Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library


Discover more about the British Library's 3.5 million sound recordings and the access we provide to thousands of moving images. Comments and feedback are welcomed. Read more

25 November 2014

The eCreative “Sound Connections” pilot nears completion

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Guest blog by Tom Miles, British Library's project manager on Europeana Creative.

 The Europeana Creative project - which began in February 2013, with the purpose of encouraging creative professionals to reuse content on Europeana – is about to complete its second year. The five pilots that the project has developed are now either completed or reaching completion. The themes of the pilots are Natural History Education, History Education, Tourism, Social Networks and Design.

BL Sound and Vision has been involved in the Social Networks pilot: “Sound Connections”. Working with its project partners, Netherlands Institute of Sound & Vision (NISV), HistoryPin, Platoniq and Ontotext, the pilot is an opportunity for users to enrich audio recordings with their own knowledge and content. 

So, for the above recording of the Nuthatch, it's possible to find the recording on "Sound Connections" and add your own comments, photographs, links to Wikipedia and other articles, relevant links on Europeana, etc. 

There are four themes to explore: Birdlife, Aviation, cityscapes for London and cityscapes for Amsterdam.

 You can browse the site either by text or by exploring the map. Most of the recordings originate from the countries of the content providers - the Netherlands and the U.K. The pilot aims to breathe life into online content, so that more information is added to them by users with different perspectives and areas of knowledge. 

The project partners are still in the process of refining "Sound Connections", which is on track for its official launch in January 2015.

21 November 2014

Jolly chuffed to spend a very hockey sticks weekend in Dulwich village

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 Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator of Spoken English, writes:

Last weekend I went to Dulwich to watch my daughter play hockey, which gave me the opportunity of exploring Dulwich village for the first time. The highlight of a thoroughly pleasant stroll was stumbling across a rather intriguing use of the word chuffed [= ‘pleased’] – a term used by millions of speakers of British English on a regular basis. Chalked up on a blackboard inside a wonderful artisan baker’s was a sign thanking customers for nominating the proprietors for a local trade award (I hope they win: the bacon bap I had was delicious). The sign declared that the owners were very chuffed to be nominated; an expression that immediately struck me as slightly odd - do people actually say very chuffed? Isn’t very somehow just too mainstream to combine with a word like chuffed? Aren’t more colloquial intensifiers like really, pretty and so or vernacular forms such as dead chuffed, proper chuffed and well chuffed more natural?

Very chuffed

A quick glance at several authoritative reference works seems to confirm my hunch. The entry for chuffed in the Oxford English Dictionary (online edition) includes six citations - the earliest from 1957 - and two examples each of chuffed, pretty chuffed and dead chuffed.  The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2014) agrees with the OED's dating and also includes the following observation:

originally northern English dialect […], adopted by military, then wider society […] often qualified by intensifiers DEAD, REAL, WELL

Both dictionaries include the antonym dischuffed – presumably formed by analogy with pleased/displeased rather than happy/unhappy – and the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (2014) provides further support for Partridge stating that chuffed:

probably originates in northern English dialect […] and is still most frequently heard in the North and Midlands [...] embellished forms are ‘dead chuffed’, ‘chuffed pink’ and ‘chuffed to arseholes’

In 2004/5 the BBC Voices survey investigated the words we use for 40 everyday concepts, including the notion PLEASED. Researchers in the British Library’s Voices of the UK project are currently compiling an inventory of the terms captured in the study and have thus far catalogued over 100 variants for PLEASED. Apart from pleased itself, chuffed was by far the most common response and certainly seems to have been taken up enthusiastically outside its northern and midland heartland, but as far as I’m aware we haven’t encountered many – if indeed any – examples of very chuffed. Plenty of contributors supplied dead chuffed, well chuffed, chuffed to bits, chuffed to naffy break (also in Partridge) and even chuffed to buggery, but not very chuffed. And yet, by extraordinary coincidence this week a contestant on the BBC quiz show Only Connect said he had been very chuffed with his team's performance in the previous round. I dunno - you wait for ages for a very chuffed and all of a sudden two come along at once.

If you'd like to hear any of the numerous  variants for PLEASED just listen to one of the 300 BBC Voices Recordings. From thrilled, delighted, tickled pink, cock-a-hoop and on cloud nine to made-up, thrimmed, over the moon, baktalo (Anglo-Romani for ‘happy/lucky’) and stoked each gives subtle clues to a speaker’s geographic background, age, ethnicity and/or social status.

My daughter’s team lost by the way, although in scoring her first goal of the season I suspect she was chuffed and dischuffed in equal measure, but – all things considered –  probably not very chuffed.

14 November 2014

Computer Memories of Alan Turing

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Thomas Lean, interviewer for An Oral History of British  Science, writes:

This week the The Imitation Game, staring Benedict Cumberbatch as mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker, and computer scientist Alan Turing, is released in British cinemas. Recognised as one of the fathers of computer science and artificial intelligence, Turing's mathematics research in the 1930s led him to the concept of the Universal Turing Machine, an idea which predicted the ability of stored program computers to perform any task they were programmed to do. He spent the Second World War working on ultra top secret code-breaking at Bletchley Park, devising the Turing-Welchman Bombe, to automate part of the process of decrypting German codes. Postwar he joined the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) where he designed one of the first stored program computers, the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE).

Frustrated in his efforts to get ACE built at the NPL, Turing joined the University of Manchester, which had recently completed the world's first operational electronic stored program computer. At Manchester he became deputy director of the computing laboratory in 1949 and worked on early software development and mathematical biology. In 1950 he introduced the famous idea of the Turing Test to define a standard by which a machine could be deemed intelligent. A brilliant but sometimes eccentric character, Turing has become one of the best known of the pioneers of computing. However, there are no know recordings of Alan Turing, his voice is lost to history, but several of his contemporaries were interviewed for An Oral History of British Science and recall working with him at Manchester. 

Geoff Tootill was one of the small team of electronic engineers who built the first stored program computer, at Manchester in 1948. In the following clip Geoff describes his surprise at having to correct some errors in what may have been Alan Turing's first computer program:

Geoff Tootill on working with Alan Turing

Listen at Voices of Science.


Tony Brooker joined the University of Manchester in 1951 to take over the day-to-day running of the computer user service from Turing. In the following clip discusses what it was like working with Turing at Manchester in the early 1950s.


Tony Brooker on working with Alan Turing


Dai Edwards with the expanded Manchester 'Baby' computer, June 1949. Courtesy Express Newspapers.

As a research student Dai Edwards helped users to run the Manchester Mark 1 compute, in this clip he recalls setting the machine up for Alan Turing and building up a good working relationship. 

Dai Edwards recalls helping Turing use the Manchester Mark 1

Listen at Voices of Science.


Turing's stream of ideas was tragically cut short. In 1952, at a time when homosexual acts were illegal in Britain, Turing was convicted of having a sexual relationship with another man. As a result he lost his security clearance and was chemically castrated by hormone injections, whose side effects caused him even further discomfort. In 1954 he died, poisoned by a cyanide laced apple, in a probable case of suicide. However, perhaps as a result of his early death, aged just 41, Turing sometimes feels like he belongs to a more distant age than he does, but through the recollections of his former colleagues we can see him as his contemporaries did.