Tag: Electrical Engineering

Star Wars comes to Imperial: 1977

Mark Hamill 3 38 years ago on 15 December 1977 Mark Hamill visited Imperial College to promote the forthcoming release of a new film. That film was Star Wars. We were lucky to get him to visit the TV Studio (then in Electrical Engineering Building) as part of the publicity rounds to promote the film. I suspect we’d never get a look-in these days, but back then no one had heard of the film and they needed every drop of publicity. Coming to the studio for the STOIC interview was closely timed because we’d been informed that he was next going to the BBC TV Centre for a live appearance on Blue Peter (the Children’s TV Show). The photo on the left was taken in the studio at the time of the recording. He was talking to James Sinclair who also happened to be the STOIC chairman at the time.

The day before the Mark Hamill recording we had also managed to get Gary Kurtz who was the producer for the first film and whose name seems to have almost disappeared when the film is mentioned these days.Gary Kurtz 1 Sadly this interview is one of those programmes now frozen in time on the old Ampex A format one inch videotape which sadly we cannot now play without a machine and those are now rare. We were still a few years away from moving into colour so the Mark Hamill interview is in black and white. For copyright the film clips are removed.

Because of the “Imperial Storm Troopers” and the fact that Mark Hamill was coming to Imperial College we bought him a T-Shirt. He proudly and immediately put on the Imperial College T-shirt and said he would wear it on Blue Peter, which he did a few hours later. He signed my autograph book “Galactically Yours, Mark Hamill”. Here then is the Imperial College connection to Star Wars from December 1977.

 

We made use of  the initial studio recording right away, but it was not ‘edited’ to neatly included the films clips until a later date. When you hear the reference by James to ‘earlier this year’ he’s referring to the academic year, which starts in October.

Colin Grimshaw December 2015

50 Glorious Imperial Years! 1965-2015

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

IC Newsreel Number 2: 1970

The second and final IC Newsreel was recorded on 2 March 1970. It was shown, like the first programme, at lunchtime the following day in the Junior Common Room in College Block (Sherfield). This final programme was a bit different and had a scoop too. Prior to the main recording, the Yugoslavian Prime Minister was visiting Imperial College and we were able to get the departure of him, his Police escort and his entourage.  Andy Finney and Vivienne Taylor stood outside the mechanical engineering building to cover the event, even though this was not originally their intention for being there. Andy was on a very long-range radio microphone and we used the longest lens possible on the camera, which (along with a second camera) was located on the third floor of the electrical engineering building. Because we had no way of inserting the item into the actual forthcoming news programme, Andy had to pre-record the item as it was happening, and we ran the item before the main program started. Not the conventional way to make a news program, but at least it was new and it was unique for that time. The news item by Andy is then followed by what was called a ‘crash’ edit (stop recording then restart again) so there are a few wobbles on the screen before the main programme starts.

Included in the programme were interviews with the three main candidates for the election of IC Union President. The first ever recording of this type.  Judith Walker won the election and became the first female in the role. She talks to Vivienne Taylor, also seen in IC Newsreel Number 1.
Just as we had ended the main recording and faded to black, the current Union President Piers Corbyn asked to be able to say a few words. So, following yet another crash edit, we faded back up and sort-of started again. The reason for these types of stops and start edits was because we only had one Ampex Videorecorder and that could not actually edit anyway.

Sadly no photos were taken at the time of these two news programme recordings, only the videotape survives, which is rare. The upper photo is of the TV studio in the late 1960’s and the lower, is just before the Philips Videorecorder, seen in the photo, was replaced by the Ampex, which was used to record the two IC Newsreels. The opening coverage of the Yugoslavian Prime Minister’s visit also gives the original view across Dolby Court, all the way from Electrical Engineering to Mechanical Engineering, a view now lost forever with the creation of the Faculty Building.

Colin Grimshaw March 2015

Academic interviews: Robert Spence 2015

Just made available on Imperial’s YouTube channel is a new archive interview between Professor Lord Robert Winston and Emeritus Professor Robert Spence. This is the second in a series of Academic interviews with current and past members of Imperial College London. I’ll say no more about the video as it’s mostly self explanatory. To see all of Bob’s videos featured in this discussion simply click on his name in the text above.

Colin Grimshaw January 2015

Engineering the Hovertrain 1972

Proving extremely popular are the videos and films made with Professor Eric Laithwaite. Laithwaite Eng HovertrainIn this blog I’m pleased to be able to bring you one of several films that were in the personal collection of Eric Laithwaite and that I was lucky enough to be able to secure in the Imperial Archive after he’d died.

Engineering the Hovertrain was made in 1972 by the then, Central Office of Information. It’s about the only real example of the creation and operation of the experimental hovertrain vehicle the RTV31, seen running on the test track that was built in the UK.

Colin Grimshaw January 2015

Colin Vickery with Bob Spence: 1997

In 1997 Professor Bob Spence interviewed Dr Colin Vickery, a colleague of his from the Department of Electrical Engineering. The intention was to show the video during an Alumni event that Colin was unable to attend. I hope that maybe some of those same Alumni will watch that video once more.
Colin Vickery has very kindly sent me some words to put the video into context, so most of this is his hard work and not mine! And Bob Spence has provided me with the excellent photos that were taken at Bob’s 80th Birthday celebration in 2013, that I also attended.

Colin Vickery in July 2013
Colin Vickery in July 2013

Colin was, at the time of the interview, running a postgraduate section on microprocessor applications.  Bob Spence and Colin Vickery had shared a flat during the time that they were doing PhDs under Roy Boothroyd who was Prof Colin Cherry’s Reader. Colin Vickery had come back from industry where he’d spent a couple of years with the Plessey company working in a small research unit in Romsey and was appointed as a lecturer for a period, working for Cherry/Boothroyd and was then invited to join Prof Bruce Sayers in his Engineering in Medicine section where he stayed for many more years. Prior to this, he’d travelled to Houston, USA, where he joined a summer school which was run for a mixture of Medical and Engineering people. There he learned basic physiology, while the medical people learned basic electrical engineering.

Colin with Sinclair Goodlad
Colin with Sinclair Goodlad

Eventually, Bruce Sayers became Head of Electrical Engineering and Colin was given a postgraduate section devoted to microprocessor applications, working alongside colleagues Dick Wilde and Bill Cutler who were both on his staff. After a year or two they were appointed as consultants on the government Mapcon scheme (Microprocessor application consultants) and did a variety of feasibility and implementation studies including small hydroelectric projects, such as Wookey Hole and Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. He joined with Prof Anderson in a project, for a firm in Horsham, de-boning bacon backs using robotics. It was exhibited in the exhibition at the college in 1985 (City and Guilds Tech2000) which Margaret Thatcher opened and then toured; telling them all that, ‘..she knew all about bacon’ (her Father was a grocer)!

In June 1998, a year after this interview, he suffered a stroke, but continued to work for the college part time until 2010 when he was 75 years old. This interview is a reminder of those times now long past and some of the people that made up the college in the 1950’s and onwards.

Colin Grimshaw September 2014

Professor Patrick Purcell: 1995

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.

Video Interface 1995
A Video Interface recording 1995

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

Dennis Gabor Retrospective 2000

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

Eric Laithwaite RI Christmas Lectures 1974

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)

Bob Spence, still going strong at 80

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