Britain’s famous Speaking Clock celebrates its 75th birthday on July 24, 2011.
Now a national institution and part of Britain’s heritage, the Speaking Clock was the first of the pre-recorded information services in the UK, provided through telephones.
Created for people who wanted to know the time and did not have a watch or clock to hand, the clock was initially only available in the London directory area, with the first British Speaking Clock introduced on July 24, 1936.
In order to access the service, subscribers would dial the first three letters of the word ‘time’ as dials at the time included letters as well as numbers to aid automatic calls. Dialling T. I. M. led to its common name ‘TIM’. The service went national six years later.
Today, around 30 million calls every year are made to the service, now officially called “Timeline”. People dial 123 in the UK to hear the modern service.
The ‘voice’ of the BT Speaking Clock is as famous as the facility itself, with only four permanent voices ever used. Although there have been other voices used for charity events.
Originally the accuracy of the BT Speaking Clock was one-tenth of a second, but it is now accurate to within five thousandths of a second.
• The UK Speaking Clock was the first in the world.
• Big Ben checks its time with the Speaking Clock
• The Speaking Clock is accurate to within five thousandths of a second
• In its first year the service registered nearly 13 million calls
• Initially only available in the London and went nationwide in 1942
• The Speaking Clock is also known as TIM and Timeline
• Accurist was the sponsor from 1986 for 22 years
First voice – Jane Cain 1936 – 1963
Second voice – Pat Simmons – 1963 – 1985
Third voice – Brian Cobby – 1985 – 2007 – also the voice of “5-4-3-2-1 Thunderbirds are go!”
Fourth voice – Sara Mendes da Costa – 2007 to present
Lenny Henry – Comic Relief 2003
Alicia Roland – ChildLine 2003.
Mae Whitman – Tinker Bell 2008
UK celebrities for Comic Relief 2009 – Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole, Chris Moyles, Kimberley Walsh and Fearne Cotton