back to article Speaking Clock to celebrate diamond anniversary on Sunday

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 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    There, fixed that for one

    At the thaird strairke, we will be - beep, beep, beeeep - 75 yairs earld

  2. Olof P

    It is still used because it is more accurate than some bloke on the street

    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 Sure, nowadays this could be superseded by NTP, but then again using a speaking clock is easier, particularly when multiple people, hundreds of meters away from each other, need to be accurate to the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.

  3. Pete 43
    Thumb Down

    Does anyone still use it?

    how much is it now? 50p a pop?

    1. Shaun 1

      Everybody that read the article knows how much it costs

      "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?""

  4. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    70th anniversary of the CD?

    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..

  5. JasonW

    Diamond 75?

    Someone better let her Maj know - she's planning to have a Diamond Jubilee next year for 60.

    1. John Riddoch


      Seems to be two options for diamond anniversaries - see for example. 60th is officially "yellow diamond", 75th is "diamond". Also, 30th seems to count as diamond as well... Not confusing at all, is it?

  6. Magnus Ramage

    Big Ben

    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: 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.

  7. M Gale

    "Back then, letters were printed on telephone dials to aid automatic calls."

    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!

  8. Mike Richards Silver badge

    They should celebrate

    Get Brian Blessed to do the time - no telephone necessary.

  9. mhoulden

    At least 123 is easy to remember

    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:

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'd forgotten it was called Tim. Thanks for replacing my missing bit of childhood.

    When I was a child, and there were phone boxes, even in rural locations, I used to dial 0 and ask the operator for the time. To dial the speaking clock would have cost 4d.

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