Pip Pip Pip Pip Pip Piiiiip
February 5, 2016 11:28 AM   Subscribe

First broadcast on Feb 5th 1924, the BBC's Greenwitch Time Signal has collected some history. The pips have marked the hour with six (or seven) beeps for over 90 years. Sometimes the pips arrive on time, but the merely human announcers "crash the pips" by talking over them. Sometimes, the pips go missing entirely, throwing the BBC and its listeners off-kilter. In 2014, Radio 4 celebrated their 90th birthday in musical fashion. A short medley of announcers playing with, swearing at, and missing the pips (via).

Timing aside, the tone of the pips has drifted over the years. In 1993, Dr Carl Dolmetsch, recorder virtuoso, noticed that it had dropped by a semitone from B natural to B flat, causing a minor media sensation and resulting in BBC engineers restoring them to their proper 1000 Hz. Sadly, the pips are delayed several seconds for listeners tuning in with digital radios. Today, Project Pippa hopes to refurbish the old GTS Machine.

Dropping it into the Wubmachine results in some pretty sick beats. The pips can be heard in the BBC News Theme, but more excitingly, in Bill Bailey's version.

The Greenwich Time Signal is also on Twitter, though if you want tweets on the hour, follow Big Ben.
posted by BungaDunga (24 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can tell how bad the traffic report is/was when local NPR misses the pips for BBC newshour.
posted by k5.user at 11:31 AM on February 5, 2016


"Crash the Pips" is the name of my new punk album.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:48 AM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pip Pip Pip Pip Pip
posted by zamboni at 11:59 AM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Piiiiip
posted by zamboni at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Got an old shortwave radio as a teenager and found that station utterly hypnotic.
posted by msalt at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


You can get the pips (hee hee) as a doorbell tone here. I really really want it but it might be too geeky and silly to explain to people who are unfamiliar with them.
posted by Kitteh at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2016


Sadly, the pips are delayed several seconds for listeners tuning in with digital radios.

He said he's going back to find

(Going back to find)
posted by hal9k at 12:01 PM on February 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


That article ("collected some history") is great. I love that the first version was an announcer playing the Westminster Chimes on a piano.
posted by msalt at 12:04 PM on February 5, 2016


Sadly, the pips are delayed several seconds for listeners tuning in with digital radios.

He said he's going back to find

(Going back to find)


The 12:00:03 am train to Georgia?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:05 PM on February 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


the BBC's Greenwitch Time Signal

That's the one that tells you when the Wizard of Oz is starting on BBC2.
posted by w0mbat at 12:37 PM on February 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


Can I just say that the mid-century industrial design of that GTS console is about my favourite aesthetic ever? The grey “English Electric” solidity, topped off with just that angled sign, says that this is a device built by People Who Knew What They Were Doing for People Who Knew What They Were Doing. I'm sure that, when it is first powered on and those old atomic clocks warm into life, a faint aroma of pipe tobacco will well up in the room.
posted by scruss at 12:52 PM on February 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark used time-synchronization signals on several tracks from the Dazzle Ships album (1983). I have the Radio Prague fanfare as my ringtone, and I always smile when Time Zones comes up on shuffle -- I speak Japanese, and it's fun to be able to understand what that announcer is saying.
posted by spacewrench at 1:07 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sandi Topsvig and the News Quiz crew did a pip-themed Christmas Panto a few years back. It also involved Nicholas Parsons and Archers in-jokes. It may be the most concentrated half hour of Britishness extant.
posted by Diablevert at 1:10 PM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Aw, Spacewrench just beat me to it, but yeah, OMD's "Time Zones" is one of my favorite obscure 80s' tracks.
posted by dnash at 1:12 PM on February 5, 2016


I wake up to the BBC World Service, so I associate the pips with the end of blissful slumber. Makes them a bit ominous.
posted by praemunire at 1:36 PM on February 5, 2016


Sandi Topsvig and the News Quiz crew did a pip-themed Christmas Panto ... It may be the most concentrated half hour of Britishness extant.

That's one of the worst American-accent In-a-world imitations I've ever heard. But who knows, maybe that's part of the "Britishness"/panto convention?
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:42 PM on February 5, 2016


... I associate the pips with the end of blissful slumber.

"You will remember the past 8 hours as though it was a dream. You will wake up fresh and relaxed in 6...5...4...."
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:47 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Crash the Pips" is the name of my new punk album.

As well as the name of my Dickens-core band.

We dress like chimney sweeps. We're so good, you wouldn't Adam and Eve it.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:13 PM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Cant find the link, but there's a great recording of a youmg, nervous announcer saying "It's six o'clock Greenwich. Meantime, here is the news.".

Bless.
posted by Devonian at 3:02 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]




Suprisingly, I associate the pips with my college wake up time when I had to be out of bed by 4 AM in order to get to work by 6 AM.
posted by Hasteur at 7:17 PM on February 5, 2016


When I was 10 my grandpa gave my this old radio that happened to have a shortwave band. I discovered WWV on my own, it was this mysterious thing that was just always there, especially at night (which I understand better now).

Time beacons still have an aura of mystery for me. Sad they're slowly going away, replaced by nanosecond-level heralds from outer space.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:54 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ah, the Heralds From Outer Space. I saw them supporting Crash The Pips once.
posted by Paul Slade at 8:52 AM on February 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


That was a hell of a gig. Nobody could agree on exactly when to start.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:02 AM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


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