrangements to provide cameras and a large screen for the Postgraduate Awards Ceremony. Again, I asked that we record the whole event to ascertain the feasibility of recording and then distributing the event coverage on DVD, we also did the same in October for Commemoration Day. What you will see below is that 2003 recording, which has been digitised for the first time, from the only recording made, which was on a DVD-RW disc.

PG Awards 2004 DVDIn 2004 we recorded the PG Awards ceremony once more, but with the specific intention of creating and making available DVD’s. The disc produced and its art work was created totally in-house, other than the actual disc pressing which was not possible for us to do. That first disc created can be seen on the left hand side. This process carried on for many years (along with Commemoration Day each October) until the ceremony coverage was eventually made available only on the Imperial YouTube channel, rather than on DVD’s.


Colin Grimshaw May 2015

Morphy Day & Sports Day: 1928

April 23rd, 2015

In this blog entry I’m bringing you the oldest moving images that we have of an Imperial event. Film CanWe are very fortunate to have a 1928 16mm film that an unknown person shot of both Morphy Day rowing at Putney and also of Sports Day, which is thought to have been held at the Chelsea Football Club grounds at Stamford Bridge. In 1920, Arthur Morphy had presented a cup for an eights race between the original three constituent colleges. Competition for the Morphy Cup became an important annual event in college life. FilmFrom looking at the film, we can only assume that this was shot before the rivalry became common at Morphy Day between the colleges, that saw flour and eggs being thrown around on the tow path. None of that appears on this film. Interestingly, we can also assume that the film was shot by somebody who was not a student at the college, because when you look at the film the word Morphy is spelt incorrectly. Arthur Morphy’s Son attended City and Guilds (1917-1920) and went on to co-found the company Morphy Richards. Ted CoulsonTed Coulson, seen in the second sequence of Tug-of-War and in the picture on the right, was the City and Guilds team coach. If you have any further information to fill in the gaps about this film then please do get in touch. We’d love to know who shot the film and why.


Colin Grimshaw April 2015

Sealing an Ampoule: 1984

April 1st, 2015

If you saw the May 2013 blog entry you will have been taken back to 1982 with a video made in the Chemistry Department’s laboratory teaching video series.

The Chemistry Building in March 2002

The Chemistry Building in March 2002

These were designed to show students a definitive version of a laboratory experiment or technique. In this example we recorded a video to show how to correctly seal an Ampoule. Apparently too many mistakes were being made by students when trying to understand how to complete this task and therefore a lot of glassware (and chemicals) were being thrown away. With the video at hand, students could play it as many times as they needed and thereby get the hang of the techniques involved with the process.

So here then is Dr Derek Wollins back in 1984 showing you how to Seal an Ampoule.

Were you a student in Chemistry and did you watch this and other videos during your lab sessions? Do let us know if this was the case.

Colin Grimshaw April 2015