There, fixed that for one
At the thaird strairke, we will be - beep, beep, beeeep - 75 yairs earld
At the third stroke - or this Sunday, to be precise - Britain's famous Speaking Clock will be 75 years old. The Speaking Clock was one of the first pre-recorded information services available to UK telephones. Designed and constructed at the Post Office Engineering Research Station in North London, the machine was made from a …
I'm active in an orienteering club in Sweden, and we use the Swedish equivalent to make sure clocks are synced between the start and finish, for accurate timekeeping. Sure, nowadays this could be superseded by NTP, but then again using a speaking clock is easier, particularly when multiple people, hundreds of meters away from each other, need to be accurate to the second.
"Despite a surge in mobile phones and computer use, all of which make it easy to check time, the BT Speaking Clock still receives roughly 30 million calls a year. That's quite a lot of profit when you consider it costs 30p plus a 12.5p connection fee each time you call. Pffft, and all for something that can usually be answered by asking a passer-by, "Excuse me mate, have you got the time, please?""
On an unrelated note: I was chatting to an old timer who told me that during the war they were having problems with early flight simulators They could not replicate the sound of shrapnel whizzing past the cockpit because the recorders had a limited bandwidth. So they developed 20 inch glass platters which could record 20kHz signals. Like Colossus, this was all smashed up at the end of the conflict..
Mark me down as a cynic, but I really doubted the bit about the speaking clock. The BBC News report on the same topic - uncannily similar, methinks - also mentions Big Ben being calibrated by the speaking clock. Remarkably enough, it seems to be true, as an interview at the Times website (pre-firewall) shows: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article5425798.ece. Big Ben (or rather the clock containing the bell of that name) is very accurate but the people who keep it going check it now and then, using the speaking clock. So there you go. Of course, the time itself comes from the National Physical Laboratory, and the speaking clock is just an interface.
Uhm, they were then and are now. Just that the dials are buttons and people use thm 2 mk awfl txt spk lk ths. Letters on phone dials/pads might have fell out of fashion in the UK at one point, but they've always been available and the mobile market has brought them back into the public consciousness big time.
Been a while since I last used the service though. It was on 8081 back then. It's 123 now, I think!
Bill Bryson wrote about his mother getting confused and dialling the wrong number. She lived in Des Moines where the number was 244 5646, or BIG JOHN spelt out using the letters. Unfortunately she couldn't always remember what to use for BIG <name> and ended up phoning strangers to ask them the time.
Useless fact: the speaking clock was also used as part of the HANDEL nuclear warning network: http://www.ringbell.co.uk/ukwmo/Page211.htm
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