Archive for the ‘Blog update’ Category

New discoveries coming soon…

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

College Orch 19828mm grab 1970Keep checking the Video Archive Blog for some newly discovered videos from 1970 and 1982.

See the origins of the college TV Studio in Electrical Engineering when it first started in stunning black and white! Also see a very youthful Richard Dickins conducting the college orchestra way back in 1982 in the college Great Hall.

Every week I seem to find something new, hidden away on a reel of videotape.

50 Glorious Imperial Years! 1965-2015

Sunday, 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

Final LMS lecture videos go live

Monday, December 1st, 2014

After some effort, the final batch of videos we made in conjunction with the London Mathematical Society (LMS) have now gone live on the Imperial YouTube channel.

U-Matic cassetteThe final 6 videos now concludes the upload of all of the remaining LMS lectures in our video archive. The previous blog about the LMS videos explains all the details of how and why we recorded them, so going there will fill in all the gaps. As usual, it was the same old problem and story of oxide and goo shedding from the U-matic videotapes. I explained all of this in the blog about beating the goo, but it involves taking the cassettes apart (seen on the left with just the spools of tape showing) and heat treating them. Needless to say, this is a time consuming process taking at least a day before you can find out whether or not the tape will playback well enough to digitise. If not, then you start the process all over again! So a good few weeks went by before I could end the upload process.

Colin Grimshaw December 2014

Beating the Goo !

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Half inchSome 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.”

machineAll 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.

bakingHeat 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 cassetteduring 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. goo on guideLooking 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.

playback 

Colin Grimshaw April 2014

Queen Mother opens Biochemistry 1965

Wednesday, 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.

icimagesThis 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

Eric Laithwaite RI Christmas Lectures 1974

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Eric Laithwaite at the 1966 lectures

The 1966 lecture series

Eric Laithwaite was the first person to present the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures on television in 1966 on BBC2 (in black and white). The New Scientist photo below is the front cover from December 1966 previewing the forthcoming lecture series. That lecture series was called The Engineer in Wonderland. In my previous blog on Eric Laithwaite you will find references to both that lecture series and also the second series he was asked to give in 1974. I was present at some of the lectures in both of those years. Now, the Royal Institution has made available, via their web site, all of the 1974 Christmas Lecture series The Engineer Through the Looking Glass. For those interested, it’s a treat to see him at his best, in front of a live audience! You will see below a list of the six lectures in that series.

new-scientist-1966You may recall that there was some controversy over the content of lecture six where Eric Laithwaite demonstrated his theories of gyroscopes and how he thought he may have found that gyroscopes violated the law of conservation of energy. It appears that Laithwaite was waiting for the sixth and final lecture with something new and controversial, possibly breaking these laws of science. I have recently found the BBC archive pages of past editions of Radio Times. In them, I found the references and listing for the 1966 RI Christmas Lectures (The Engineer in Wonderland), the first to be televised and also given by Eric Laithwaite. The listing for the sixth and final lecture is interesting. Although I was actually present at that lecture I don’t remember the content, but the listing reference is very, very interesting it reads “Professor Laithwaite tries a completely new experiment which he hopes will break one of the laws of science. All the text books say it cannot be done. Will the experiment succeed?“.  So, here we are again in 1974 with the sixth and final lecture (It’s my own invention) and once again Eric Laithwaite is trying something new, controversial and possibly breaking the laws of science in the process, is this a repeat of his idea from 1966? I must admit I hadn’t realised this until now! Maybe only he remembered the wording from that 1966 lecture? We’ll never know….

 

Lecture 1
LOOKING GLASS HOUSE

Lecture 2
TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE

Lecture 3
JAM YESTERDAY, JAM TOMORROW

Lecture 4
THE JABBERWOCK

Lecture 5
THE TIME HAS COME THE WALRUS SAID

Lecture 6
ITS MY OWN INVENTION

Colin Grimshaw January 2014 (revised November 2016)

Alumni Interview 2006: Rogers Knight

Friday, November 1st, 2013

In the year preceding the 2007 Imperial College Centenary, a project I had suggested was started between Media Services and the Imperial College Archives. It interviewed all living past Rectors and the then current Rector Sir Richard Sykes. Since that time former Rector Lord Brian Flowers has died, so these interviews, in my view, have proved a worthwhile exercise. Also included were prominent members of the college community. We also interviewed an Alumni; Rogers Knight (6th December 1915 – 29th March 2015) who was a student of the City and Guilds College from 1934-1938. He also became heavily involved in student life and then years later with the Old Centralians Trust.

He tells us that, at the time he was a student, the whole student body was something like 1200. In the Royal School of Mines about 100 and the Royal College of Science and City and Guilds were about the same size at around 500 or so each. Rogers remembers the College Porter, dressed in his formal red morning coat, standing on the College steps every morning, greeting every student by name. I can’t see that happening any more! He says that, in his opinion, the buildings we had then, the Royal College of Science, the original City and Guild’s Building (above) and the Royal School of Mines were built with care and attention. He was interviewed by College Archivist Anne Barrett on 22 August 2006 in the College TV Studio

If you would like to see more of this type of Alumni video interview and can make suggestions as to who should take part, then please contact me via the LEAVE A REPLY box below. We would very much appreciate people like Rogers Knight who can tell us stories about Imperial College life in times past, especially those pre-war.

I was sad to hear that Rogers had died in March 2015 at the amazing age of 99! This interview is therefore even more important in recording the history of Imperial College from times past.

Colin Grimshaw August 2015 (updated)

Bob Spence, still going strong at 80

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

I have rediscovered a fascinating interview with Professor Bob (Robert) Spence, Professor Emeritus of Information Engineering & Senior Research Investigator in EEED. Today, Bob turns 80 and what better way to help him celebrate than bringing to your attention this interview from 1994. At the time, the TV Studio was still in operation and I was making a monthly video for a computer company called Lantec. A former TV Studio colleague of mine, Steve Bell, who worked for Lantec, asked me if we would make these videos for distribution to their company clients. The result was a programme we called Video Interface. This video is from Edition 13, from December 1994 and Steve is talking to Bob about his research work. I take no credit for the remaining text below, as it comes from Bob’s own personal web page at Imperial. I have added however a few links to videos I made with Bob on some of the subjects mentioned.

Bob’s research has ranged from engineering design to human-computer interaction and often with the manner in which the latter can enhance the former. Notable contributions, usually in collaboration with colleagues, include the powerful generalized form of Tellegen’s Theorem; algorithms for improving the manufacturing yield of mass-produced circuits; and, in the field of Human-computer Interaction, the invention of the first focus+context technique, the Bifocal Display (aka Fisheye lens). The novel Attribute and Influence Explorers provide examples of novel information visualization tools that have wide application, including engineering design. Interactive computer graphics allows the electronic circuit designer to sketch the familiar circuit diagram on a computer display. This potential was pioneered by Bob and his colleagues in the late 1960s and eventually, in 1985, led to the commercially available MINNIE system developed and marketed by a company of which Bob was chairman and a founding director. More recently, Bob’s research has focused on the topic of Rapid Serial Visual Presentation in which a collection of images is presented sequentially and rapidly to a user who may be searching for a particular image. This activity is similar to the riffling of a book’s pages.

 

spence 51 yearsAnd yet more news about Bob in April 2014 is that he has now achieved 51 years of service at Imperial College. See this article and scroll down to read about it. In the article Bob says “I’ve always said that if something is fun, it’s worth doing – and I’ve certainly had a lot of fun over the past 51 years.  Imperial has always had a fantastic community, and it boasts some exceptional students. They are the reason I continued to teach after my retirement – I never tire of working with them….”

Colin Grimshaw April 2014

Videos for Schools on YouTube

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

You can now find all of the remaining videos that were made for schools on the Imperial YouTube Channel. They are located in the Archive section along with other gems that are being added as time permits. I’ve included two of them in this blog, but do go to YouTube to be able to see them all. One video that stands out as an example of science and technology is the one with Denis Smith on Water Power and the Industrial Revolution. We made the video in many parts of the UK at various (then) working Watermills, Pumping Stations and so on and it was a real joy to make too. (more…)

New to the Blog?

Friday, November 16th, 2012

If you are new to the blog or perhaps arrived via the Alumni web page, you might have missed some previous gems. If you go back further to earlier entries you will find some memories of Imperial College captured on videotape. One such recording is the only interview we have with Victor Mooney (Died on December 27th 2012 aged 89), college catering manager from 1953 to 1985.

Southside Royal opening taking place in the Upper Refectory,  Southside

He was a major figure in college life, especially with the student’s phrase “Going for a Mooney”, which meant going to the refectory for a meal of some kind. Do you remember the Upper and Lower Refectories in Southside? How about WAITRESS service in part of the Refectory in Sherfield? And also a time when the JCR eatery was still called the “Buttery”!

I have now managed to clean up the quality of the recording which was made in November 1979,  just prior to us going into full colour. Here’s Victor Mooney, in the College TV Studio, talking to STOIC regular presenter Dave Ghani.

If you have any film or photos of the college eating places in use during the years before say 1970, then please get in touch. Please also add comments or memories of eating at Imperial 🙂

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Colin Grimshaw November 2012