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In praise of the pips (Read 3141 times)
YaBB Administrator

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In praise of the pips
Feb 8th, 2010, 8:49am
Monday 8th February 2010

Public time signals had a long history before the youthful BBC introduced the six pips on 5 February 1924.

To ships' captains and astronomers, railway signalmen and the faithful at prayer, accurate timekeeping is indispensable. So there was a particular symbolism to the decision to make the British Broadcasting Company the arbiter of national time an idea that came originally from Sir Frank Dyson, the astronomer royal when there was still a powerful lobby arguing for commercial broadcasters rather than the single national voice the BBC was to become.
The pips were a way of embedding the infant organisation in public life, an authoritative and national service that was reinforced, early on, by the use of a dodgy recording of the Bow bells, regarded as a safe way of indicating Britishness. Not that the pips were ever entirely accurate, because of the time lag between the striking of the hour, its broadcast, and its reception (offset by timing the broadcast so the signal from the Droitwich transmitter is received in London at the correct second that it should be heard). Later, the use of atomic time made it evident that they were even less accurate than had been realised, which is why the sixth pip now lasts half a second and the first five just a tenth. Even that is now undermined by digital broadcasting, which can lag by as much as a second and a half behind the analogue signal, while internet reception has an even longer delay.

Like the BBC itself, the usefulness of the pips is threatened by technological diversity

Guardian Editorial.

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Howard G
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Posts: 73

Re: In praise of the pips
Reply #1 - Feb 9th, 2010, 12:55pm
In deed modern technology has gone backwards when it comes to the accurracy of the PIPS. I remember being told that someone at the base of the tower of Big Ben would hear the strike after someone in Australia listening via the wireless - what a luvely word for a box full of wires !
I sit here in Cape Town and watch Sky, CNN, and BBC World TV. It is quite usual on lives for Sky to be 1 minute behind CNN and BBC World even further. There's progress for you!!!!
In short PIP PIP Hooray Cheesy
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