SMs Christmas Competition (2007 revised edition)

The answers to the alternative broadcasting heritage quiz

Questions 1 to 5 Picture Question A
Questions 6 to 10 Picture Question B
Questions 11 to 15 Picture Question C
Questions 16 to 20 Picture Question D

Picture question A

Who are these people, as seen 28 years ago, and why have they got together?


They are one third of the catchily-named SMs P79/1 course.

Go to   for hours of endless fun.

L to R - Bob Nettles, Damon Speller, Paul Newis (of RPR Management), Eva Skorski, Helen Clayphan, Simon Calder, Paul Seaman and Iris Porter.

Some of their contemporaries who are still around are Cathy Packe, Mick Wilkojc, Fred Kay, Sue Thomas and Mary Fitzsimons (Mary Webster).

question 1

What does M and S mean to an SM?

Many people use M and S to mean Mono and Stereo, but this is wrong.

M is the SUM signal of the two stereo legs (A+B) and S is the DIFFERENCE signal (A-B).

What do the initials actually stand for?

M and S originally meant Middle and Side,

You can achieve the same effect today by putting up a cardioid mic for the M and a figure-of-eight mic for the S.

Give an alternative explanation for these initials.

The M and S technique was pioneered in Germany, where the letters stood for Mitte and Seite.

No marks for Marks and Spencers



question 2

Until Carol Vorderman came on the scene, the most seen person on the TV was Carol Hersee, the girl on the test card.

What is the function of the cross on the blackboard ?

It shows the centre of the testcard.


Trick Question: Is Carol left-handed or right-handed?

Carol is right-handed, and is holding the chalk in her right hand. However there was a persistent urban myth among testcard connoisseurs that she was in fact left-handed, and that the image had been reversed. In the early 90s her father wrote to Ariel to confirm that Carol was and still is right-handed, and that the image had been reversed not once but twice.   Bizarrely a recent book on the scientific basis for symmetry has got it wrong again ("Right Hand, Left Hand - The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies Atoms and Cultures"   Chris McManus - Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2002)

More fascinating insights into the wonderful world of testcards can be found at

       All you ever wanted to know about testcards

the website for - how shall we say - enthusiasts,

and you can download your copy of Test Card F from

       the Test Card Fetishists Site

to begin your very own Test Card collection.



question 3

Which came first?

  • Stereo recording 1931 -  Bell Telephone Labs

  • The theory of Frequency Modulation    1933 Edwin Armstrong

  • LP records    1948 CBS Records


    question 4

    Which came first?

  • Desert Island Discs    Jan 1942

  • The Third Programme    Sept 1946

    The first BBC foreign language section   Jan 1938 - ARABIC


    question 5

    The BBC coat of arms was granted by the Royal College of Arms in 1927.

    It features three colours - blue, red and green.

    What do these colours symbolise?

    The three national regions apart from England.

    Scotland - Blue

    Wales - Red

    Northern Ireland - Green

    What do the seven squiggly stars on the shield symbolise?


    The seven "other" planets of the solar system.

    Pluto hadn't been discovered when the heraldic crest was designed,  and it is only fitting that the IAU demoted Pluto to the class of planetoid in 2006.


    Picture question B

    Who are these scary people with beards, as seen more than a quarter of a century ago?

    B 1 Brian Perkins


    B 2 Peter Donaldson


    B 3 Bill Frindall,  the bearded wonder of Test Match Special


    B 4 Roger (Mad Rog) Currell of PM and the early Drive


    B 5 Tim Maby of PM


  • Jump back to the top

    question 6

    How many outside sources did 1A have?

    26 - 24 stereo OSs, 2 ISDNs (X and Y) and 6 TCBUs which doubled with OSs 1 to 6.


    How many outside sources did the first S5 have?

    14 - 8 stereo OSs, 2 ISDNs and 4 TCBUs.


    Can this be said to be an improvement?

    Many people have made observations on the professional nature of our studios in TVC.

  • I couldn't possibly comment

  • question 7

    Who were the four Goons?

    Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine.

    question 8

    Who shot J R ? Kristen

    question 9

    When was the first election-results Broadcast?

    2nd November 1920 on KDKA Pittsburgh, i.e. more than two years before the founding of the BBC. It was the returns on the Harding - Cox presidential election.

    Harding won. His presidency is mainly remembered for its incompetence, corruption and scandal.   Couldn't possibly happen nowadays

    question 10

    What is the speed of a cassette in miles per hour?

    0.10635 mph or about a tenth of a mile per hour.

    Picture question C

    C 1 Neumann U 87 - Newsbeat

    They think it looks cool.

    C 2 AKG D 202

    The Prime Minister at the dispatch box  (nowadays D242  - smaller).

    C 3 STC 4038 (also Coles 4038)

    Bush House. Figure-of-eight.  Lovely mic.  Wish I had one.

    C 4 AXBT

    Because it looks old, it is used as a prop e.g. Whispering Grass on Top of the Pops.

    They are very valuable nowadays.

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    question 11

    Name all the Doctor Whos.

    Doctor Who?

    There have been a shitload of Doctors  (ten official ones to date):

    William Hartnell 63 - 66

    Patrick Troughton 66 - 69

    Jon Pertwee 69 - 73

    Tom Baker 74 - 81

    Peter Davison 81 - 84

    Colin Baker 84 - 86

    Sylvester McCoy 87 - 89

    Paul McGann 96

    Christopher Eccleston     2005

    David Tennant   2005 to present


    Many people also forget Peter Cushing, who played the Doctor in two feature films:

    Dr Who and the Daleks (1965) and
    Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150AD (1966),

    and also in a West-End live show with actual stage Daleks.


    Sean Bean was to have been the Doctor in a Hollywood movie that never got out of development hell..

    Doctor Who cognoscenti point out that there were a lot more Doctor Whos in various Comic Relief and TV spoofs..

    Richard E. Grant,  Rowan Atkinson,  Michael Jayston,  Hugh Grant,  Joanna Lumley,  Mark Gatiss  etc.   Personally I think Dawn French should be the next Doctor.   

    She was apparently shortlisted for it several years ago.  (true)



    question 12

    Which came first?

    a. Play School 21 April 1964

    b. WatO 4 October 1965

    c. Top of the Pops 1 Jan 1964


    question 13

    How old are the pips? 83 years old  (5 Feb 1924)

    Where did they come from? Greenwich:  The pips were originally controlled by two mechanical clocks located in the Royal Greenwich Observatory that had electrical contacts attached to the pendulums.  In 1957, the Royal Observatory moved to Herstmonceux Castle - the Greenwich Time Signal equipment followed several years later.

    Where do they come from now? On 5th February 1990, the 66th anniversary of the first pips, Herstmonceux was replaced by equipment in London Control Room BH. - in fact in a small frame room down the corridor.  Bonus points if you knew about the fact that they are actually sent antiphase,  so that there is initially a continuous stream of tone,  interrupted every quarter of an hour by five short gaps and one long gap. The idea was that an alarm would sound if the stream got interrupted for longer than a few seconds,  showing that GTS had failed.   There are lots of stories about SMs putting GTS on two different faders,  and alternating the pips for fun.  (Which one did you miss?    er..  one of the ones  in the middle..)

    When a leap second occurs, it is indicated by a seventh pip. In this case the first pip occurs at 23:59:55 (as usual) and there is a sixth short pip at 23:59:60 (the leap second) followed by the long pip at 00:00:00. The leap second is also the explanation for the final pip being longer than the others. This is so that it is always clear which pip is on the hour, especially where there is an extra pip that some people might not be expecting. Prior to the conception of leap seconds, the final pip was the same length as the others.

    More fascinating facts at:


    question 14

    Which came first?

    a. Newsbeat 10 Sept 1973

    b. Broadcasting of Parliament 9 June 1975

    c. The Wombles 5 Feb 1973


    question 15

    The BBC started the first high-definition TV service on the 2nd November 1936.

    When was the first repeat of a TV programme?

    The next day.

    The first broadcast used the Baird mechanical 30-line TV system, and was repeated using the Marconi / EMI electronic system.


    Picture question D

    Three Parts:

    Who are these people, and what do they do now?

    D 1 Harriet Cass - Radio 4 newsreader

    D 2

    Richard Anthony Baker - Obituarist (presenter of Brief Lives before Dotun Adebayo,  former Radio 3 Announcer,  and author of "British Music Hall - an Illustrated History"   We used to make "Brief Lives" in S2 using Sadie

    D 3 Bob Sinkinson - Retired (now freelance) reporter

    Jump back to the top


    question 16

    Simon Mayo took over the Afternoon show on Five Live.

    In an interview at the time he said ALL of these things:

    a. "I don't want to be the new presenter of an existing programme" TRUE

    b. "I'm not a journalist" TRUE

    c. "I find politics exciting" TRUE

     (Daily Telegraph 30 Nov 2000 interview with Gillian Reynolds)


    question 17

    What does XLR stand for, and why are they also called Cannon connectors?

    This question is highly controversial, and there are a number of competing explanations, each with an increasing anorak factor.

    The most convincing is that the pin assignments are

    eXternal (pin 1), i.e. earth and shield
    Live or Line (pin 2) and
    eturn (pin 3).

    Some people have suggested Left and Right for L and R, which is definitely wrong.

    I once met a well-known film recordist who was convinced that they were invented by a bloke called Xavier La Rocca.

    The Cannon Company was the original manufacturer.
    For some reason Americans call them Canons.
    Mind you, they call phono plugs RCAs,  because they were made by the Radio Corporation of America.

    What does BNC stand for, and why are the cables female at both ends?

    BNC connectors are even more controversial.

    They are small coaxial connectors with a half-twist (bayonet) locking shell.

    Depending on the source, BNC stands for:

    British Naval Connector,
    Barrel Nut Connector,
    Bayonet Nut Coupling, or
    Bayonet-Neill-Concelman after inventers Paul Neill and Carl Concelman.

    If you accept the premise that the cable ends are in fact female, and that the plug ends on the back of a TV monitor are male, the F-F convention stops the video being split without being terminated.

    Told you it was boring.


    question 18

    When was the patent filed that contained this definition for a tape-recording medium:

    "a strip of insulating material covered with a magnetisable dust"

    Was it

    a. 1898 Yes (believe it or not) The patent holder was Valdemar Poulsen from Denmark

    b. 1918

    c. 1928

    d. 1938


    question 19

    What were NBC Red and NBC Blue, what did they become and why?

    NBC, the National Broadcasting Company, established the first US radio network of 14 stations in 1926, although previously there had been loose associations of independent stations.
    NBC was a collaborative venture between RCA, Westinghouse and GE.
    The AT&T station WEAF New York originated most of the programming.
    Its name was changed to WNBC.

    This was the original NBC Red network, so-called because of the coloured pencil lines on AT&Ts long-distance distribution maps.

    The Blue Network was a group of stations acquired in 1927 centred on WJZ New York.
    In the 30s NBC expanded across the whole USA.
    Rival network the Columbia Broadcasting System began in 1927.

    In 1943 NBC was forced by anti-trust law to sell the Blue network, which later became ABC - the American Broadcasting Company.

    NBC sold all its interests in radio in 1986.
    The radio network which currently calls itself NBC is nothing whatever to do with NBC television.


    question 20

    Where was Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" first heard and when?

    The live broadcast of the "War of the Worlds" by the Mercury Theatre on the Air was heard on the Columbia Broadcasting System (later CBS) at 8pm on the night of Sunday 30th October 1938, just days after the Nazis had marched into Czechoslovakia.

    War was coming, and public reaction to the play was shock and occasionally notable panic - perhaps surprising because the whole timeframe of the action from the launch of the missiles from Mars to the destruction of New York was only half an hour.

    Orson Welles later apologised for his "Hallowe'en prank" and moved his Mercury company to Hollywood to make Citizen Kane.

    [Complete recording from original 78s available from me on one of our many popular formats]



    Who is this man and what might he be saying?

    He is Sir Christopher Bland, the former part-time Chairman of the BBC,  who declared that there was in fact no conflict of interest with his business involvement with BT.


    He is of course telling us how everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds Voltaire
    and that its all completely marvellous Hartree.    He departed in 2001.

    Various other entertaining suggestions were made.
    See me in private for details.

    Jump back to the top

    As always, the umpire's decision is final, even when he's wrong.

    And the winner is:

  • to be announced

    Many thanks to all who entered.