Tag: Research

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

Film Talk Animation: 1975

Today we have yet another untold story from Imperial’s past with an idea that started at the college and ended up on worldwide TV. Way back in 1975 Mark Caldwell, then Chairman of STOIC started an ambitious series of interviews with both film stars and TV celebrities. The first included American film director and actor Mel Brooks, British actor Malcolm McDowell and Australia’s very own Dame Edna Everage, otherwise known as Barry Humphries. The series ended up being called Film Talk. Coinciding with this were the services provided by the ULAVC, over the ILEA Channel 7 cable TV network – which I have covered previously.

I was the TV contact at Imperial and knew both the staff at the ULAVC centre in Bedford Square and the ILEA TV Centre in Battersea. Somehow or another I mentioned the idea of them showing some of these programmes over their network. The idea was accepted, so future recordings were made with both local viewing and remote viewing via ILEA in mind. We had progressed so well that a contact at Imperial College introduced us to yet another new idea. In Mechanical Engineering there was a computer-aided design system called CADMAC. It used a mini computer, storage-tube system and plotter as its basis for the generation of ‘animation’. For normal film animation at the time, cells made of plastic film were drawn on and filmed frame-by-frame by a normal film camera. The concept was to use the computer output to produce either cells or to output onto paper. These would then be captured onto film as usual. The difference here was the computing. Things could be manipulated on the screen by using a lightpen and objects merged and moved around. This could (at that time) not be run in full-motion playback, so it was therefore outputted onto film or paper.

A company was formed called Video Animation (later called Electronic Arts) and they were looking for ideas to showcase the possibilities of this new technology. We met them and they offered to make a short animation based on three photos that we would provide. These were inputted to their system by using a light-pen system to trace the image. It was then animated to produce an end result. So, the images were Mel Brooks, Malcolm McDowell and Barry Humphries as Dame Edna. The end result is not perfect. They could not, for some reason, cope with Dame Edna’s glasses or hat, and these are missing from the animation (see actual photo on left). It’s a very heavy contrast line drawing with no grey scale, but for us it was at least unique. They also created and added the title. The final product was given to us on 16mm film, the sound was added later. The film (seen on the right) was then played into any of the programmes via tele-cine. If we happened to be recording at the ILEA Battersea Studios, they had a tele-cine unit within the control room. For anyone who remembers the opening sequence to the worldwide TV series “The New Avengers” it was Video Animation who produced the opening title animation. It’s no coincidence that the Avengers TV series started the very next year in 1976. So, the experiment for Film Talk could well have been used to persuade the TV company to use animation in the opening titles. Our animation has some very close similarities to that of the New Avengers opening titles. See the bottom video for the Avengers animation sequence.

Colin Grimshaw 1 January 2021


 

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


 

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

 

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

Professor Dame Julia Higgins: 2015

This is one video in a series that we recorded called ‘Academic Interviews’ and it featured Professor Dame Julia Higgins.

Julia has been studying the behaviour of complex materials, particularly polymers, at Imperial College London since joining as a lecturer in the Chemical Engineering Department in 1976. Her research group specialises in the use of neutron scattering techniques to investigate polymer behaviour. She was appointed reader in 1985 and professor of polymer sciences in 1989.

She was elected Dean of the City and Guilds College from 1993 to 1997 and was appointed CBE in 1996. In 1995 Julia was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1999. She was named a Dame in the 2001 Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Here, she is talking with Professor Lord Robert Winston.

Colin Grimshaw June 2017

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