Category: Technology

Review of the Year: 1979-1980

One of the extremely useful things about STOIC’s Review of the Year programmes is that they showcased some of the most important things happening in college. In this edition from 40 years ago in June 1980, David Ghani and Paul Johnson give us a glimpse of events as seen through the lens of STOIC’s camera crew. As you will see, a large amount was still in black and white. In fact, this edition of the Review of the Year is the first to be shot in colour and that was simply because it was recorded within the confines of the College TV Studio. And if you look carefully you might spot that even the studio sequences have been shot and edited together in film style, using our single colour camera.

Look out for Rag Week events, STOIC’s 10th Anniversary and one department potentially about to go broke!

Colin Grimshaw 6 June 2020

Interferon Pilot Plant: 1980

In the February 2019 blog, about Imperial Biotechnology Ltd, I included a Thames Television interview with Dr Trevor Langley. Through the current digitisation of the STOIC archives I now have something homegrown about the pilot plant. In May 1980 Tracy Poole (now Dudley) reported on the current work being undertaken and also interviewed Prof Brian Hartley, a former Head of Department in Biochemistry.  He was then overseeing the entire project.

The pilot plant was ultimately closed and dismantled in 1994 and was finally refurbished as the Flowers Building.

Colin Grimshaw February 2020

 

Prof Jim Ring – Hunt report 1982

In 1982 the then Home Secretary announced that an independent inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Hunt was to consider the broadcasting aspects of the possible expansion of cable television in the UK.

It was announced that they had managed to secure the help of Lord Hunt of Tanworth, Sir Maurice Hodgson and Professor James (Jim) Ring to conduct this inquiry. They had a lot to do in a short time, but they had already started work and a copy of the consultative document which they issued on 7 April 1982 had been placed in the Library of the House of Commons. Jim Ring was Professor of Infra-Red astronomy in the Department of Physics and appeared regularly on TV programmes such as the Sky at Night.

I knew Jim Ring well, and had previously recorded an archive interview with him in 1980. On the 21 October 1982 he came into the TV Studio to chat to STOIC’s Lawrence Windley about the committees work and their report.

Colin Grimshaw January 2020

Constructionarium: 2006

In June 2006 The Duke of Edinburgh put on a hard hat and boots to watch students building their own versions of engineering landmarks.

The engineering students from Civil Engineering were taking part in Constructionarium, an annual event in which groups had just five days to tackle a challenging project, such as creating a seven metre high version of the world’s tallest vehicular bridge, the Millau viaduct in Southern France.

The event was designed to give students hands-on experience of engineering in a realistic environment. The projects took place on a two hectare section of a Norfolk site which is used for training specialist construction trade workers such as scaffolders and steeplejacks. The site, in Bircham Newton, was owned by the National Construction College.

Prince Philip visited on the students’ last day and saw the projects in their final stages. He was given a tour of the different projects underway, and watched as students pulled a replica oil rig to the middle of a lake and stabilised it. The TV Studio (by then called Media Services) was on hand to capture the event.

Colin Grimshaw April 2019

Imperial Biotechnology Ltd: 1982

In 1982 all the talk around campus was about the Fermentation Plant in the Bio-Chemistry building. The plant had been transferred to a private company to be called Imperial Biotechnology and employing its own members of technical staff. The plant was set up initially to satisfy the needs of Sir Ernst Chain in the 1960’s. There is excellent footage of the building and the plant in my previous blog where the Queen Mother opened the building.

This news item from the Thames Television News archive is a report from April 1982, it shows the Fermentation Plant and includes an interview with Dr Trevor Langley who was instrumental in the formation of the company.

 

Colin Grimshaw February 2019

Olympus Satellite Uplink Silwood Park: 1990

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

Live-Net & Westminster Cable TV: 1987

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

History of the RSM: 1957

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.

Ion Implantation-The Invisible Shield: 1994

There were three organisations collaborating in this European SPRINT project, Imperial College in the UK, AIN in Spain, and
DTI in Denmark. SPRINT was the European commission’s Strategic PRogramme for INnovation and Technology.

This July 1994 video was an introduction to surface treatment of metal tools by the use of Ion Implantation. This technique modifies the tool
surface, improving the wear, corrosion resistance, and frictional properties. The project disseminated knowledge and
applications of Ion Implantation as an effective surface treatment and was targeted mainly at European Small-to-Medium
Enterprises, to improve their productivity and competitiveness in the world market.

It was made in three language versions which were produced for the three SPRINT partners by the Imperial College TV Studio and a fourth version in French, made for I.B.S.  As well as the UK, we went to Denmark and Spain to record the relevant sections of the video. The photo above was taken at DTI in Denmark, you can see me operating camera along with my Imperial academic colleague Tom Tate sitting on the chair on the far right hand side. The video’s voice-over was by Michael Rodd.

Colin Grimshaw April 2017

Larry Hench: June 1996

gLarry Hench, Emeritus Professor of Ceramic Materials died on 16 December 2015.

He joined Imperial in 1995 from the University of Florida, having made the seminal discovery in 1969 of Bioglass − the first reported synthetic material to form a bond with living tissues.
As Chair in Ceramic Materials at Imperial, he set out to uncover the basic cell biology mechanisms that gives Bioglass its remarkable properties. He set up the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Centre with the late Professor Dame Julia Polak. There they made the fascinating discovery that the unique bone henchp2fgrowing properties of the glass were due to the dissolution products of the glass stimulating bone cells at the genetic level. Members of their team went on to make the glass into 3D scaffolds for use in bone regeneration.

The only video footage in our archive is what we shot for inclusion in his inaugural lecture in June 1996. And, unlike other inaugurals that we have recorded clips for, this one actually has him in it.

Colin Grimshaw June 2016