Tag: Administration

Promotion: 4 – Mastering the Future 1985

Back in 2010 I brought you the two videos that were made to coincide with the City and Guilds centenary in 1985, they were Studying for the Future and Discovering the Future. I had promised to bring you a third video made later in that year called Mastering the Future. Obviously, this video was intended to showcase and promote the idea of taking a masters degree at Imperial College.

Key figures from Industry were featured to give a sense of what was required from University students taking such masters degrees. One person appearing was Sir George Porter, later Lord Porter who was then President of the Royal Institution. Later he moved to Imperial College to continue his research work. By the time the video was made Eric Ash had become Rector, superseding Brian Flowers. One of the few recordings that we have of Professor Bruce Sayers, then head of computing and also dean of City and Guilds is part of this video. Once more there are some great views of ‘Imperial past’ featured such as: the original front entrance on Exhibition Road; Sports Centre and Gym; Libraries and the 1960’s Walkway with Bookshop.

Colin Grimshaw September 2013

Rectors: Lord William Penney 1971

The oldest videotape recording of one of our rectors of Imperial College is that of Lord Penney (1909-1991). Rector of the college from 1967 to 1973 he took the post over from Sir Owen Saunders who was acting rector from 1966 to 1967 after the death of Sir Patrick Linstead in 1966. Recorded in 1971 for showing to students via the fledgling Student Television of Imperial College (STOIC). I can’t remember whether or not this was part of one of the trial news programmes called IC Newsreel, or perhaps designed as as stand-alone programme, I think maybe the latter is more likely.

Our studio, if you could have called it that, was rather basic and sparse.  As you’ll see in the video we had no background of any type at that time. The rare colour photo shows a slight improvement in 1974 when we managed to get some grey curtains! As this was well before the advent of the ‘tie-clip’ microphone, we used what were called neck-mics. A microphone on a thin cord that went around the neck and were very common at that time for PA system use. They did however provided much better sound than trying to use mics on stands or similar.

A former student of Imperial College, Lord Penney initially worked on the Manhattan Project during WW2 and was a flight observer of the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki. Penney was asked in 1947 to head the team that ultimately produced Britain’s first nuclear test and in 1957 this was successfully carried out off of the Australian coast.  He touches very briefly upon this during the interview, even though he was reluctant to discuss it in any great detail (he doesn’t actually mention the British nuclear test). You can watch the TV programme Equinox which includes an interview with Lady Penney. The interviewer for our video was Dave Willis, who I know very little about, other than he was a computer science postgrad student, but I don’t recall the years that he was at Imperial.

This is a newly restored version of the video that was shot originally on Ampex one-inch tape format. I’ve managed to clean, and brighten up, the image to a certain degree, but it is 42 years old. The original master tape now resides in the Imperial College Archives. On the link to the film of Operation Hurricane you’ll see Penney (on board a boat)  turning around and using Binoculars to see the resulting explosion.

Colin Grimshaw September 2013

Japan Office Promo 1993

Solid state physics group

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.

ECOTRON at Silwood Park

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.

Colin Grimshaw August 2013

Imperial’s external TV view

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.

Civil Engineering Hydraulics Lab today

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?

Colin Grimshaw June 2013

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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Live-Net TV Network: 2 – Opening 1987

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.

Colin Grimshaw 2013

Live-Net TV Network: 1 – Pre-Opening 1986

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.

Princess Anne arrives at Science for Industry Exhibition

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!

 

First public showing of Live-Net

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!

Colin Grimshaw March 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

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

New College Phone System: 1984

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.

1950's Automatic Telephone Exchange
1950’s Automatic Telephone Exchange

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.

Sherfield Building Manual Switchboard
Sherfield Building Manual Switchboard

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.

statesman handset
The ‘new’ Statesman telephone 1984

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?”.

Colin Grimshaw November 2010