"resembling a gigantic Star Trek gadget"
But the Sonic Screw Driver is from Dr Who.
The Post Office Tower in London, adorned with microwave dishes and resembling a gigantic Star Trek gadget, symbolised the UK's white heat for technology in the 1960s. The tower in 2009 before the dishes were removed (Credit: David Castor) In an era of transistor radios as a fashion accessory, the space race, and the …
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The then brand-new Post Office Tower (as I will always call it) starred in the Doctor Who story, The War Machines - where it hosted an evil supercomputer. Hold on... Joe wasn't allowed into some parts of the building.
I bloody love that tower. For something quite so big it does hide itself quite well at street level, you only get the occasional glimpse until you're really quite close and then it is towering over you.
it's really interesting to find out a bit about something as iconic as the BT tower. Just one thought though... the £3.28 admission fee would be nearer £50 these days if you add inflation into the mix.
Suddenly the shard doesn't look quite as expensive...
4/- (£3.28) feels right - we went up the Tower not long after it opened. As a schoolboy on our radio club's annual coach visit to London for the RSGB Exhibition - that would have felt affordable for a special treat. My weekly pocket money then was 1/- (5p). The Tube fares were still only old coppers to shuttle between the war surplus junk shops in Tottenham Court Road, Praed Street, and Edgware Road. In Proops I bought a short length of that new magic material - fibre optic cable.
When walking along Greek Street and Lisle Street the older members of the club formed an outrider escort to shield the teenagers from the strip club touts and the ladies standing in doorways .
A trip up Monument costs something like £3:50 at the moment, and gives a fantastic view out over London. Unfortunately there are no high speed lifts to wisk you to the top, it's 311 steps!
I believe you can visit the Bar at the top of Tower 42 (the Natwest tower) for the price of a drink, thus the pint glass icon.
A fair few of London's tall buildings are clustered together but the best views can be had from the isolated ones.
I was fortunate enough to go up Queens Tower at Imperial College (all the way to the roof unofficially) and the views were amazing. Both should be preserved as iconic in their own way.
Despite being scared of heights I've been on top of Millbank Tower, BBC East Tower (next to TVC), Barbican Tower, Swiss RE (Gherkin) and The Shard (*cough* didn't pay *cough*). But I've never made it all the way up BT Tower despite having visited the broadcast facilities more times than I dare to count.
The Shard is very impressive, more so for looking down than for looking across.
BBC East Tower was (at the time) more isolated than most and intriguing to see the vista.
The Gherkin might be architecturally special but the view is modest in the context of the surroundings.
Millbank Tower is most interesting for its neighbours
Barbican: the roof layout doesn't help those of us who are scared of heights.
Not that I watch it (I kinda do... sssssshhhh! :D ) but I remember a year or two ago, a broadcast of X Factor was delayed by around 20-40 mins because the power to BT Tower's was knocked out.
In fact... http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/14/bt_xfactor_outage/
I hope they upgraded the power coverage since.
When the Shard was still under construction in (I think) December 2011 the combination of incomplete top, the horizontal anchoring of the construction crane and lots of Christmas lights, plus lager made it look surprisingly like a dalek.
Is it deliberately designed as a pyramid to match the hospital next door which is obviously a camel?
"Wing said all signals are always sent via two geographically diverse paths to customers"
Are they still touting that old bullshit.
They've been selling this for years and occasionally still come a cropper when some tit on the underground cuts through a bearer cable, then all those supposed 'diverse routes' suddenly seem to go down at once - odd that.
I also remember when the 'special' tower video facilities switch decided to go haywire and 20% of the routes remapped themselves randomly, all sorts of chaos ensued and they took an absolute age to 'reboot' the control systems. I think it happened more than once in my 5 years using them.
The BBC used a lot of GPO technology and was built on those 'christmas tree' terminations; they were there in Broadcasting House until it was rebuilt and the old control room went away; they were there in Bush House when it closed; and I recall wiring to them in Cardiff in 2010.
These days it's all Krone IDC blocks - klunk and you're done, no worries about hot work permits and unearthed soldering irons!
/me suddenly remembers, er, he is a grandfather...
I was impressed when I first saw BT tower from the streets of London. I have seen many comms towers in the US, but nothing as practical looking as this multi-use structure. I'm surprised we don't see more comms equipment on large buildings in the US. There are some, but I feel there is a missed opportunity for some architectural aesthetic value. I think BT tower would fit in with any of our major cities.
There are a few examples, some of which are pretty well disguised. Two examples from Minneapolis, MN that come to mind are the old NW Bell/US West/Qwest/Centurylink building:
The Capella Tower (nee US Bank building) also comes to mind (the "halo" is primarily used to support antennae)
As of April 2012 the BT Tower is also a major transmitter for five of the UK's DAB muxes.
BBC National DAB 12B at 800W
D1 National 11D at 800W
London 1 12C at 800W
London 2 12A at 710W
London 3 11B at 800W
great article. many moons ago I used to work "next door" in CenterPoint and from my (sometimes alarmingly swaying) window I looked out onto the Tower and wondered what mysterious things happened there.
I did go to Black Mountain in Aus (another revolving restaurant on a telecom tower) as well as CenterPoint in Sydney, Sky Tower in Auckland and the Space Needle in Seattle so I've had my fill of revolving dinners ;)
There was revolving restaurant in Cape Town in 1973. It was not very high and the rotation not very smooth. The locals' dining technique was to pile up all three courses from the buffet on the first visit. Anyone approaching it sequentially found very little left for 'seconds' or dessert. The best view in town was of course from the top of Table Mountain - if it wasn't cloudy. The cafe at the peak served a decent toasted cheese sandwich.
A memorable "high" dinner was in Stockholm. A gantry perched on top of a cliff overlooking the main harbour. The entertainment was the bird's-eye view of a Finland ferry docking. The first few passengers
staggering walking down the short gangway collapsed before they reached the quay. They weren't called "booze cruises" for nothing.
London has been abused; it's skyline a momumental hodge podge of buildings of many heights. London is no longer remarkable, it is simply a copy of so many other world cities.
Paris has restricted the unfettered littering of the skyline, restricting highrises to well defined areas.
Most of Paris's high-rise buildings are located in three distinct areas, which are: La Défense, located in the western inner suburbs in the département of the Hauts-de-Seine; Italie 13, located in the southern half of the 13th arrondissement; Front de Seine, located in the 15th arrondissement.
London? Just wanton desecration, pure sacrilege.
I know you wrote "most of", but the second tallest tower is Montparnasse in the 14th, and the first is Eiffel in the 7th arrondissement. The latter also bears a lot of radio gear, including Paris' telly transmitters. I'm not aware of it having any underground war rooms or similar, though.
we had a Charles and it was Blue and black bloody good worker he was too! they don't make them like him anymore!
well they are probably the same but when Charles was committed to silicon heaven it was like a death in the family, he is probably frolicking with all the calculators!
I remember talking to the boss in reception one day when the elderly, and possibly insane caretaker walked out the front door with henry and an extension lead. When quizzed he reponded he had spilt some petrol in the van and was cleaning it up. We both nodded, the required 10 seconds resumption of our conversation followed by silence and then 'he said what!?' and a mad dash into the car park to find it raining bits of Henry.
... had a main floor with fixed glass windows but there was another visitor floor just below which had open windows with just a wire grid to stop you jumping off or something. Speculation was rife about just how high one of those silicon rubber bouncy balls would bounce if dropped. I had just enough sense of responsibility to refrain from experimenting.
The BBC regularly repeat the Rank Organisation's cinema 1960s documentaries "Britain on Film". One episode - possibly "The Joy of Tech" - included the newly finished rotating restaurant and its views. They also showed the window cleaners standing in the cradle at a fixed spot - and the windows came to them.
I had a similar visit up one of the regional towers in the 70's, little did I then suspect that the petrol station in front of the regional tower was (allegedly, but seriously!) a soviet IED sleeper-cell. nice map of the Defense aspects of the BT towers at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b7/GPO_Backbone_map.jpg
A very long time ago I placed the contract to install those big generators in the basement (someone else ordered the huge battery banks need whilst the gensets were running up).
They weren't just for strikes or war emergency - a large proportion of London's phone and TV went through the tower.
During the Royal Wedding (Diana) transmission, some idiot in a JCB put the bucket straight through the main power feed to the tower. Nobody watching noticed. Job well done.
Iconic, thanks to other posters brings back memories. I was also lucky to have a visit up the tower with my to be wife in late 70's. It was quite a wow thing we had lived in london some time and always seeing it on the horizon. Our trip with thanks to my first work boss at time, I had been abroad and not able to make the works do so he fixed this! Thanks Barry - we loved it though I never gave you the bill!.
I mean sure, microwave links become a niche, though I'm surprised they actually removed all those dishes, just giving those spaces to radio hams and Freifunk enthusiasts would put it into good use.
However it's current use to the BT is completely independent of its shape. It's a building, it got sensible amounts of fibre to it, it has a generator so they use it for backend broadcast systems. Of course it's a serious decision, but would it have been an office building with the same infrastructure, they would have taken that one.
So yes it's a relic even though they still get some use out of it.
Does anyone know what the VHF/UHF dipoles on the lattice mast right at the very top of the tower are for and if they are still active?
One looks like an old army MOULD antenna; the others UHF high band - maybe PMR?
Always wondered what they were for and if they were a legacy from the cold war; they would have seriously good coverage.
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