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Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Internet in the UK – now ahead of Germany!

Friday, November 21st, 2008

There were times when I felt that the internet technology in Germany was far more superior to that in the UK.

Whilst many households in Germany have ISDN lines, the technology is widely unknown in the UK – even for many small businesses.

Broadband arrived earlier in Germany than the UK.  Whilst I was going online with almost 1MBit, most UK internet surfers were still using 56k modems.  By the time 1MBit was on offer in the UK, German providers were offering 6MBit.

For a long time now I have been able to listen and watch selected TV and radio programmes from German public service broadcasters, and more recently some private ones, yet the BBC iPlayer has only been out since the end of last year.

Now, it seems, the UK has not caught up, but has overtaken Germany!

A report in the Telegraph states that the average person in the UK spends just over 4 hours per week longer online that the average German.  Working so much on websites I would probably buck that trend, but does the average Brit really spend 14 hours per week online?  Do they really spend 3 times as many SMSes per month?

But then, what counts as online?  Surfing the web is probably obvious, but does sending an E-mail count?  Am I really online at that point?  Surely that depends on the type of E-mail that I use.  Webmail is online, but how about IMAP accounts that synchronise with their servers?  Or company Exchange servers that are online even when their users are not?

What about Skype?  I know that my computer is online when I use Skype to make a telephone call, whether it be to another Skype user or to a landline, but surely that’s different type of ‘online’?

The gap may be about to widen even more, with the announcement that BBC 1 and BBC2 are to be streamed online.  Unfortunately this will only be available to viewers in the UK (why can’t they allow us ex-pats to subscribe to them as well?!)  But although there are similar services for some channels in Germany, they are not directly from the broadcaster themselves.

This is, of course, wonderful news for students with broadband access.  Now they no longer need to fit a television set and computer into their rooms (do they still have those 2 amp sockets?) but can watch online.  Online?  Are they really ‘online’ when they are only watching their favourite soaps?  That should push up the online statistics a bit more.

Which just leaves the question of whether those same students will still need to buy a television license to watch the channels on their laptops.  In Germany they would…



Whatever happened to… the Domesday Discs?

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Who remembers the BBC Domesday Project and the resulting Domesday Discs?

Well, I do at least. I’m not quite sure why, but the other day I started wondering what had happened to the project and the collected data.

Never heard of the project? Well, back in 1984 the BBC started a project with a number of companies to create a modern version of the Domesday book which was due to celebrate its 900th anniversary in 1986. School children were asked to write about their local area and send in photographs. All of this data was then collated onto two laser discs, along with statistics such as census data as well as maps, short videos and virtual walks around parts of the country. The texts that the children had written were saved as teletext pages and the whole thing required a specially adapted BBC micro computer to run.

I’m not quite sure if I ever wrote anything in school that got submitted to the project, but I do remember some years later when the discs were available that we didn’t have them at my school or in our local library, so when a set became available at another school it was arranged for me to spend an evening looking at them.

In the days before the World Wide Web and all the modern sources of information that are now available, this was a fascinating project of which I know no equal, and a few days ago I started wondering what had happened to all of that data and I was surprised to find an answer so quickly just by searching the internet.

Actually, what seemed like a revolution in terms of the amount of data back then is by comparison today quite small. Each of the laser discs could store 300MB on each side, meaning the combination of both sides stored less than a data CD today.

Recently, a project had been set up to recover the data and make it readable again. This included reverse engineering a set of discs to convert the data into modern formats. I read all about this at a fascinating website called Domesday Redux. Then I came across another site about the history of the project.

But the main surprise was this site: www.domesday1986.com – this is the result of that reverse engineering, an online version of the community disc (the one with the children’s texts and photos on).

I have been able to re-visit texts about places that I used to live and go to school in, and I have seen photos of those places as they were in 1984-1986, even one showing my school and the house that I used to live in!

Visiting that site is a real treat and I am so glad to have found it. Let’s hope that it remains on-line as long as possible so that future generations can learn about how we put together this amazing collection of information – without writing a single E-mail!



Good bye Grange Hill

Friday, February 8th, 2008

When I think back to my childhood in England there are a small number of television programmes that I particularly remember.

One of these is “Grange Hill”, which I was surprised to learn today is still going after 30 years – well, just about as it has now been cancelled.

I belong to the generation that maybe just missed the first couple of seasons, but were otherwise with it from the end of the 1970s whilst still at primary school ourselves, progressing through the 1980s and finally leaving school at the beginning of the 1990s.

I can remember certain characters and issues, maybe not always the ones quoted in the media today, and I definitely remember the theme tune and the original opening titles (sausage included).

So whilst I may not have given it any further thought in the past years, I reminisced today by watching clips on-line, including said titles, and reading some interviews with the actors of bygone years.

Yes, that programme was a part of my tea-time viewing, and it’s a nice thought that generations after me enjoyed it as well.  That being the case, it’s a shame that it has to end.



 

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