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Old 8th Feb 2024, 4:17 pm   #1
Dickie
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Default Happy birthday "pips"

https://www.bbc.com/historyofthebbc/...uary/the-pips/
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Old 8th Feb 2024, 6:35 pm   #2
kalee20
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

There was a programme on Monday, Radio 4 (which I listened to on Long Wave, of course) about the pips.

They did mention in 1971 when the last pip was lengthened - I can just remember the six short pips.

They also mentioned the occasional seven pips - it was a shame they didn't broadcast a sample! - when leap seconds are introduced, June and/or December. I daresay it's possible to also have five, but that's never had to be done.
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Old 8th Feb 2024, 7:14 pm   #3
G6Tanuki
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

I remember that back in the 70s when there were loads of winter-time rolling power-cuts due to strikes, we had an electric clock in the kitchen. My father would take it down from its mounting and set the thing as close to 6PM as he possibly could, then with the kitchen radio tuned to the BBC, would climb back up his ladder and - at the magic Greenwich Time Signal moment - plug the clock back into its strange circular MK clock-power-socket.

Unfortunately, the style of clock in question [a round one with several different interchangeable coloured rings around the dial - a quick bit of Googlage suggests it was a Westclox 'Rainbow'] was one which could start to run in either direction at power-up. So he would often have to repeat the plugging-in thing an hour later.

And then there would be another power-cut the next day...!

I'm glad we no longer need to depend on manually-set clocks for accurate time.
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Old 9th Feb 2024, 11:26 am   #4
Vintage Engr
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

I also listened to the programme, which was most interesting.
What wasn't mentioned though, unless I missed it, - was where the actual reference for the time signal was taken from.

I think that gave the overall impression that it was taken from Big Ben!

On a similar vein, many years ago I attended a really interesting lecture about MSF, (It still came from Rugby then) where the coding structure was discussed, and a fascinating demo using an Anglepoise lamp connected to the output of an MSF receiver. It was like watching a visual impression of slow Morse.


David.
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Old 10th Feb 2024, 12:46 am   #5
kalee20
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

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Originally Posted by Vintage Engr View Post
I also listened to the programme, which was most interesting.
What wasn't mentioned though, unless I missed it, - was where the actual reference for the time signal was taken from.

I think that gave the overall impression that it was taken from Big Ben!
No. The Westminster Chimes and Big Ben are taken from the clock (Big Ben strictly is the bell not the clock).

But the pips, they definitely mentioned... at first, 1924, from Greenwich - they mentioned the last 6 swings of a pendulum, every 15 minutes (obviously not broadcast every 15 minutes!), then later from Herstmonceux when the Royal Greenwich Museum relocated there, then later still, to the present day, to the BBC's own clock in the basement - the programme specifically mentioned the trip down there, along a windowless corridor, up a flight of stairs to a little room, temperature-controlled, with the gray box in one of the racks.
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Old 10th Feb 2024, 12:30 pm   #6
Vintage Engr
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

Thanks, I must have missed that part!

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Old 12th Feb 2024, 11:45 pm   #7
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

I can't remember the programme but it featured some chap playing a recorder or penny whistle to an interviewer to demonstrate how the pips had shifted in frequency. Cut to an engineer pulling a card out of a rack and changing some capacitors. Must've been 20-odd years ago. Points of view maybe?
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Old 13th Feb 2024, 12:59 pm   #8
andrewferguson
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

The machine that was used to generate the pips is on display at the Science Museum in London (ground floor, "Making the Modern World" exhibit). It's next to the Ampex tape recorder and Cray supercomputer.
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Old 17th Feb 2024, 11:57 pm   #9
coil1234
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

Quote:
Originally Posted by McMurdo View Post
I can't remember the programme but it featured some chap playing a recorder or penny whistle to an interviewer to demonstrate how the pips had shifted in frequency. Cut to an engineer pulling a card out of a rack and changing some capacitors. Must've been 20-odd years ago. Points of view maybe?
Yes, I remember that. I think it was on a news magazine type show, possibly Nationwide? Apparently a R4 listener who was a musician wrote to the BBC and complained about the change in pitch.

Mike A.
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Old 20th Feb 2024, 6:53 pm   #10
G6Tanuki
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

Thinking of the BBC Greenwich Time Signal with the extended last-beep [whose introduction, I seem to recall, caused controversy] does anyone also recall the Continental version which had equal-length beeps but with the final one at an increased pitch?

Boop.. Boop.. Boop.. Boop.. Boop.. Beep!

I remember in times-past someone building a LW receiver that had a very narrow filter which was tuned to detect the beeps, and trigger [closing a relay for a short period] on the long one. Would have been a lot easier to implement using the 1970s NE565/566/567-type signalling and tone-decoder/encoder ICs if the last beep had been on a higher frequency.
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Old 21st Feb 2024, 12:29 pm   #11
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

Somewhere I have a very exciting VHS (actually, it might be Video8, thinking about it) recording of a leap second which occurred in 1994, I think. I wanted to make sure that a Rugby (as it was) clock receiver I'd just designed and built handled it correctly, so left a video camera pointing at the clock with Radio 4 playing on the soundtrack to catch the pips in the middle of the night. There was indeed an extra pip, and I think my clock correctly indicated a minute containing 61 seconds. There isn't chance to check these things very often!

Chris
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Old 21st Feb 2024, 12:39 pm   #12
kalee20
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

So it indicated 23:59:60 for a second then changed to 00:00:00 for a second then 00:00:01 etc?

It's a geek's delight, knowing that the thing handled it properly, but like you say, it doesn't happen very often! (1972 was the longest year so far, I can just remember a radio announcer saying it at the end of the year, as there were two leap seconds added, one in June one in December.)
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Old 21st Feb 2024, 1:27 pm   #13
cmjones01
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Default Re: Happy birthday "pips"

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Originally Posted by kalee20 View Post
So it indicated 23:59:60 for a second then changed to 00:00:00 for a second then 00:00:01 etc?
Yes, I think that's what it did. I was worried that it would get thoroughly confused and the software would crash, but it didn't, which was fortunate because the final version was the studio clock for a radio station!

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