Category: People

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

Margaret Thatcher at Imperial College: 1985

Margaret Thatcher Opening Tech2000

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.

Here is the link to the City and Guilds Celebration video on YouTube. Included in that video is the tour Mrs Thatcher took of the exhibition Technology 2000 and shows some of the people she met.

Colin Grimshaw April 2013

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e-MasterClass 2001

On the 19th June 2001 Sir Richard Sykes, then Rector of Imperial College, launched the first e-MasterClass with a broadcast to distinguished guests from government and other institutions in Britain, Australia and Thailand. The launch was preceded with the statement “Topical debate between masters at the cutting edge of scientific research and peer group scientists and industrialists around the world will be launched next month in what is believed to be the first e-MasterClass of its kind”. This first 40-minute presentation about healthcare policy was chaired by Chris Toumazou and was held in the video conferencing suite, which at the time was located next to the TV Studio on the level 2 walkway.

Video Conferencing using ISDN
Professor Ara Darzi’s live presentation

The technology used to link the various locations was Video Conferencing using ISDN2. The equipment allowed the ‘multipointing’ of the three sites into a split screen which meant that participants could all see and hear other with very little time delay. Images were viewed on 50 inch Plasma screens, something back then that was both new and expensive.

 

Press release information following the second e-MasterClass announced “Professor Ara Darzi impressed participants at the University of New South Wales, Australia, with a presentation entitled Look no hands — an exploration in cybersurgery which encapsulated his team’s dynamic new approach to micro-surgery and robotics and set out his vision for the future of surgery”.

Professor David Phillips presentation

 

 

Live Internet streaming came later

The e-MasterClass, as originally intended, carried on for just over a year when they turned in Schools e-MasterClass. These potentially had a wider audience and continued Imperial’s links with schools in general. On the 10 July 2002 David Phillips from Imperial and colleague Steven Bown from UCL gave “A little light relief”. Again a pre-event announcement said “A Little Light Relief”, will provide an interactive overview of the subject that will give Year 9, 10 and 11 students the opportunity to engage with scientific developments” In the recording of the event (below) you will notice that the chairman is Noel Edmonds. He owned the Video Meeting Company which supplied Imperial with the Video Conferencing equipment. As publicity, he was persuaded to take part.

These initial events were successful. But the schools were all connecting using ISDN2 which few other schools had available. It was obvious we needed to revert to using the Internet which all schools did have available. However, what no one had told us at the time was that almost none of the schools could Video Conference connect to IP addresses outside of their own grid (for security reasons). So, we started to stream events in parallel on the Web. Again, schools could not connect as they were limited to a strict list of URL’s. None of the schools were prepared to change this list and slowly over just a few years the whole e-MasterClass just stopped!

In 2001 we made a promotional video to show the potential of the original  e-MasterClass. The video is largely based on Richard Sykes presentation in June of that year. It includes shots showing what the remote end of the links were seeing. These days the technology allows people to link from their computers and this gives the possibility to link at night, but to do so from your home not from a University room. There is the obvious fact that very long distance ‘live’ teaching, such as the original e-MasterClass idea, is totally governed by TIME. A time difference between London and Sydney of 11 hours makes it very difficult to bring together people who (at 10pm at night in Sydney) would rather be at home, than watching academics talking in London. Time-Difference was one of the reasons for the downfall of the original e-MasterClass. But, what we did worked and maybe just proved a point that Imperial can do such things. I had fun with these events and the tension of things going wrong was always there. The e-MasterClass was, perhaps, a little too early in terms of the technology available at its start in 2001 and could be superseded by things like Skype available on your computer at work or home.

Note that the web/email links on the video will no longer work!

Still photographs by Neville Miles.

Colin Grimshaw February 2013

Videos for Schools

Back in early 1982 a tenuous link with the History of Science and Technology division brought forth an idea to make a series of videos designed for schools. Colleague Dr  Kathy (Kathleen) Burk had links with a publishing company based in Wiltshire. They produced mainly audiotapes on history and some on music. They had started to venture into videos but with limited success from both the technical and production viewpoint (they had no production facilities of their own).

Simon Schaffer “Science and the English Enlightenment” being shot in Bath

It was therefore suggested that because of the Imperial College connection with the company there might be some merits in linking together our combined skills: History; Publications & Marketing and Video Production. So a compromise was reached over the production of 8 videos between 1982 to 1990.

In this entry I’ll be showing you two videos made between 1982 and 1984. Simon Schaffer has become a well known presenter on broadcast television with series such as the 2004 “Light Fantastic” shown on BBC TV. But back in 1982 he had only recently joined Imperial College in the History of Science and Technology division. Kathy Burk asked him to consider making one of the videos for schools and so we produced the 1982 video called Science and the English Enlightenment.

It was shot in various locations, including Greenwich Park, the Science Museum and Bath at the Royal Crescent, the Assembly Rooms and at the home (and now museum) of William Herschel. This all sounds amazing but our budget was a maximum of £1000 and this had to pay for transport, accommodation and fees to places like the royal parks commission for permission to shoot at Greenwich.

Simon Schaffer “Science and the English Enlightenment” being shot in Bath

So, we didn’t have a great deal of change at the end of the production. We did however get a small amount of money from a share in profits from the sales of the videos to schools and colleges both in the UK and overseas. All this was early days for us in video production terms. We had limited resources and shooting outside and running on battery power was still new to us. Editing too was limited enabling only cuts or ‘split’ edits between pre-recorded segments. Voice-overs were also not that simple when faced with only two audio tracks on the master tape. But we managed and the tapes have survived these 30 years to be watched yet again.

One final video was made and completed with Simon Schaffer in 1984. It was on his main subject area of Sir Isaac Newton. Again, the video was shot on location at key places in the life of Newton: Woolsthorpe Manor where he was born in 1642 and Trinity College Cambridge where Simon now works. Once again the budget was the same, so production values were not as great as would have been desired. Here then is Isaac Newton: His life and work, shot during August and November 1983.

A lighter moment during a very early morning recording in Bath
A clapperboard moment during a very early morning recording in Bath

 

Since completing this entry I have discovered that I still have all of the original rushes (original footage shot on the day) of the sequences at Woolsthorpe Manor. Simon shot the opening sequence about 6 times, not all his fault I must say as we had more than a few technical problems with sound. No radiomics were available, so he was connected via a very long cable to the videorecorder! Look carefully at the section recorded in Newton’s study to see what I mean about microphone cables. Maybe one day  I’ll show a few out-takes from that last sequence in a special blog entry…

You can find the other videos in the schools series within the Youtube Archive Playlist.

Colin Grimshaw January 2013

 

Centenary Ceremony: 9 July 2007

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.

Colin Grimshaw December 2012

Brian May – December 2010

In December 2010 former student Brian May revisited Imperial College London as part of a BBC documentary programme retracing the early life of members of the group Queen. The documentary was called ‘Queen – Days of Our Lives‘ and was aired on BBC2 in May 2011.

There does not appear to be much in the college about his time as a student, but I did find an interesting early reference to his involvement with Queen in the Felix archive. See the top of page 6 for a review of their album “Queen II” and note the reference: “…it is very unlikely that they’ll ever need to have connections with their previous vocations again.”
In the same article it referred to Queen’s Imperial concert in the previous term and I have found the advert for that event. I think 30p was reasonable admission to see what would become a World famous group!!! If you click on the photo it will enlarge full screen.

But, in 2007 he became Dr Brian May after completing his PhD which had been left on hold since leaving Imperial to join Queen full time. Very appropriately in May 2008 he walked across the stage of the Royal Albert Hall as part of the college’s Postgraduate Awards Ceremony. A bow to the audience earned him a huge cheer.

During a short break in the BBC schedule he spoke about his time as a student at Imperial College in the early 1970’s. He’s seen here in Beit Quad, outside the Student Union Building on Prince Consort Road, two years ago today on 9 December 2010. And it was cold there at the time, but great to have met him.

Colin Grimshaw December 2012

IC for sale – 1969

Only recently I remembered that I had a copy of an old 45rpm disc. It was called IC for sale Vol 2. It was given to me by Richard Woodhead (one of our students) around about 1972 so that’s over 40 years ago now. What I had forgotten was that it contained some unique sounds of Imperial College. It has great recordings of the three college unions C&G, RSM and RCS chants plus the Imperial chant Hey Vivo which I can’t recall the last time I heard it. The 45rpm disc -or any tape recording of it- do not exist in the main Imperial College Archive, so I’ll be putting a CD of it in there soon. I have found a review and reference to the original first pressing of the disc in the searchable newspaper PDF archive of FELIX May 1965. See page two at the top called ‘Gateway to Industry’.

Also, if you know Imperial from far enough back you will remember the City and Guilds building clock and bells (photo on the left). Or if not, you will know that the clock mechanism relocated to the Mechanical Engineering Building foyer (photo at bottom) some time after the original buildings were starting to be pulled down in the late 1950’s.

The bells were moved (photo on the right) way up on top of the building overlooking, what was, the green Dalby Court area. This is now where the Faculty Building is located. The bells would ring the quarters, half and so on and could be heard throughout most of the college area. I gather that regular mechanical & electrical  problems caused the demise of the chimes! But, these can once again be heard on the disc. (more…)

The Archbishop of Canterbury 1969

In February 1969 the then Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey made a visit to Imperial College. From the 3rd to 6th of February he had several engagements at Imperial. But the most important to us was a special televised event at 12noon on Tuesday 3rd when Sinclair Goodlad hosted “Face to Face” in the fledgling TV Studio, then located on level 3 of Electrical Engineering. The programme was relayed live to many locations as well as recorded onto videotape. As you will already suspect, that videotape was lost a long time ago.

What we have left is one black and white photograph taken at the time. But, I did happen to have my 8mm cine camera loaded with film and had it with me on the day. The fragment of 24 seconds of colour film is therefore all that remains of this important day. I did manage to find a reference to his visit in the archive collection of Felix, the Imperial College student union newspaper. The file will download as a PDF and look at the top of page 3 for the article.

Colin Grimshaw November 2012

New to the Blog?

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 🙂

Don’t forget OLDER ENTRIES via this button at the bottom of the main pages

Colin Grimshaw November 2012

Professor Eric Laithwaite & the RTV31 Linear Motor Hover Train project in 1973

In recent months, whilst the blog has been on hold, I gather there has been great interest in the late Professor Eric Laithwaite’s research work. To see all the videos available that feature him, you may wish to go to the Imperial College YouTube Archive Playlist.

Professor Eric Laithwaite

Some while ago I came across footage of the experimental tracked hover train that was built at Erith in the UK. He had expanded his original designs of the Linear Motor, with support from a government grant of £5 million. The result was a prototype for the world’s first magnetically levitating train. The ‘Tracked Hovertrain’, as the prototype was called, was a high-speed, wheel-less vehicle which was propelled by the force of a magnetic field. Early trials of Laithwaite’s model looked promising with the prototype reaching speeds of up to 100mph, yet in 1973 the government cancelled the project, blaming high costs for little return.

Jim McKeown making a Linear Motor for Eric Laithwaite in December 1966

I know very little about the project, but after the Government brought it to a halt there were bitter exchanges between Eric Laithwaite and Government Ministers. Around 1974 Eric Laithwaite asked me to make a recording (in audio)  -in his own words- of what really happened; who said what and why. In front of me, that audio tape was put into an envelope, sealed and signed and was then to be held in his bank until his death. That tape DID surface again after his death, I personally unsealed it and transferred the contents into digital form! I did not keep a copy of this tape or digital transfer.

Prototype model train to run on the Linear Motor in lab in December 1966

Imperial College does not hold any RTV31 footage or photos related to that project. However the footage I did come across is held by the ITN Source Library in the UK. It’s really only available to buy but people can see a preview of the footage, which is good enough to see what the vehicle looked liked and how it operated. The video is located on the ITN website and can be seen via the link below.  I have also given the ITN information related to the clip at the bottom.

The two colour photos on this page were taken by me in December 1966 and are seen here for the first time. In was later in this month that Eric Laithwaite presented  the first televised Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, so the Linear Motor being made and the model train too, could have been for that event.

I was about to make this new entry live when, by chance, I came across this video on Youtube. It seems that the RTV31 shell still exists, although it’s painted very differently to the original footage you’ll see from ITN. It’s housed at Railworld, Oundle Road, Peterborough, PE2 9NR. The Youtube video is in French but it has Youtube ANNOTATIONS added in English. So ensure the Annotation options in the player window is set to ON (it should be a RED square when the video runs).

 

VIEW THE ITN FOOTAGE

Test run of Hovertrain TX 7.2.1973 ENGLAND: Huntingdonshire: Erith: Demonstration of experimental hover train along concrete rail at speed. Michael McNair Wilson MP (Conservative: Walthamstow East) interview with Keith Hatfield (Reporter) about applications of technology for fast surface travel. Table-top model being demonstrated by Professor Eric Laithwaite (Imperial College). Hovertrain on track.

 See also: Engineering the Hovertrain

Colin Grimshaw November 2012