Tag: Electrical Engineering

An Electric Car at Imperial in 1972?

Yes, it’s hard to believe but there was research into electric cars at Imperial way back over 50 years ago. And this is once again a story for which the original videotape was long ago erased (assuming there was one). The programme was called La Jamais Contente.

What we do have are some precious photos that were taken at the time of some of the recordings on 20 June 1972. STOIC presenter Richard Woodhead is seen along with Electrical Engineering academic staff member and “EV” researcher John Prigmore (both far right with John Prigmore’s back to camera). The vehicle was a “bubble car” that was converted to electric operation. It really is so long ago that I can’t remember any of the details about the programme or indeed why it was made.

As usual I resorted to searching the FELIX newspaper online archive and found this item announcing the showing of the programme almost 5 months after the location recording took place.

The still photos are interesting because it has reminded me that we could not transport the Ampex video recorder. You can see the “Link” camera we had for such work outside of the studio and this had cabling from the roadway on level one up into the TV Studio on level three. That’s me with a series of cue cards and the countdown clock to ident the sequence being recorded. From looking at the countdown clock board, these were sequences shot as ‘inserts’ for the programme which was to have been edited.

Here’s Richard Woodhead with the car, he’s pretending to plug it in for recharging. Again, this was down on the level one roadway by Electrical Engineering. It’s very difficult to see, but the small sign stuck to the wall near his shoulder says “Electric Vehicle Charging Station”. How funny that 50 years later Imperial College really does now have charging stations for EV’s on the South Kensington campus!

The countdown board indicates that STOIC member Paul McCallum directed this, but sadly he’s not seen in any of these photos. However, in this reverse shot of Richard Woodhead and the electric car you can see my friend Tim Jeffes sitting between me (left) and the camera. It looks like he’s possibly writing on the cue card boards which were used for prompting of the script.

I had been trying to work out how we did the sound for these recordings and I’ve just spotted in this photo that Richard was wearing a radiomic that would have been received up by the TV Studio window on level three. I’m assuming that this was a sequence where we actually got to see the car working and that he was just stepping out of the car to record a piece to camera.

And finally a shot of the car (left photo) with John Prigmore inside. You can just see his white shirt over on the right of the car windscreen. I wonder whatever happened to YUC 998 after all of the research came to an end? From some research I found that John Prigmore died on 13 September 1984. It indicated that he worked at Imperial from 1947 to 1982 and that during is career he wrote several books although none on the subject we see here. And wouldn’t it have been great to still have these 1972 videotapes in an age where electric cars have now come into being?

And a sad note to end on. I’d reached the end of writing this article and remembered that I had previously had emails from Richard Woodhead. I thought he might be able to shed more light on this video. But I found to my shock that he had died back on 5 July 2021, so my memories of this are all we now have.

Colin Grimshaw February 2022

Prof Eric Laithwaite – uncut: 1983

I have previously made available the following two videos which I recorded for Professor Eric Laithwaite. Recently I was able to locate the original camera footage shot on each day, and of course, prior to being edited. I thought that after 40 years it was worth uploading this uncut footage.

There are two versions of the Gyro Wheel and several retakes & close-up’s of the Plate Levitator. The Gyro Wheel was recorded in the TV Studio and the Plate Levitator down in Eric Laithwaite’s lab on level one in Electrical Engineering. There will be a few start and stops, along with colour bars and black in-between. You’ll also hear me over the studio intercom and off-camera when down in the lab. As I have said before, he was very easy to work with and understood and appreciated how videos, films and TV programmes were made and also the requirements to reshoot sections or close-ups. In the TV studio you will also see Barry Owen his Research Assistant helping to spin the wheel up. And down in the lab, Eric Laithwaite will give him a few instructions during the lifting of the plate.

 

Colin Grimshaw January 2023

Students: 1971

During the recent transfer of 8mm films into digital, I came across a film that I had forgotten all about.

In 1971 some 3rd year students in Electrical Engineering came up with the idea of shooting a film as part of their end of term project. I’m pretty sure that these students must have had a connection with Professor Colin Cherry who was then Professor of Telecommunication in their department. I am assuming this connection with the film because both he and his former secretary are credited at the end. After 50 years we will never actually know.

Digitising the film was, as usual, not an easy job. The sound is a magnetic track bonded to the edge of the film and playable only via a suitable 8mm projector. Fortunately, when the TV Studio was closed, I had rescued the Eumig 8mm projector that was actually used to record the soundtrack back in 1971. The magnetic track was added to the film using a very clever device that glued the very thin piece of magnetic tape onto the edge of the film. If you look above the sprocket holes you can see this track. I know that some films had lost their tracks when the glue gave way, but this film was all OK.

I recorded the sound from the projector, cleaned it up and adjusted the speed to be correct. I was able to judge this because I was amazed to discover that I had actually recorded part of the voice-over and that was my clue to getting the speed correct. I then adjusted the duration/speed of the film to then match the soundtrack duration.

Sadly the students that made this are not credited on the film, so we may never know who they were. But, after 50 years here’s the film called “Students” made in 1971.

Colin Grimshaw November 2022

Prof Eric Laithwaite – Local Heroes: 1999

In 1999 the BBC had a TV series called Local Heroes. It was presented by Adam Hart-Davis and featured various people who had made significant contributions to science etc. One programme featured Prof Eric Laithwaite. Filming took place in Eric Laithwaite’s original lab in Electrical Engineering. They needed various extras, so not surprisingly they contacted me. I provided the portrait photo (taken by my colleague Neville Miles); as well as giving them access to some film clips, and also pointing them towards other BBC materials that I knew about. One clip that I mentioned to them was the Noel Edmonds ‘Multi-Coloured Swap Shop’ clip. Having been involved with the 1974 RI Christmas Lectures I also made sure that they knew about those too. Not a bad piece, except they got his title incorrect. It should have been Professor of Heavy ELECTRICAL Engineering, they left electrical out!

The opening sequence is before the college main entrance changed completely, so that’s a flashback for those who remember it the way it once was.

Colin Grimshaw July 2022

Topic: 1973 and 1974

I have just stumbled across a copy of Felix for 4 December 1973. In it I found a promotion for STOIC’s weekly news-magazine programme TOPIC. The photo shows that is was promoting the “Golden Moments” of Rag Week in the Christmas edition of the programme on Friday 7 December. I’m sure that Rag Week would have been a few weeks earlier and suspect that this would have been shot on film, that possibly needed external developing, by Kodak perhaps?

I can also tell that this was just around the time when the co-axial cable had been run from the TV Studio all the way through the heating tunnels to the Beit Quad building. Sadly as usual, not a single edition of a TOPIC programme remains, they were all erased. What we do have are some of the 8mm films that were used within the programmes and I am now featuring those when I have scanned the film into digital. In two cases I have an audio tape of the actual soundtrack, as in Christmas and Easter editions.

One single item that does remain is an opening sequence, recorded in the original TV Studio on 30 January 1974. I really can’t say whether or not this was actually used in any of the programmes. Mark Caldwell, STOIC Chairman is seen, along with Paul Jarvis as Floor-manager. Dave Salmon is on camera 1 which is seen panning around. You can also see the original animated logo caption rotating around that was made by Selwyn Castleden. There’s an over the shoulder view of the control room with Steve Bell and Selwyn. There is also a brief glimpse of STOIC’s portable “rover’ videotape unit as Paul Jarvis walks in front of it. You will also see a great shot of the huge 2 inch Quadraplex videotape recorder that was donated by RCA. The very rare colour photo, taken on 1 May 1974 shows Selwyn and me in the control room looking very hard at a monitor.

 

Colin Grimshaw June 2021


 

PM Gordon Brown Visit: 2008

In October 2008 the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid a visit to the Imperial College Business School. We were there to cover the event along with a crew from Number 10 and also ITV News. In a presentation that he made, he commented that he already had a connection with Imperial College because a relative had been a Professor here. Indeed he was more than just a Professor, he was a Head of Department. In fact his Uncle was Professor John Brown, Head of Electrical Engineering for 21 years and my head of department when the TV Studio was within Electrical Engineering. On the left hand side of this rare photo is John Brown seen during the retirement reception for Departmental Superintendent, John Ganley, in around 1976.

And there is even more of Gordon Brown’s relative on video. Cast your mind back to the blog about STOIC’s first news programme, IC Newsreel in 1970, where he made an appearance giving an obituary for Lord Willis Jackson.

 

Colin Grimshaw June 2021

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.

IC Newsreel paved the way for STOIC’s; TOPIC, Lunchbreak and then News-Break.

Colin Grimshaw March 2021

Undergraduate Project: 1970

Something that seems to go unrecorded are the times when a student creates a project with an end result that then greatly benefits the college. In this example we need to go back to the summer term of 1970. A 3rd year student from Electrical Engineering undertook a project to create a simple video effects generator. This unit was able to make split screens, squares and so on. It became an essential tool within the TV Studio from the moment it was made until the day the studio was closed down. In the photo, the arrow indicates the unit installed in the first TV studio in January 1975. Recently I found some 8mm film that I shot showing the student with the unit that he made. We paid for the workshop to fabricate a case and you’ll see that in the film and following videos. In more recent times (in the second TV studio) we fitted it into the equipment rack and you’ll see that at the end.

There were many videos where we took advantage of being able to use split screens. Such an example is the APL video I made with Professor Bob Spence in 1975, you’ll see a clip from that. And, in the two clips showing the unit working, yes, it really is a very young version of me!

So, a worthwhile project that created something that lasted in use for 37 years and NEVER ever had a single fault.

Colin Grimshaw February 2021

Eric Laithwaite 40 year anniversary: 1980

I’ve only just realised that it’s 40 years ago this very month that I interviewed Professor Eric Laithwaite. I had suggested to the college archives that we should record this interview. Although, at present, I’m not able to get access to the mastertape, I have attempted to correct the colour and enhance the original version, the best that I can. There are potentially other unseen interviews with Eric Laithwaite that were made by STOIC, but until Imperial sees the advantage of these archive gems, they will forever remain in the archives. Sadly, money is needed to fund the transfer of these Ampex Type A videotapes into digital form. This is something that I can no longer do myself because all of our old videotape equipment was disposed of when the TV Studio was closed in 2007. So this interview is therefore the only one with Eric Laithwaite that’s recorded at Imperial College.

I was the interviewer and it was recorded in his office in the heavy electrical engineering laboratory at Imperial College. The slight background noise is from the various motors and machines running in the lab.

Colin Grimshaw September 2020


 

UROP: 1980

In June 1980 Professor J.C Anderson (1922-2001) from the Department of Electrical Engineering, came into the TV Studio to talk about UROP, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme. He was chatting to STOIC’s Paul Johnson in what was one of the first academic interviews recorded in colour.

Professor Anderson ran UROP from the start, 1980 in fact, when this interview was recorded. He handed the scheme over to a colleague in 1987. The scheme, modelled on something by MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was envisaged as a way to offer students an insight into research. In addition, staff  were given the opportunity to gain eager, intelligent research assistants, keen to try out new ideas and work on speculative experiments. Some students admitted to choosing to study at Imperial specifically because of the opportunity to participate in UROP.

After 40 years I gather that UROP is still running at Imperial today.

Colin Grimshaw September 2020