June 27th, 2014
Ten years ago this week, Her Majesty The Queen crossed the threshold of Imperial College’s newly-built main entrance and Tanaka Business School* on a blustery, bright 24 June 2004 and made history. Surrounded by cheering wellwishers, she passed through the doors of the gleaming landmark building and paused opposite the imposing image of a multi-coloured scan of a brain, representing the brainpower of the institution. As a Malcolm Arnold fanfare struck up, provided by the College’s chamber orchestra, The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of York, joined rector, Sir Richard Sykes to meet and speak to Lord Foster, whose company, Foster and Partners, designed the building. A visit to a lecture theatre, led by Tanaka Business School principal, Professor David Begg, included a few words with students to discuss the mortgage industry, as well as a closer examination of research projects and spin-out ventures. The Queen, Visitor of Imperial College, who last came to the College in 1998 to open the Sir Alexander Fleming Building, signed the visitors’ book before receiving a bouquet from eight year old Alexander Tanaka.
* The building has subsequently been brought into line with the overall Imperial College branding and is now known as the Imperial College Business School.
There is no commentary on this video
Colin Grimshaw June 2014
June 1st, 2014
Professor Patrick Purcell (1929-2007) was described in his Times obituary as “Pioneer of computing and design“. As far as I know, this is the only interview made with Patrick, whom I got to know during his time as visiting professor of human computer interaction at Imperial College London. I had actually known him prior to that via LIVE-NET Video Conference from Northern Ireland linking through to Imperial.
Until his death, he worked along side Professor Bob Spence, who commented after Patrick’s death “…when I realised that Patrick Purcell was approaching retirement from his appointment in Northern Ireland I immediately suggested to the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of Imperial that he be invited to be a Visiting Professor. A very selfish act, no doubt, but one I have never regretted…”
At my suggestion, this interview was recorded for an outside company called Lantec and was in the occasional series called Video Interface. Because of Patrick’s depth of knowledge of all things ‘digital’, this was the obvious first question posed to him at the start of the interview by Steve Bell. It was recorded in the Imperial College TV Studio in June 1995.
Colin Grimshaw June 2014
May 14th, 2014
This interview with Professor Jim (James) Ring (1927-2005) was recorded for the Imperial College Archives and this is the first time that it has been seen since it was made. Jim Ring was educated at the University of Manchester. He joined the staff there as a lecturer before moving to become Professor of Applied Physics at the University of Hull in 1962. He joined Imperial as Professor of Physics in 1967 and became Professor of Infra-Red Astronomy, having given his inaugural lecture in June 1968. As will become apparent from the interview, he was on the board of the Independent Broadcasting Authority for over 5 years. He also chaired the Imperial College Educational Technology Committee, which was how I got to know him. He featured a few times on the BBC Sky at Night as well as other BBC radio programmes. Ex Queen member Brian May completed most of his PhD in Astrophysics in Jim Ring’s group at Imperial College in 1970-74.
The interview was recorded in his office in the Physics Department and the interviewer was Grant Richmond. It was made in November 1980 and like all of these very old videotapes, it’s suffering slightly from its age. It was also shot using our (then) new colour equipment, which actually consisted of a single colour camera and portable u-matic recorder. It was not the world’s most amazing camera and needed a lot of light to get good pictures, which even then, looked ‘soft’. The photo above is a of me making the video at the college tin mine in April 1980 and is the same camera and recording equipment used for this interview.
Colin Grimshaw May 2014
May 1st, 2014
In 1925 this would have been considered hilarious I can only assume? But at least we do have this amazing British Pathe News film of some of our students from a time long ago and this now predates our own 1928 Sports Day film. The main titles are saying that the students had their ‘own’ Lord Mayor Show, so this would have been in November of that year. But why did they do this and why did Pathe News feel it was worthy enough to actually film it? This I suspect we may never know, although it’s possible someone somewhere might be able to tell us or work it out (there’s a possible clue later). The car, in one shot, has C&G painted on the front, although this is not that clear to see. It appears that this is the first version of Bo (Boanerges) which was a 1908 Rover purchased in 1920. It was replaced by the current car in 1933 (I have noticed that there are some variations on these various dates, depending on what you read). According to Hannah Gay’s book, in the previous year to this film (1924), C&G students had parked this car outside Number 10 Downing Street with an effigy of the then Prime Minister in it. So could THIS be why Pathe shot the film, because of the previous year’s prank and in the hope they might do something silly again to be captured on film?
Having looked, many times, at both films, I have managed to work out where it was shot. The sequences in the car seem to be just outside of Holy Trinity Church in Prince Consort Road. The modern photo gives a clue to the location in front of the door at the extreme right hand end of the church building (in this photo that’s on the left where it joins Beit please note). One shot shows the students pulling the car with a rope along Prince Consort Road, with faintly in the background the Royal College of Music and RSM behind that too. To the extreme right is where Aeronautics is now located and to the left would be Beit and then the Albert Hall.
There are two films in the Pathe News archive. The first is the edited and also titled version, while the other is listed as out-takes (unused material).
Colin Grimshaw May 2014
April 28th, 2014
Some while ago in 2010 I commented on the many problems facing people like me when trying to playback video archive material. The problem is that tape manufacturers never realised, in the mid 1970′s, that they had created formulations for magnetic tape that were going to cause problems in about 20 years time. Almost all of the video and some audio tapes held at Imperial are now suffering from what is called Sticky Shed Syndrome. It’s a great name for the Goo that comes off of the tapes when you try to play them. A report into this problem said “Somewhere between 20% and 80% of all U-Matic (video) tapes are showing obvious signs of decay or are giving the archives holding them cause for concern. U-Matic is widely considered by the major broadcast archives in Europe as the top priority format for video preservation. U-Matic transfers take between 1-2 hours of operator time per hour of programme material for tapes in good condition, rising to 5-10 hours per hour or more for difficult media.”
All of this is what I’m now experiencing with batches of U-Matic videotapes that I’m trying to get onto DVD and then after that, onto the Imperial YouTube channel. What happens, when you play a tape, is that you will very rapidly start to hear the typical screeching noise of the tape sticking to interior parts of the recorder and you’ll soon be taking the cover off of the recorder, as seen on the right. At this point the tape will almost certainly have come to a complete halt all on its own. The ‘binder’, which holds both the magnetic oxide and the back-coating onto the plastic, is slowly breaking down. It’s absorbed moisture over a period of time and has gone slightly sticky. This is primarily because the tapes were never stored in air conditioned locations. Ampex is one of the companies that had the problem with sticky tapes (most of our tapes are from Ampex). In 1993, they created a patent for overcoming these playback problems by heat-treating tapes and I have now resorted to this approach. For those engineers reading this, here’s the extract from what they patented: “…Polymers can react with water from atmospheric moisture to break the ester linkages contained in such polymeric chains and form lower molecular weight polymers, a process known as hydrolysis. When a sufficient number of such bonds have been hydrolyzed and broken, the binder becomes undesirably weakened due to degeneration of molecular weight. The breakdown compounds of this weakened binder migrate, can exude from the coating thus causing the tape to be sticky and to shed.“
Heat treating or Baking as it’s called, is now considered (and used throughout the World) as a method for overcoming playback problems when most other things have been tried and failed. So, this week I attempted this approach myself. You need a way of continuously heating the tapes to between 50-54oC and for several hours. Not wanting a lab oven here at home (where I’m slowly transferring the archive) I resorted to the other suggested method of using a digital controlled food dehydrator. Ebay to the rescue and installation complete (pic above) my first attempt was carefully monitored with an external temperature probe during the few hours that I heated the tapes for. I had partial success when running the first tape, but it needed a bit more treatment. I also discovered that the inside of the actual tape cassette has small plastic guides which were also getting goo on them. This was causing more problems than inside the actual tape machine. So, take the tapes apart (pic on right), clean the guides, heat them again, let them cool down and reassemble. Success with the first tape! It played back all the way through and was now onto DVD. The next tape was still causing problems and I soon discovered the typical screeching noise was now coming from inside the cassette rather than the playback machine. Looking at the cassette I could see that the interior plastic guides were once again coated with goo (pic on left). I put my finger on the guide and it stuck there like sticky tape! So, after taking the cassette apart for the third time and cleaning the guides it played OK. Interestingly I’ve not found any references to these guides inside the cassettes being part of the problem, it’s only references to inside the tape machine. Anyway, the last tape is now onto DVD. A saga indeed and very time consuming (two days for two tapes), but a great feeling of success when I beat the Goo. Baking is THE way it seems. All I have to do is now work my way through the other few hundred video tapes. Incidentally, these current tapes are all from our Maths series made with the London Mathematical Society (LMS) and are now on the YouTube channel in the LMS Playlist. The picture below is of the first successful replay after heat treatment of tape number one. It needed a touch of tender care with TBC adjustments for brightness, colour, sharpness and so on, but looks pretty good after 27 years of being on a cupboard shelf.
Colin Grimshaw April 2014
April 16th, 2014
This is an update to the original entry earlier this year. Pathe have just released all of its archive onto YouTube, so I am now able to bring you the film clip direct and in higher quality, rather than going via their own website.
In November 1965 the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited Imperial College to officially open the newly completed Department of Biochemistry, headed by Sir Ernst Chain (1906-1979). What you will see are the original 1965 (silent) film rushes shot by Pathe News for its weekly newsreel, shown in cinemas at that time. These newsreels ended in 1970. It is to be assumed that the final edited film (if that ever happened) would have had a commentary on it, but this is all silent.
This film record by Pathe is one of the few that were shot on campus at this time. Sequences include the arrival, at the old college Exhibition Road entrance; Sir Patrick Linstead (Rector), Sir Ernst Chain and Lord Sherfield (Chairman Governing Body) all greeting the Queen Mother upon her arrival. This film would have been shot some 8 months before the sudden death of Linstead. You will also see the very obvious building work taking place across the entire campus, with a complete gap where Sherfield and the library now stand. Finally and most importantly, there are shots of Chain in his laboratory, something that we do not have in our own archives.
Were you in the crowd that day? Maybe you are one of the students lining up to speak with the Queen Mother at the end of the film? If you are, then do let us know.
Colin Grimshaw April 2014
April 1st, 2014
Dr Harold R Allen came to Imperial College as a lecturer in October 1947 after completing a PhD at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory. He made major contributions to the Physics Department but more importantly to the musical activities within the college.
In this interview, recorded in 1983 and not long before his retirement, he talks about the 1960 transfer from the old buildings occupied by Physics, to the brand new building on the corner of Prince Consort Road and Queens Gate. Physics was the first department within Imperial College to move into an entirely new building. As well as this, he discusses his colleagues that were in the department during his years as a member of staff. There’s an interesting anecdote too about the initial design of the Physics lecture theatre and columns that were originally planned, but which would have reduced vision across the entire space.
Sir Roderic Hill who was Rector the time (1948-1954), is discussed as being the person to have started what was then called General Studies. Lady Hill had discovered during a conversation with Dr Allen that he had an interest in music and asked him what was the strength of musical activities going on within the college. All of this lead to the formation of a choir to sing at the then newly created Commemoration Day, the purchase of a piano followed along with the creation of a ‘space for musical activities’. He became leader, organiser and treasurer of the college orchestra.
This interview was recorded in the Imperial College TV Studio on 18th July 1983, especially for the college archives. It was intended to capture the people and history of the college for others to enjoy in the future; we are doing that now, over 30 years later!
Colin Grimshaw April 2014
March 21st, 2014
For the centenary of Dennis Garbor’s birth on 5th June 1900 we recorded this retrospective discussion between Professor Igor Aleksander and former Imperial Rector, Professor Sir Eric Ash. Eric Ash graduated from Imperial with a first class honours degree in electrical engineering in 1948 and received his doctorate four years later in 1952. His Ph.D. supervisor was Dennis Gabor, so he has first hand knowledge of the man and the research he was carrying out at that time. Eric Ash and Igor Aleksander have both been heads of Electrical Engineering Departments, Ash at University College London and Aleksander at Imperial College London. In this recording they discuss the work of Dennis Gabor that lead to him receiving the Nobel Prize in 1971 for his invention of Holography. I met Gabor just once, when he very briefly discussed with me his previous (unsuccessful) ideas for a flat TV tube (at the time, we were standing in the TV Studio in front of a Sony Trinitron colour TV).
This recording was made in the Imperial College TV Studio in May 2000.
Colin Grimshaw March 2014
March 21st, 2014
Did you live in any of the college halls of residence during your time at Imperial College? If so, you may enjoy a very brief look back at some of the halls before the big changes took place across the campus.
Back in 2002 Sharine Brown (1950-2010) then Head of Accommodation Services asked us to make a promotional video for showing at Open Day of that year. This was no quick or easy project. Shooting video at all of the major halls would take a great deal of time and organisation. Our big challenge, as always, was access to rooms, student areas and students themselves in some cases. The majority of shots were best left without people in them. This was because some of them were going to be seen so briefly (as you’ll see) that the inclusion of students would have distracted from what people needed to see.
The biggest change, since the original videos were shot, is the demolition and replacement of both Southside and Linstead buildings. Now called Southside and Eastside they still have their own individual halls within them. If you remember the old Linstead Hall bar (below) then look out for that. There are shots of both Southside and Linstead and across the original Princes Gardens.
The scaffold, seen briefly in the first video, was to reflect the rebuilding/refurbishment work then underway on certain halls. This shot was removed in the second video because that work was, by then, completed, hence why you’ll notice that there are two videos, which initially look the same, but there are differences. The first is the original, made in 2002 and the other is a modified version for 2003 that had some sequences replaced, as I have already explained. In fact we had several versions and variations which included one with a scrolling caption across the bottom with various “facts” about the college and the halls. Our big mistake was not realising that the then ‘new’ Plasma screens did not like very fast moving action across the screen and simply blurred it all out! Also, as you are watching this via the web, some of our moving ‘name plates’ are suffering too. It seems almost impossible to make a video which will display perfectly well in all situations and on all platforms. The shots of London landmarks were from a previous video I’d made, so that saved an huge amount of time. The shots of Princes Gardens with the old buildings are now a valuable record of what the college once looked like.
One thing that we did do at the start in 2002 was to produce a give-away DVD of the video for those attending the open day events. You’ll also notice that the end credit shows that the Imperial College TV Studio had transformed into Media Services between the production of the two videos. That facility has transformed again and is now part of Communications. Such is the pace of change within Imperial College.
Colin Grimshaw July 2014
March 1st, 2014
It was only recently that I was made aware of the fact that both Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering were created as separate departments 100 years ago. In 1907 the City and Guilds College had a department that combined both civil and mechanical engineering. W. E. (Ernest) Dalby was then Dean of the C&G College and Professor of Engineering. Following recommendations (made by the Wolfe Barry Committee), in 1913 Dalby’s department was split in two, when separate civil and mechanical engineering departments were created. Stephen Dixon was appointed to head the civil engineering department and W.E. Dalby remained Dean of the C&G and also head of mechanical engineering.
So that’s clearly a very good reason to see what we have in the video archives that shows, or relates to, both of these departments. Seen many times before we have the amazing 1960 colour film of the City and Guilds building on Exhibition Road. Shown in the film, during the demolition of the building, is the construction of the new Mechanical Engineering Department, of which we get a ‘tour’. This video is silent please note.
New to our YouTube channel is a video I have only just recently digitised. I made it in 1993 as a promotional video for Civil Engineering under the title of ‘Building your Future’. Many aspects of the department are featured and past students are seen talking about their jobs and careers outside of Imperial. You’ll also see a field trip we made to a central London construction site.
And finally a video (or more correctly film) with links to both departments. It’s the (c)1969 film ‘This week in Britain’. Those who remember Civil Engineering from that period will immediately spot where both the opening and closing sequences were shot on the main staircase. Watch out for the Civil Engineering hydraulics lab and the Mechanical Engineering workshops, plus more.
Colin Grimshaw March 2014