Revised Fr 1-Jan-21
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This clock was BBC 2's first, broadcast from the station's launch in April 1964. The caption to the left of the clock face was straightened later! This Flash version of the clock was shown at the National Film Theatre (now BFI Southbank) in London when it held a Play School event, with former presenters, to celebrate 40 years of BBC 2.
The BBC network clocks as seen in 1972. Notice that the judder on the second-hand has been faithfully reproduced! As with all the BBC mechanical models, this was shot in black and white and the colour was then added in electronically. Although the colours and lettering were later changed, the distinctive clock face survived into the 1980s.
The clock design seen in the 1970s on BBC 1 and BBC 2 was also used to introduce Service Information, a programme not listed in the schedules, which gave out transmitter information to the television trade. Lots of ghastly colour schemes were experimented with! Here's the green-on-purple variant seen in 1979.
By 1984, the real clocks had been replaced. This is BBC 1's first virtual clock. The image was generated by a box of electronics, designed in house by Richard Russell. Similar hardware was then used for the other BBC solid state clocks featured below.
Because of the move to electronic image generation, the network symbol underneath the BBC 2 clock could now be shown properly shaded.
The second virtual clock for BBC 1 first appeared in February 1985. It was introduced to accompany the new golden globe symbol or COW (Computer-Originated World) as it was known at the BBC.
ABC broadcast at the weekends, serving both the Midlands and the North of England. This clock was for joint continuity, parts of the programme schedule where both regions were showing the same programmes. It was broadcast from the ABC studios in Teddington, Middlesex and would be seen, for example, before World of Sport on Saturdays. The second ABC clock was seen only by viewers in the Midlands.
This ABC clock, without any logo, was seen only by viewers in the North.
This is Border Television's mechanical clock, used in the Eighties. It features the company's "chopsticks in a bowl" symbol.
This was the clock that Grampian used in the Seventies.
This is one of Granada's "clouds" clocks, which were used until 1968. Originally they had a serif font and a sweeping second hand, but by the mid-60s, they had changed to using a sans serif font and a second hand that stopped with a judder every second, as seen here. The clock face wasn't keyed onto the background, but instead was foil-printed onto the cardboard image of the clouds.
When colour came to the Wales and West region in 1970, Harlech became HTV and its famous "aerial" logo was born. To go with the new white-on-blue symbol was this white-on-blue clock, which lasted well over a decade.
This was the London Weekend clock introduced at the same time as its famous River ident. It was unusual in that despite being a mechanical clock there was no judder perceptible on the second-hand.
This was a clock used by Southern after the station began its colour service. The clock was still in use in 1981, the company's final year of broadcasting.
This Scottish Television clock resembled something you used to see on electric cookers. It was unpopular because if the camera wasn't aligned properly, it seemed to tell the wrong time, as the centre stalk to which the hands were attached actually came quite a way out in front of the clock face.
Thames Television's clock also told you the date as well as the time. It was used until the end of the Eighties, when the Thames mirrored skyline ident was dropped and the ITV "corporate look" began.
TSW promoted itself as "Television Simply Wonderful" on its opening night in 1982. It ceased broadcasting ten years later, having lost its licence at the next franchise round. This computer-generated clock was TSW's only timepiece throughout its decade on air.
The second clock design used by TVS, which served the South and South-East from 1982 until the end of 1992. Sometimes the caption would say "TVS South" or "TVS South East", when different presentation was being transmitted in each of the two TVS sub-regions. Notice that unlike the BBC's mechanical clocks, which were filmed in black and white and then had colour added electronically, this TVS clock and the London Weekend timepiece above were coloured models filmed by colour cameras.
This clock was introduced when Tyne Tees began broadcasting in colour in 1970. As well as white-on-blue, other colour schemes were experimented with such as light-blue-on-black.
For some reason, Westward's clock, used until it ceased broadcasting in 1981, reminds me of one of those wooden-framed clocks you used to see on the wall inside banks. The exploded pie-chart style (with the bottom right-hand quarter of the rounded rectangle separated from the rest) was also seen on continuity slides for much of the seventies.
Seen in 1977, this clock from Yorkshire Television features golden lettering.
This was Yorkshire's first computer-generated clock and features the station's familiar yellow chevron symbol. It was a replacement for a mechanical clock of a similar design.
Martin Lambie-Nairn and his company were responsible for Channel 4's identity when the station launched in 1982. Since then his company has become a major force in television branding. This is the Channel 4 clock, which features the stripy 4 logo. For some reason they decided to use a dark blue rather than the main logo's light blue.
This is how the intervals between schools programme looked on BBC 1 in 1967: an announcement over a slide, followed by some music with a card featuring a pie chart and then a clock counting down the final minute before the start of the programme.
BBC 1 launched its colour service in November 1969, but Schools programmes did not start to appear in colour until autumn 1972. Hence when the new BBC 1 clock was shown before Schools programmes, the legend was modified to remove the reference "COLOUR".
Even more strangely compelling than the BBC's rotating globe and curved-mirror reflection was the Schools Diamond. This mechanical model kept pupils entertained while they waited for their programme to begin. This version is from 1974.
In 1975 the Schools Diamond lettering was adapted to match that used on BBC 1's new yellow-on-blue globe. Except the "BBC 1" legend on the globe was white and on the Schools Diamond it was yellow. Perhaps the lighting on the model couldn't be modified to support three colours? The BBC 1 clock shown during Schools programmes also sported the same yellow lettering as the Diamond, rather than the usual white.
The 60-second countdown clock used by the BBC before its schools programmes from September 1978. The first version has a rotating middle. Later on, the middle remained stationary. Rumour has it that this was because the motor broke down and was never fixed.
This countdown was the last mechanical model used by BBC schools presentation. There was also an electronically generated version, which saw the white dots turning black as the seconds ticked by. The last day of schools on BBC 1 was Friday, June 24th, 1983.
On Monday, September 19th, 1983 schools programmes moved to BBC 2. They were billed under the heading Daytime on Two and instead of a countdown, a daytime version of the BBC 2 symbol appeared ten seconds before each programme. With no Schools, BBC 1 closed down after Breakfast Time and started up again for Play School, which had also switched sides. It would be some years before BBC 1 would get its own Daytime schedule.
From the 1970s, a schools junction, including the ITV 60-second countdown clock. The accompanying tune is entitled Fun and Games.
This was the last ITV Schools countdown clock, in use until the service moved to Channel 4 in September 1987. The tune here is from 1979 and is entitled Handelian Harp by David Snell.
A sight familiar to insomniacs everywhere. It signified that it was either very late at night or very early in the morning and you were about to see programmes for The Open University. Ironic, when you think most students don't get up until lunchtime! On the desktop, pressing space will add and remove a "Follows shortly" caption.
An Open University ident from BBC 2, often followed by bearded, bespectacled men in sandals telling you about the calculus. The original was blue and yellow (like the clock, above) and didn't mention the BBC at all. But after OU programmes spread to BBC 1, the idents were changed to indicate which channel you were watching.
The first version shown matches the style of the last BBC 1 mechanical globe. The second version was designed to match the golden globe, which was generated by a box of microprocessors and introduced in February 1985. The digitally originated OU animated was produced by MOUSE, the Moving Open University Symbol Equipment. The fanfare heard in all three versions here, and on the original blue and yellow OU idents, is the first five bars of Divertimento for Three Trumpets and Three Trombones composed by Leonard Salzedo and published in 1959.
Before daytime television, if you switched to either BBC channel before the late afternoon, you were likely to see a trade test transmission accompanied by this picture. Test Card F was the first colour test card and was first broadcast on July 1st, 1967, the day BBC 2 began regular colour transmissions. Designed by the late George Hersee, an engineer at the BBC, the test card features his daughter Carole, aged 7, with her doll, Bubbles.
By the early 70s, Test Card F had been amended to remove the labels against the frequency gratings (the stack of six boxes containing vertical black and white lines, to the right of the clown). Sometimes a number would be superimposed on the image, counting down the minutes. The electronics didn't always work, and so sometimes the timing was done manually. If you have a desktop browser, you can re-create this effect for yourself - see the instructions when you view the file.
In 1984, Test Card F was amended again, the most obvious difference was perhaps the change of style for the letter 'F'. The other major change was that rather than having the image coming from a slide scanner, it was now electronically generated. The first image is from BBC 1. The second is from BBC 2, and features a countdown timer for desktop browsers.
In the early 1970s, the BBC began using a new test card alongside Test Card F. This electronically generated pattern was known as Test Card G and was based on a design by Philips. This is what it looked like on BBC 2.
A couple of other test cards have also been used by the BBC. The first is a pulse and bar pattern, which included a burst of lilac. The two vertical lines on the right-hand side show that the card was transmitted from Cardiff. Different arrangements meant sixteen different regions could be identified in this way. The second pattern is called a multi-burst and features frequency gratings.
In these days of 24-hour channels, test cards are seldom seen on our screens. You may not have noticed, therefore, that test card F has been replaced with a new edition, Test Card J. By going back to the original negatives, the designers were able to reveal more of the scene with the girl and her doll. They were also able to finally make the chalked cross denote the exact centre of the card. If you look closely, you'll see that this test card is animated. Test Card W is the widescreen version of Test Card J.
Test Card C first appeared in 1948 when the picture aspect ratio was still 5:4. It was later revised for 4:3 and then underwent yet more revisions. When commercial television began, the Independent Television Authority (ITA) introduced its own version of Test Card C, examples of which are presented here. These cards would be seen by Tyne Tees viewers, who would be watching transmissions from the Burnhope VHF transmitter.
These are examples of Test Card F, as seen in the ITV regions of London and the Midlands. When the ITA took on the responsibility for commercial radio and became the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) in 1972, the captions changed accordingly. There was also a Test Card E, but it proved unpopular and was quickly abandoned.
Test Card G was also seen on ITV, but in the late 1970s, the IBA dropped the test cards it had shared with the BBC in favour of Electronic Test Pattern 1 (ETP1). A version of this could be seen if you tuned to Channel 4 in the weeks preceding its launch in 1982.