Created Mo 8-Feb-99
Main Content Last Revised
Michael Grade joined the BBC as Controller of BBC 1 in September 1984. When he arrived, work was already underway to develop a new globe symbol. The initial difficulty had been to get the world to rotate one whole revolution with the limited amount of memory chips available. But this problem was soon solved.
Another project was also in development when Grade arrived, a soap opera called EastEnders. The new controller knew he had to arrest the falling ratings on his channel and decided to delay the introduction of the new soap to co-incide with a re-launch of the programme schedule. EastEnders would go out on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm. Terry Wogan would start the evening on the other weekdays with a chat show. The new globe was also delayed so it could form part of the new look.
Viewers would see the new globe for the first time at 7pm on Monday, February 18th, 1985 as the announcer welcomed them to Wogan.
The device that made the earth move came in a metal box that would have would have been mounted in a rack together with a similar-looking box responsible for generating the station clock. You can see them both here.
As well as the network globe for England housed at Television Centre in London, a player would have been required for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Each English region would also require its own player for the times when it opted-out of the national schedule.
There's a switch on the box, marked CEEFAX, that adds the text "CEEFAX 888" underneath the station name on the network globe. For the other globes it adds text to identify the nation or regional centre.
This is what a globe player looks like when you open it up.
On the left there are ten removable cards filled with PROM (Programmable Read-Only Memory) chips containing 20 000 pixels of map data pre-rendered as frames of animation. Each card has on its side a yellow LED that lights up when that card is in use.
To the right of these cards are five unused slots and to the right of those is a card with a red handle. This is the processor card, to the right of which are four more cards containing the two images pictured below. The player can be made to display these by changing some switch settings on the processor card.
Now we can begin to see how the globe player works. The transparent blue sphere representing the ocean is the background image. The processor uses the map data to decide for each pixel whether to leave it as the sea or overlay a pixel from the golden sphere for the land or simply plot a black pixel to represent the land on the other side of the world.
A test image is provided by the player which tests some of the video mixer's abilities, including what the ocean globe looks like when some land is overlayed onto it.
If you look closely, you will see that the golden shell is slightly larger than the blue sphere, so that the land has the subtle effect of floating over the top of the ocean as it rotates.
Take the COW for a spin (or two).
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