So far in writing these blog updates I have always had a wealth of information available to allow me to give some background to the making of the video. Usually I say something about the division or department for which the video was made. Twenty years ago in 1993 I was asked by the Imperial College Japan Office (based at South Kensington) to make a video to showcase the research work being undertaken in various departments at that time. An initial quick search by my colleague Anne Barrett from the college archives had revealed nothing! But, at the last minute Anne has saved the day with some background information she has managed to unearth. The Japan Office was established within Industrial Liaison in 1991 and was seen by Imperial College as “..a long-term commitment to fostering and strengthening its academic and contractual links with Japan”. Its main focus was to negotiate research contacts with Japan, but a fleeting reference in Hannah Gays history of Imperial says “…plans to open a Japan Office did not result in any serious Japanese investment in the college.” So, I can only assume that this is why it closed or more likely merged into another division. So, all I can do is to point out some of the interesting items featured and the research being undertaken when the video was made.
At the time, there was a great deal of activity relating to interdisciplinary research centres or IRC’s. The commentary points out that there were three government funded IRC’s at Imperial College, “..more than any other establishment in the country”. Great emphasis was made on the connections with: Hitachi; Nippon Steel; Fujitsu and Honda. Also, the locating of the Honda European Technology Centre on the college campus was pointed out. We then broke the video into various sections that you will see when you watch it. But these do include: Aerodynamics; Composite Materials; Semiconductor Design; Technology for Medicine and the worlds first Ecotron, opened at Silwood Park in 1991, only two years before I made the video. One other interesting item featured in the video is the ALICE computer -parallel graph reduction machine- produced in conjunction with ICL. The video starts with a brief history of the formation of Imperial College from its beginnings after the Great Exhibition held in Hyde Park in 1851.
Over the years, many film and TV companies have come to Imperial College. I recall regular visits to the South Kensington campus by BBC TV’s “Tomorrows World” and in some cases I watched them at work. But these visits have all disappeared with no record retained by the college. This is a great shame because these are part of the history of Imperial, its staff and more importantly its research.
But there is just one item that was retained in the archives. Although it doesn’t have any form of introduction titles, it was made, (I think) by the Central Office of Information in about 1969. I certainly remember the filming of the opening and closing sequence. If I am correct then this is one of several identical films shot in a series called “This week in Britain”. Identical because they were all made in several languages at the same time. And judging from the accent, this one was for Australia (ABC perhaps?). I certainly remember one of these visits to the lab of Eric Laithwaite where several women in different colourful outfits each did the same introduction, one after the other, but in their own language.
The film that we do have shows some interesting research being carried out around the college at that time. You’ll see the original Civil Engineering Hydraulics Lab; a brief example of Eric Laithwaite’s linear motor research; Alan Swanson demonstrating his artificial knee joint replacement; the wind tunnel in Aeronautics and finally Chemical Engineering’s Plutonium work. Were you in the Mechanical Engineering workshop when they filmed in there, if so you might spot yourself? The introduction and closing was shot on level 3 of Civil Engineering. And if you remember the college from the 1960’s you will also spot the distinct style of the signs on the old walkway.
Finally, I love the phrase used at the end where Imperial College is called “Science City”, a term I have never heard! Maybe we should start to use it?
In a previous entry you would have seen the video I made to celebrate the City and Guilds College Centenary in February 1985. As part of the week of events an exhibition was run entitled “Technology 2000”. It was opened by Margaret Thatcher -who was then Prime Minister- on 27 February 1985.
Professor Bruce Sayers was then Dean of City and Guilds and made the introduction. This version of the speech is the full version. The one already seen in the C&G centenary video is edited down to fit into a specific duration. Here then is the full, unedited version, from the original 1985 master tape.
In the first part of this look at Live-Net I showed the lead-up to the opening of the system with a visit by Princess Anne to the Science for Industry exhibition the previous year. But now, we’ll see what followed on from that. Once the demonstrations were over and the Science for Industry Exhibition closed, it was time to start using the system for real. Many tests and trials took place and slowly teaching started to make use of the system. You’ll see some of that teaching in the video at the end of this particular blog entry. Even though Princess Anne had already seen Live-Net in action it was always planned that she would officially declare it open at some point. This took place from Senate House in central London and linked out to all those sites currently connected. The photo shows the Royal Party along with Richard Beckwith looking at the monitors that showed the Live-Net sites (Imperial is in the centre). On the 28 May 1987 the system was buzzing with images going backwards and forwards to Senate House. BT were standing by as part of the demonstration and to ensure 100% connectivity! The person given the overall responsibility for the connection and use of Live-Net at Imperial College was Professor Ernie Freeman then in Electrical Engineering.
Ernie handed over all of the technical tasks to me and that involved the planning of any ‘studio’, purchase of equipment and so on. Initially we simply used the TV Studio as this had cameras, sound and monitors. Later we produced a separate studio solely for Live-Net. As I had been involved from the very start, I was asked to participate in the opening ceremony and can be seen on the right hand side (all dressed up for the occasion) with a camera control box hidden behind some flowers! The background board was a left-over from the Science for Industry exhibition the previous year. There was one final royal visit to see Live-Net, but this time it was not Princess Anne.
The IEEE were meeting at Imperial College along with their President the Duke of Kent. Ernie Freeman was asked to show off Live-Net as it was an interesting and new use of fibre optics for university teaching. Once more we used the TV Studio for the event and Ernie Freeman is seen with the Duke of Kent in this off screen photo of the actual transmission. Of course there was interest not only in how it would be used for teaching and the styles being adopted for this in teaching habits, but also in the technology. This was left to me to explain (the best I could) and to show the BT equipment being used.
There was also great interest in the central switching system and computer control. This was achieved with a terminal connected directly to the BT equipment rack and then via the fibre optic cable to Senate House. That’s me talking to the Duke and explaining our equipment rack and how the images were switched around the network.
In 1990 I made a promotional video for Live-Net. We shot at most of the connections to show how staff and students used the system. We also interviewed people to see what they thought of the technology and its usefulness. In the same year, BT attempted a sales campaign for the system, quoting its ‘ease of use and flexibility’. I’ve scanned in the only remaining brochure that featured the system and if you click on the picture it will go full screen to enable it to be read. The suggested ‘control’ box was a faked prototype and never existed for real. The room full of participants was in Senate House (shown in the picture top left of the page). Live-Net eventually fell foul of the technology which was moving forward very rapidly. The system was analogue and BT was already changing into digital for most applications. The cost to convert Live-Net was considered too high for most of the participants of the system and Imperial College was one of the first to drop out. A slow decline followed and the Internet simply took its place.
In 1985 a proposal to install an experimental cable TV network between some of the schools of the University of London came to fruition. British Telecom had pioneered the use of fibre optics with the installation of Westminster Cable Television in London. The fibre cables linked to central street boxes that then fed into homes on coaxial cables (Switched Star Cable TV system). This enables users to select what they wanted and the resulting signal was then sent back to the street cabinet and then to the home.
Moving this technology one step further on, BT proposed a system where the fibre came direct to a cabinet located at some of the Universities in London (UCL, Imperial, Kings, QMW, RHBNC and the ULAVC at Senate House). The resulting system was called Live-Net and consisted of a bundle of fibres providing 4 in and 4 out channels at near broadcast quality. It had been decided to locate the central switch for the whole system at the University of London’s Audio Visual Centre located at Senate House. This would also act as an additional transmission point for establishments around that area, for example Birkbeck College.
The installation required the actual pulling of a cable containing these fibres through ducting in London streets to the various locations. I recall the day that the cable was brought into Imperial and then through building ‘risers’ up to the TV Studio which was then located in Electrical Engineering on Level 2. A rack then contained all of the electronics which linked to these cables. The initial major job for BT was the termination of these cables to provide a connection to the optical hub. We were aware that the central switch was already in operation and the link to the Audio Visual Centre established. Imperial was to be the first connection after this to coincide with the upcoming University of London “Science for Industry” Exhibition to be opened by Princess Anne, Chancellor of the University of London on 13th October 1986. If the Imperial link could not be established then the showing of Live-Net at that Exhibition would not take place. The short video extract below is all that remains of the first moving images sent through the fibre network a few months before the exhibition. Moments after the BT engineer terminated the fibre cable, images came through from Central London. Ray Bradley was then Chief Engineer at the Audio Visual Centre located at Senate House. In the video (seen here for the first time), he takes a phone call from me to confirm establishment of the connection by BT. We had no sound at first so we reverted to using the phone!
The installation was indeed completed and the first public showing of the system took place during the University of London’s Science for Industry exhibition held at Imperial College between 13th-17th October. During that week the TV Studio relayed images from the Live-Net system into the Junior Common Room where screens were setup to display the channels available. Princess Anne saw Live-Net for the first time on 13 October 1986. The video below has never been seen before and I have edited it into a sequence for this blog. I also shot footage of the exhibition and I’ll include that in another entry soon.
Participants were welcomed into the TV Studio to link and talk to remote locations within the University of London. The photo shows two things, firstly on the left the incoming image from the ULAVC at Senate House, (the Studio image is over on the right) and secondly I am sitting at a terminal connected to the central switch. I was able to switch the signals going to the exhibition and also ‘to and from’ Imperial in general – all of this using a BBC Micro Computer too!
There was another event to launch Live-Net that I’ve just remembered. This time BT gathered all of those connected with the project together and did it in style. We all met at the top of the BT Tower in London in, what was, the revolving restaurant. And I have this feeing at the back of my mind that this was the signing of the documents between the University of London and BT. If that was the case, then all of that preceded the installation of the actual equipment and cabling, but I simply can’t remember now! I don’t recall any photos being taken either, which is a shame.
In the second and final part we’ll look at the royal opening and a special visit by another member of the royal family!
The Centenary of the foundation of the College was celebrated on 9 July 2007 with a ceremony in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. The Queen and Duke also opened the College’s new Institute of Biomedical Engineering before taking part in an honorary graduation ceremony that saw the first ever Imperial degrees awarded to five distinguished figures, including His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.
The ceremony followed the bestowal of a Royal Charter by Her Majesty The Queen that declares the College an independent university in its own right after its withdrawal from the University of London.
The visit cemented a long-standing relationship between the UK’s Royal Family and Imperial. The College stands on land purchased with the profits of Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition of 1851 in fulfilment of his vision for a centre of science and culture in South Kensington.
The event was recorded for posterity and at the same time relayed live via web links to all parts of Imperial College, whether on the South Kensington Campus or not. Three cameras covered the ceremony from different angles and I mixed the event live at the time. What you see here is the full unedited live coverage version and please note that unlike BBC broadcasts of such events, there is no added commentary. The ceremony took place in the College’s main entrance hall with special staging having been built for the occasion. Rector at the time was Sir Richard Sykes. The recording runs for just over 30 minutes.
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.
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 🙂
In the summer of 1984 I was asked by Peter Burridge the Telecoms Manager, to make a special video to alert all members of Imperial College to the fact that we were about to put into service a new electronic telephone exchange. Until this time we had two systems running side by side: an internal automatic exchange and an external (BT) manually operated switchboard.
The original internal exchange, installed sometime around 1959, was located in the basement of the Royal School of Mines, whilst the external switchboard was installed in the Sherfield Building around 1969. This was probably to coincide with the opening of the building that year. For those only familiar with how things operate these days, the old system now seems very ancient. It required two telephones on a desk, internal and external. You called via the internal exchange with very old dial phones (in some cases), whilst to make an external call you picked up the receiver of the other phone and waited for the operator to answer.
You then had to request an ‘outside line’ and from there you could dial your call. All incoming calls to Imperial were answered by the operator and then put through to the extension in question. There were no connections between the two systems! So if a location only had an internal phone there was no way to contact them from outside of the college. The internal exchange catered for some 2,500 extensions whilst the external catered for 1,500 extensions.
The new system was deemed so “new” that training sessions were put into place at various locations around college. These were designed for either staff or students and some even took place in the Great Hall. It may seem odd, but at that time most secretaries, for example, were using normal electric golf-ball typewriters and few people had contact with computers unless they were academic. So, having to press button combination’s to achieve things like two way calling or call transfer had some people a bit stumped, thus the training sessions were arranged. As this concerned all of college there was great publicity and this can be seen from this mid-summer edition of the student newspaper Felix from 17 August 1984 (pages 4 & 5).
The colour stills of both the 1950’s exchange and switchboard are taken from the videotape I shot. So far, I’ve not located any other images of, what was, a major part of the daily unseen operation of Imperial College. I suspect that these sequences in the video may have been the first time that some people had seen any of these background services operating. I was also one of the first to experience the new system.
A few weeks before operation began I was asked if I’d wait by my current internal phone at around 6pm one evening whilst it was manually switched from the old to the new system. I then received a call via the new exchange to test all functionality and quality of sound. The rest is now part of college history as we all take the new systems as part of normal daily college life. But is was just a little bit different when you picked up the external phone and knew the person on the switchboard and had a short conversation before saying…”can I have an outside line please?”.
As we celebrate yet another Commemoration Day at the Royal Albert Hall I thought the time was right to bring you the few recordings we have from earlier years. At the end, I’ll mention technical challenges involved with the transfer of the first two recordings onto modern formats.
Although you’ll find this first recording elsewhere I’ll include it again for completeness.
The October Commemoration Day graduation ceremonies recall the visit made to the College by King George 6th and Queen Elizabeth in 1945, on the centenary of the foundation of the Royal College of Chemistry, Imperial College’s oldest forerunner. King George said: “You students here assembled – men and women who soon will be going out from the Imperial College to your work in the world – have not only an opportunity but also a responsibility greater than men of science have known before. To you, I say: Regard your knowledge and your skill always in the light of a trust for the benefit of humanity, and thereby ensure, so far as in you lies, that science may never be put to uses which offend the higher conscience of mankind.”
For those unfamiliar with King George 6th, he battled throughout his life with a nervous stammer and his attempts to overcome this during the speech are obvious with long pauses between sentences.
From 1945 we jump to 1952 and a recording that, so far, I have no idea exactly why it was made. It features Karl Compton who was a prominent American physicist and president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1930 to 1948. In 1948 he resigned his post as President of MIT and was elected president of the MIT Corporation. He held that position until his death on June 22, 1954, some two years after this sound recording was made. Compton was awarded a fellowship in 1949 but was unable to attend, but in 1952 he was special visitor and collected it then. Interesting references are made to key players in college life at that time: Chairman, Viscount Falmouth; Rector, Sir Roderic Hill along with Sir Henry Tizard, Sir Richard Southwell and Sir George Thomson. There is only part of the introduction by Viscount Falmouth to Karl Compton on the original tape, so it will sound a bit truncated. At the end, Compton reads greetings to the Imperial community from the President and also the Chairman of MIT and the American national anthem is played. Could this be why it was recorded?
Finally, we have something visual in the form of a 16mm colour film shot in 1973. Robert W Sarnoff was President of RCA (Radio Corporation of America). He was the eldest son of broadcasting mogul Brig. Gen. David Sarnoff, he followed in his father’s professional footsteps throughout his career at NBC and RCA. The citation for Sarnoff indicates that he was the benefactor of the Imperial College Haldane Music Library. A year later in 1974 Sarnoff married Metropolitan Opera diva Anna Moffo, so maybe opera was his interest as well as being the music library benefactor? As I understand it, Sarnoff himself paid for large parts of the 1973 Commemoration Day ceremony to be filmed in colour and with sound. Lord Flowers was Rector at the time and is seen in this current extract. This is the earliest moving picture record the college has of one of its ceremonies and it’s thanks to Robert Sarnoff that this happened. One of the greatest achievements by RCA and Sarnoff in particular was the development and introduction of colour TV in the USA. He was the first person to be officially televised in colour at the dedication ceremony of NBC’s new Washington, D.C. facilities on May 22, 1958. For those interested, you can see an amazing videotape that has been rediscovered of this 1958 event. The program represents the earliest known colour recording discovered to date.
The first two sound recordings could have been lost for ever had we not transferred them onto modern formats. The 1945 recording of King George 6th is held on 78rpm shellac discs which are very delicate and will break if dropped. I had these transferred by the National Sound Archive a few years ago. Although, in theory it’s easy to copy these discs, using the correct pick-up weight and stylus is essential. Using a modern LP stylus will simply “bottom’ into the disc’s groove and produce more scratch and crackle then actual sound and can damage it too.
The second recording IS interesting. I discovered that the recording tape used paper as the backing, rather than a form of plastic and its manufacture probably dates from the 1940’s. The oxide was also very basic and looked more like gunpowder than anything you could record sound on! Transferring the tape was also a challenge as I had to run the tape very slowly because it was sticking to itself like a reel of sticky parcel tape. A lot of background noise will he heard and I’m still amazed I managed to get anything off of it anyway.
I hope you have enjoyed listening to our recordings of Commemoration Days from the past….unless YOU have something we don’t know about?
On the 19th October 1988 the beginning of the mergers with the medical schools started. This was the merger between Imperial College of Science and Technology and St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, located just north of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park at Paddington. The end result of the mergers was the formation of the Faculty of Medicine.
To my knowledge this is only the second time that the college’s Great Hall has played host to a royal event. The first of these was the opening of the building (then called College Block and subsequently Sherfield Building) and the hall itself by HM the Queen in 1969. The hall was packed as you would imagine and that didn’t leave all that much room for the two cameras and tripods we had proposed for the live recording. We were also limited in terms of man-power so my colleague Chris Roberts operated the main camera whilst I located the second camera next to where I had the vision mixer and recorders. This meant that I could not only cut between the cameras, but also operate the second camera to change the shots slightly. What I could not cope with was the fact than when people stood up, they almost blocked the shots from the camera next to me.
The ceremony starts with the fanfare “St Mary’s”. There are then several musical interludes during which you’ll see a very young Richard Dickins and these 22 years later I must apologise to Richard because we got the spelling of his name wrong on our end credits. But, it’s a wonderful record of music from the college symphony orchestra playing Walton’s ‘Crown Imperial’. Also the late Eric Brown conducts the college choir with music from Carmina Burana. And finally in terms of music you’ll hear the electronic organ that’s located within the hall. Princess Anne, (The Princess Royal) as Chancellor of the University of London presented the Chairman of the Governing Body (Sir Henry Fisher) with a specially bound copy of the Imperial College Act and its revised Charter. The Imperial College Rector at the time was Professor (later Sir) Eric Ash.
As always, I’ve had to tweak the image on the video to make it look at bit better. Technology has advanced a lot since this was recorded and the lighting levels required to get good images is a lot lower these days. The Great Hall have never been fantastic for shooting video unless extra light is thrown at the stage area and that then leaves the audience rather dark, whilst the wood panels around the hall make a very warm image when light bounces off it. The whole video is around 45 minutes in duration.