Created We 1-Mar-17
Revised Su 1-Oct-23
BBC 2 came along in April 1964, broadcasting in higher definition (625 lines instead of 405) and on UHF. It was a new system that BBC 1 and ITV would also later adopt, but for now viewers had to fork out for a new dual-standard TV set to watch all three channels.
In 1972, BBC 1 had a spinning globe ident, with a horizontal dividing line. The station logo and the word "COLOUR" appeared in Roman italics underneath. Everything was light blue on a black background. For BBC 2 a similar mechanical model was made, based on the channel's first spinning "2" ident. The model could be made to rotate as many times as required during announcements. And BBC 2 went one better than the main network - its ident could be displayed with three colours instead of two.
In the mid-Seventies, the word "COLOUR" was dropped from the idents of both BBC networks. On BBC 2, the rotating cube was replaced with an upright cylinder sliced horizontally. The magic happened when the slices with white stripes on rotated one way and the slices with the light blue stripes rotated the other, splitting up the "2" and reforming it again. The colours from the previous ident were kept and as before there was a seldom-seen variant with a black background.
In June 1979 a new, electronic BBC 2 ident took to the air. Designed by Oliver Elmes, this was played out from a solid-state device. The animation was created by the BBC Computer Graphic Workshop. The first sequence showed the symbol being drawn onto the screen from left to right. The second showed it disappearing in a similar manner. Both sequences lasted four seconds and the first one shown after a closedown would initially have been accompanied by a jingle.
BBC 2's first clock had roman numerals on the dial. The Flash version of this was shown at the National Film Theatre (now BFI Southbank) in London when it held a Play School event, with former presenters, to celebrate 40 years of BBC 2. There was also a version of this clock with a grey background.
When BBC 2 started broadcasting some of its programmes in colour, in July 1967, they continued to use the black and white clock above, to which colour was added using a 'synthesiser'. The official launch of colour came in December and with it came a new symbol - a 2 with a dot in it. The clock was updated accordingly.
The clock was also used to introduce Service Information, a programme not listed in the schedules, which gave out transmitter information to the television trade. A different colour scheme was used from the main clock.
This was the BBC 1 clock used from the launch of the channel's new colour service in November 1969. It was reportedly the work of senior designer Alan Jeapes, who used hour markers of increasing thickness. As with the BBC 2 clock, this was shot using a black and white camera. Colour was then added to the picture. This clock face would continue to be used for over a decade.
The new BBC 1 clock design was also adopted by BBC 2. But here, as with the station's ident, the BBC logo was absent.
By 1971, the BBC 1 clock had been modified with the new BBC corporate logo, which now had rounded corners.
By 1972, the BBC network clocks had been modified again. The "COLOUR" label changed from a sans-serif font to a Roman font and was now in italics. "BBC COLOUR" in this style would now also appear at the end of the credits for most BBC productions.
On February 7th 1974, Blue Peter was introduced with a clock that had the word "COLOUR" missing, and the announcer told viewers, "today's programme is in black and white." Black and white programmes from the same era could also be introduced with a similarly labelled BBC 1 globe. (Wikipedia notes the first colour edition of Blue Peter aired on September 14th 1970, but the programme was still being shown in black and white as late as June 24th 1974.)
The BBC 2 clock from 1972, with the corporate identity on display again. There was now a blue background to help distinguish the clock from that seen on BBC 1.
A third colour was added to the BBC 2 clock to match the station's ident - showing the BBC logo, lettering and line in white. At some point, the horizontal dividing line was dropped from the clock and, at the end of 1974, it was removed from the idents of both channels, too.
The clock design seen in the 1970s on BBC 1 and BBC 2 was also used to introduce Service Information. As well as the green-on-purple variant seen here, many other ghastly colour schemes were experimented with such as purple on green, green on white, pink on light blue, light blue on pink, yellow on brown, brown on yellow and green on red.
After Christmas 1974, a new design for the BBC 1 globe appeared. Three colours were now used and the channel name was now larger and used the Futura Bold typeface. The new lettering and colour scheme were also applied to the clock. Then, at some point in 1975, the second hand was replaced with a shorter one, so that it no longer extended through the other side of the ring in the middle.
Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each had their own globes and clocks based on the three-colour BBC 1 network models. This is the clock used by BBC Cymru Wales.
The BBC 1 South clock looks the same as the network clock at first glance, but on closer inspection, the clock face is slightly smaller, as is the ring in the middle and the hour hand appears slimmer too.
When BBC 2's new stripy cylinder ident launched after Christmas 1974, a new square clock design came with it. The ident and clock were about the same height and width, allowing for a pleasing transition between the two images.
In 1979 a new BBC 2 ident took to the air, the first to be played out from a solid-state device. The new clock, though, remained a mechanical model with a camera pointing at it, for now.
Around autumn 1980, BBC 2's mechanical clock was replaced by a box of electronics, designed in house by Richard Russell. This allowed the network symbol underneath the clock to be properly shaded. Similar hardware was rolled out to BBC 1 the following year.
It wasn't until 1981 that BBC 1 finally adopted the twin-stripe design first used on its programme slides and Christmas idents in the previous decade. The stripy lettering also brought back some consistency across the BBC's two channels. A new globe meant a change from yellow to lime green. And the clock also got some new hands.
This is BBC 1's first virtual clock, which appeared in late 1981. The mechanical version of this stripy clock had lasted only a few months before this electronically-generated version took over.
This is BBC 1's second virtual clock, introduced in February 1985 to accompany the new virtual, golden globe symbol, known inside the BBC as COW (Computer-Originated World) or OWL (Open World Logo).
After the introduction of colour, many programmes were still shown in black and white, including all schools programming. So there was a second BBC 1 clock, seen here, without the "COLOUR" label on it.
The BBC 1 network clock changed at the end of 1974 with the channel name now in white. But around schools programming the lettering was yellow, which is also as it appeared on the schools diamond symbol that lead in to each programme. This was probably because the diamond model was only designed to support two colours. (It was first introduced when the globe and clock still used blue on a black background.)
In September 1981, the BBC 1 clock, globe and schools countdown switched to using twin-stripe characters, and the yellow parts changed to green. By 1982 there was an electronically generated version where the white dots turned black as the seconds ticked by. This was last shown on Friday, June 24th, 1983 - the final day of schools programmes on BBC 1.
On Monday, September 19th, 1983 schools programmes moved to BBC 2. They were billed under the heading Daytime on Two and instead of a countdown, a daytime version of the BBC 2 symbol appeared ten seconds before each programme. With no Schools, BBC 1 closed down after Breakfast Time and started up again for Play School, which had also switched sides. It would be some years before BBC 1 would get its own Daytime schedule.
From the Seventies, a sight that would have been familiar to insomniacs. This ident signified that it was either very late at night or very early in the morning and you were about to see a programme from The Open University. You can also click a link to remove the colour, which will reveal how a rotating disc and vertical blinds produced the animated symbol. The fanfare is the first five bars of Divertimento for Three Trumpets and Three Trombones composed by Leonard Salzedo, published in 1959.
This was the clock that was used at the beginning of the Open University slot and would be seen before the ident above. Both are mechanical models and the colours would have matched, unlike here where the yellow is much darker. Clicking or tapping on the clock will add and remove a "Follows shortly" caption.
This is the first electronically-generated version of The Open University clock. This was later replaced when programmes spread to BBC 1 and the clocks then took on the colour scheme of the channel broadcasting them. The BBC 2 version is shown here. Again, clicking or tapping on these clocks will add and remove a "Follows shortly" caption.
Test Card G NEW!
In the early 1970s, the BBC began using an electronically generated test card, known as Test Card G, based on a design by Philips. This is how it looked on BBC 2.
As well as the standard test cards with grey squares and/or coloured bars, there were a couple of other test cards used by the BBC. The first is a pulse and bar pattern, which included a burst of lilac. The two vertical lines on the right-hand side show that the card was transmitted from Cardiff. Different arrangements meant sixteen different regions could be identified in this way. The second pattern is called a multi-burst and features frequency gratings.