Archive for the ‘College History’ Category

Olympus Satellite Uplink Silwood Park: 1990

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

There are a few previous blogs about Live-Net, two in 2013 and one in 2018. But I’ve not really talked about where the system eventually was able to link to. Towards the end of the networks life it had been extended (42Km) all the way down to Royal Holloway in Surrey and eventually a little further (6Km) down the road to the Imperial College field station at Silwood Park. You can click on the Live-Net map over on the right to view it bigger.

The reason for the extension to Silwood Park was primarily to enable the temporary installation of an ESA Satellite uplink station. The Olympus satellite was, by this time, (1989 launched) then operational. To cut a very long story short, the Silwood Park uplink enabled any of the connections within Live-Net to get TV pictures across Europe. In October 1990 we did just that, for a very technically complicated programme involving the French Association of Veterinary Surgeons Annual Conference being held in Poitiers, France. The link from France was provided by France Telecom. The feed was sent via normal ground connections to the London BT Post Office Tower. As you can see from the Live-Net map, we also had a feed to and from the BT Tower. That bit was easy…

Then came the complicated bit. They wanted London participation from various groups including the UK’s chief veterinary officer to allow a discussion on the then major topic of BSE, otherwise known then as Mad Cow Disease. So the concept was that the French feed would arrive at the Imperial College TV Studio mixer and that at the appropriate time our studio guests would take over and contribute. However, this is where it got complicated. They wanted a two-way discussion to happen, so my audio had to feed all the way back to France! It turned into a bit of a ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ in the end. But it still didn’t get any easier, because we had to have two-way simultaneous translation French to English and then English to French. For this a double sound booth with two translators was installed at the rear of the studio. We all wore earphones to hear what was being said. In France they would occasionally insert videos and graphics which was no problem for me. However, London wanted to do this too, so it got even more involved. We were never sure just when the French participants would want to link to us, so we were always poised to switch feeds and start the sound translations. The first video is when we were called upon to come into action.

Even more involved was that they wanted me to provided an edited version of my promotional video that I’d made about Live-Net and get a summarised commentary recorded in French and this is what you can see next.

Of course I had to expect potential problems and I didn’t take any chances in case something happened. And it did! The incoming vision feed from France Telecom/BT just disappeared during one of the London participation segments and I was left with a blank screen. But I did have a stand by caption ready for such a situation. Luckily the vision feed reappeared and we were back to normal again. My end result vision and sound feeds were sent back to Live-Net and thus onward down to Silwood Park and via the ESA uplink station to Europe (seen left) on the Olympus Satellite. I was also watching our feed coming back to me from the satellite so I could see if we were actually transmitting or not. And that was the other problem. You can’t just uplink to a satellite without a specified start and end time because there are other people wanting to do something similar. So we couldn’t start until the correct time, but equally we had to finish at the right time too. I don’t think our colleagues in France appreciated this because they didn’t realise that time was running out. I had a permanent open phone link with them and was updating them on timings. When the end was approaching I expected them to sum-up and run end credits, but nothing was happening. I ended up yelling at them to “run the end credits” and rather abruptly you’ll see their end video appear on screen and then run, taking them all by surprise, with various words in French about the loss of satellite time and goodbye. A few seconds later I saw our feed disappear from the Olympus satellite so we only just made it in time. THE most complicated event I have ever done, with me alone doing live vision and sound mixing along with inserting graphics, videotape and talking on the phone, whilst my colleague operated cameras and then broadcasting to the whole of Europe. Phew!

Colin Grimshaw January 2019

2019: Year TEN of Video Archive Blogs

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Well here we are in 2019 and the 10th year of the Video Archive Blog. The first real blog of the year is coming up next and that will be a bigger than usual read too.

I’m still finding interesting video gems to post and there are masses of new videotapes to be viewed and digitised during 2019. I just have to get to them and sort them out. Assisting me now is the original card index files started by STOIC the student TV service (right). Amazingly, their original archive has more ‘college’ events than the TV Studio’s own archive. STOIC covered just about anything and anywhere, to fill the news programmes. There are interviews with college personnel and administration that I never had the opportunity to record myself. They also captured and covered more college events than I did, so these are true archive gems.

By now you’re thinking ‘why didn’t the TV Studio cover these things rather than the students?”. Well, the answer is simple, I wasn’t allowed to. We had a remit to charge for any work we did in the college TV studio, so unless someone was paying me, I couldn’t do the work! It’s sad to know that the only coverage of some important and unique college events are only on STOIC tapes. So, fortunately those tapes are now held safely and, as I mentioned previously, I also have access to the two-draw card index that I’m now slowly scanning into digital.

Scanning the cards is somewhat time consuming as there is no easy way to be able to autoscan them. I’m scanning them in batches of four on a flatbed scanner and creating continuous PDF files of each batch of A through to Z. I’ve got as far as “N” at this time! If you click on the photo that I took (left) you can see that even this particular card I’m holding shows an interesting 1980 interview with Prof Anderson about the UROP project. I seem to recall that it stood for Undergraduate Research OPportunities. There are no other such interviews, so this is also unique. How long before you’ll get to see it remains unknown, but keep watching as I go into year TEN

Colin Grimshaw January 2019

Lord & Lady Flowers, full interview: 2006

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

Lord Flowers was appointed Rector of Imperial in 1973 and held the post until 1985.

In 1979 he was made a life peer as Lord Flowers of Queen’s Gate. He became Chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals in 1983–85 and Vice Chancellor of the University of London, 1985–90. He was a founder member of the Social Democratic Party.

I shot this video on 17 May 2006. It was used the following year as part of the Imperial College Centenary Celebrations. Small extracts were only ever used at the time, amounting to about 6 minutes in total. This, the full version, runs for 40 minutes and has never been seen before. Both Lord and Lady Flowers speak about their rolls in college life. Anne Barrett from the college archives spoke to them both in the council room at 170 Queen’s Gate.

Colin Grimshaw December 2018

Steve Marshall – Phoenix Editor: 1979

Sunday, October 7th, 2018

Once more we delve into the days of black and white TV with this 1979 interview with the then forthcoming “The Phoenix” editor Steve Marshall. “The Phoenix”, we are told, was originally started in 1887 by the former student of the Normal School of Science (later the Royal College of Science) H.G.Wells. From 2012, here is a brief history of the magazine by Charles Thomas.

As hard as I try I cannot seem to find any web pages relating to “The Phoenix”, so is it still running I wonder? If you can help find a web site and maybe an on-line edition then please comment and I’ll happily update this page.

Colin Grimshaw October 2018

Live-Net & Westminster Cable TV: 1987

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

Previously, I’ve mentioned the University of London’s Live-Net fibre optic cable system that once connected London’s Universities, from a central BT switching system at Senate House. Recently I’ve discovered the Thames Television news item that covered the official opening on 28 May 1987 and this can be seen below. During the opening event three sites were initially seen on screens in Senate House: Royal Holloway; Imperial and Queen Mary.

Strangely enough I don’t recall us taking any photos during this event and therefore this is the only record of the day. And if you look closely at the central screen with Imperial on it you’ll see me over on the right hand side. My academic colleague Prof Ernie Freeman was sitting in the middle and played host for our site. The image on the right is an off-screen grab of that central screen’s video feed.

Closely linked to the Live-Net technology was Westminster Cable TV. This was also a BT technology and Live-Net borrowed and improved upon that domestic system. In fact it’s closely related to our current Broadband FTTC where optical fibre brings the internet to a local street cabinet and from there it arrives at your home via copper phone lines. In Live-Net’s case it arrived directly with us as a fibre feed termination.

So what is my connection with Westminster Cable TV? Well, because of the on-going BT involvement with both Live-Net and Westminster Cable TV I got to know everyone on both projects. I was approached to sound out how an experiment might be operated to utilise a unique option that existed for the cable TV customers. That was the ‘theoretical’ ability to run video FROM the customer backwards to the Westminster Cable TV hub. Indeed the local equipment in the TV Studio had those sockets on the box, but BT had never pursued the idea. It did work when we tried it, but the image quality at the other end was apparently dreadful and unusable. In September 1990 we’d already agreed to run an experimental computer training ‘at home’ series, that was sponsored by the Training Agency. Everyone was on board, but the ‘reverse line video feed’ technology had, by then, failed us. My BT research labs colleague stepped in and had the ability to order a direct point-to-point microwave link from the top of the Electrical Engineering Building and by using this, our studio feed hopped across Hyde Park to Westminster Cable TV in Paddington.

We took live incoming phone questions too via the earpiece that was worn by Kevin Hamilton. I ran the pre-recorded opening sequence that included the Westminster Cable TV animation logo. The engineers at the other end had to switch a regular channel (A7) to accept my studio feed. Thus you’ll see my instructions on the countdown clock to remind them what to do and when. And yes, this might remind you of the 1977 STOIC News series that I also did live, using the ILEA cable TV system that fed all of the London Schools and Colleges.

Soon, I’ll go on to talk about the Olympus Satellite project, the Live-Net uplink ground station at Silwood Park and yes, you guessed it, more live TV from the TV Studio, but this time to Europe! So, yet more educational ‘firsts’ that have, so far, gone unmentioned (until now).

Colin Grimshaw September 2018

Centenary Round-Up 2007

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Eleven years ago it was all over and yet another piece of archive. It’s hard to believe that the Imperial College Centenary was all those years ago, during the whole of 2007. At the end of that year, Sir Richard Sykes then the college Rector (seen on the right when the Queen visited in 2007), gave his summary of how things went.

We shot this video in the Rector’s office in the Faculty Building. Incidentally, Richard was a dab-hand at reading from Autocue and that always made our job so much easier and quicker too. Hannah Gay, who wrote the official college history, also talks about the task of creating the 900 page book.

Colin Grimshaw June 2018

History of the RSM: 1957

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

In 1957 Imperial College was celebrating its 50 year half century. Many events took place that year, none of them were recorded visually and only some recorded onto audio tape or disc. One item that does survive is a presentation given by Dr S.W. Smith on the History of the Royal School of Mines up to that time. When I digitised the tape a few years ago I heard one or two things that stood out.

There is mention of attending a lecture in 1897 and the astonishing thing that he heard suggested. And on 13th March 1901 he was present at the RSM half-century celebrations, the formal dinner for which, was delayed due to the death of Queen Victoria. Fascinating to hear a college alumni talking about what was happening in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Imperial Institute @ 125: 1893

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

This is a quick and extra post to celebrate the 125 years of the Imperial Institute. There are many references within the blog to both the Imperial Institute and the Queen’s Tower, some of which I have linked here. However, today in 1893 is when Queen Victoria attended the official opening ceremony. These actual photos show the scene just prior to her arrival with all the flags and bunting displayed around the building’s entrance.

A special piece of music was written for the day by Sir Arthur Sullivan and was entitled Imperial March which is not to be confused with anything relating to Star Wars for which there is music of the same name. Below is a YouTube link to that piece of music, which was first performed 125 years ago this very day. In the photo over on the left you can see Queen Victoria. If you click the image you can see it full size. Look below the canopy and you will see her, still dressed all in black and sitting on a chair.

Of course, all that remains of the buildings is what we now call the Queen’s Tower. The bells of the now free-standing tower are still rung on special occasions. Even while the building was slowly going into disuse it was made famous in a brief sequence in an Ealing Comedy,  The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), where a shot is clearly seen of the steps from the building’s main entrance. The building was not actually featured as the institute but rather as a ‘museum’.

Colin Grimshaw May 2018

A unique Commemoration Day: 2002

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Recently, whilst rearranging the shelves of archive videos I came across something I’d forgotten about. In 2002, Imperial had honoured Senior Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew (in recognition of his promotion of international trade and industry, and development of science and engineering study initiatives with the UK) by appointing him a Fellow of the College at the Commemoration Day held at the Royal Albert Hall.

Because this was a significant event, college had hired a company that occasionally provided a large video screen and cameras to help people see events in the Royal Albert Hall. We attended the event to get some background video shots and to also see what effect this new idea had on the ceremony. The previous night we had attended the first ever Commemoration Eve Dinner held at the Natural History Museum, where he gave the keynote address (seen left), we recorded and used that in full. College did not need his Commemoration Day speech recorded because we had the one from the previous day.

However, as this was the first time that cameras had been covering a Commemoration Day, I felt that this was unique enough to ask the company to make video recordings (right) of both morning and afternoon sessions. College had already indicated that they had no use for any of the footage, but, by being a ‘first’ I disagreed. So, both morning and afternoon events were recorded and promptly put into our archive collection and there they have sat for all of these 16 years.

Let’s see the first ever fully recorded Commemoration Day sessions from 23 October 2002 which are now available on line for the first time.

Colin Grimshaw May 2018

New Discoveries from the past

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

And yet more STOIC discoveries from 48 years ago. I was at Imperial yesterday and came across something I’d forgotten about and had really meant to do something about years ago. It’s another batch of 8mm films from the STOIC 1970-1972 “TOPIC” and “IC Newsreel” programmes era. A lot of it was shot on colour film stock, even though we only had black and white TV. All manner of things are there too! More of this once I can get them digitised.

And, just for a change, today I’m digitising two Betacam tapes that are now 16 years old. Commemoration Day 2002 was when Lee Kuan Yew was made a Fellow of Imperial College. The tapes I’m digitising are historic, as it was the first time a Commemoration Day had been recorded in its entirety and that was initially because of the special Fellowship being awarded. I have to say that they are all playing without errors – amazing!

More on all of these, soon…

Colin Grimshaw March 2018