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SPEAKING CLOCK

 CALL THE TELEPHONES UK SPEAKING CLOCK SERVICE
WITH THE VOICE OF PAT SIMMONS ON 0871 789 3642

Telephones UK Speaking Clock Service

Telephones UK has its own popular Speaking Clock Service which features the authentic voice of Pat Simmons. Being radio controlled (synchronised with the main MSF atomic clock which broadcasts from Anthorn in Cumbria, UK), it is normally very accurate. It is a TIM2000 Speaking Clock project designed by Andy Emmerson.

The number to directly access the Speaking Clock is 0871 789 3642, if dialling from abroad the number is +44 871 789 3642. The cost of calling this number from a BT line is 10p per minute, maximum cost 15p. Other providers or mobile networks may charge more.

When dialled the clock will speak for 90 seconds, you can hang up before this time, but the line will be engaged until the 90 seconds has elapsed.

We do aim to provide a reliable service whenever possible, however we cannot guarantee that our speaking clock will always be 100% accurate.  If you wish ensure that you receive a guaranteed accurate time check we suggest that you dial the BT speaking clock on 123  (check your BT directory as the number may differ in your telephone area). Should you experience persistent problems, please contact us via our
feedback page. Our clock has no connection with the genuine BT Speaking Clock service nor with the THG.

During periods of high demand callers may receive either engaged tone or ringing tone when the speaking clock equipment is in use. If this occurs then please redial again, a little later.


THE HISTORY OF THE BT SPEAKING CLOCK

 

THE VOICES OF THE BT SPEAKING CLOCK - UPDATED FEBRUARY 2009

 

A London telephonist, Jane Cain, also known as Ethel Cain, became the first voice on 24 July 1936 and lasted until 1963.

She won a prize of 10 guineas (£10.50) in a competition to find the right voice. Miss Cain passed away in September 1998, aged 87. LISTEN

 

   

Miss Pat Simmons, a supervisor in a London telephone exchange became the second voice from 1963 until 1984.

Miss Simmons passed away in November 2005, aged 85. LISTEN

   

The third voice, belonged to Brian Cobby who was an assistant supervisor at Withdean exchange in Brighton. He became the first male voice at 11 am on 2nd April 1985 until 8 am on 2nd April 2007.

Brian Cobby, an actor by profession before he joined BT, was selected from 12 finalists in BT’s Golden Voice competition, on 5th December 1984. LISTEN

Brian Cobby was born on 12 October 1929 and died 31 October 2012.
   
The present voice, belongs to Sara Mendes da Costa (40) from Brighton & Hove. She became the fourth permanent voice of the BT Speaking Clock at 8 am on 2nd April 2007.

Sara won a competition BT ran during October and November 2006 to find a new voice from the public, which had almost 18,500 entrants, simultaneously raising more than £200,000 for BBC Children in Need. LISTEN   more..

 

   

 

  • The BT Speaking Clock has also been known as TIM (the three-letter code, that subscribers dialled in Director areas).
     

  • The BT Speaking Clock receives around 70 million calls a year.

  • The BT Speaking Clock has been ticking 24-hours a day, seven days a week since 24th July 1936 and is now 70 years old! The service was initially only available in the London directory area and was rolled out nationwide in 1942.
     

  • The Speaking Clock service was named Timeline during the 1990's.

  • Originally the accuracy of the BT Speaking Clock was one-tenth of a second, it is now correct to within five thousandths of a second!

  • There have only been four permanent voices for the BT Speaking Clock. There was also a two week period in March 2003 when Lenny Henry did a special version of the Speaking Clock in aid of Comic Relief and a week long stint by 12 year old Alicia Roland in October 2003.

Brian Cobby & Pat Simmons [Courtesy of Justin McKeown of Harrison Cowley]

Brian Cobby [Courtesy of Justin McKeown of Harrison Cowley]

Brian Cobby & Pat Simmons Brian Cobby
  • Before Brian Cobby worked for BT, he recorded the “5-4-3-2-1… Thunderbirds are go!” for the theme tune to Gerry Anderson’s TV series!  

  • Brian Cobby has received fan mail from ‘mature ladies’ who say they listen to him late at night when they can’t sleep!  

  • The longest distance call to the Speaking Clock is from a factory in Hong Kong, which makes handsets for the VideoPlus VCR programming system. The in-built clock is set to British time, courtesy of BT's Speaking Clock service. 

  • The timing of most television programmes is synchronised to the BT Speaking Clock as well, so when your local station goes over to ITN for the News at Ten, this is done "at the third stroke".  

  • The world’s most famous clock, Big Ben, checks its time with the BT Speaking Clock and many major organisations have permanent feeds of the clock from BT into their private internal phone systems so employees can check the time without making an outside call.

  • The 1936 Speaking Clock was an of array of motors, glass discs, photocells and valves and took up the floorspace of a small room! The current Speaking Clock, with a built-in crystal oscillator and microprocessor logic control, the complete apparatus is made of solid-state microchips and occupies no more shelf space than a small suitcase does – and has no moving parts at all.  

  • Describing the BT Speaking Clock as a National Institution is probably fair, since as a nation we seem to be remarkably keen on ringing up. Even in its first year, 1936, the service registered nearly 13 million calls and it was not a nationwide service then - that came six years later. Today we make around 100 million calls a year and that's a lot of watches being checked.

  • The original Speaking Clock message was recorded and replayed rather like the optical sound track of a film and the equipment represented the state of the art of current technology in those days. This lasted until 1963, when it was replaced by more modern recording technology, using a magnetic drum. It gave way to the present digital system in 1984 and this has no moving parts at all.

  • The unquestioned accuracy of the Speaking Clock has also led to the association of Accurist Watches, who since the end of March 1986 have sponsored the BT Speaking Clock announcements. With those 100 million calls a year, this may well be the most frequently heard advertising message of all time.  

  • But what did people do before the speaking clock was invented if they wanted a time check? Simple: they rang the operator and asked her the time by the exchange clock on the wall, but this was not precise to the second, nor could the exchange always answer just when the customer wanted. The first genuine speaking clock machine was introduced in the USA in 1927, coming to Paris in 1933, The Hague in 1934 and Switzerland in 1935. But automatic time service (of a Heath-Robinson kind) had been available to telephone users in San Francisco since the late 19th century; by listening to an observatory clock for at least a minute and decoding clicks and single and double buzzes against some detailed instructions you could set a pocket watch-but it helped if you already knew more or less what the time was! A proper speaking clock is far less trouble!


AT THE THIRD STROKE… LENNY GIVES THE SPEAKING CLOCK THE RED NOSE TREATMENT - March 2003
Lenny Henry Lenny Henry
  • Between 9 am on 10th March 2003 and 12 noon on 23rd March 2003 Lenny Henry became only the fourth person ever to be the voice of the BT Speaking Clock in its 67-year history. By calling 123 callers helped to raise around £200,000 for Comic Relief - and, of course, got the most accurate time available.

  • For two weeks Lenny took over from the current voice, Brian Cobby, and added his own special touch to the immortal lines: "At the third stroke, the time from Comic Relief will be ... precisely!"

  • Lenny Henry said, at the time: "I can hardly believe it, but those good people at BT are letting me be the voice of the Speaking Clock for two weeks to raise money for Comic Relief. That's right, me, Lenworth George Henry from Dudley in the West Midlands! The Speaking Clock is serious stuff - over 100 million calls were made to the Speaking Clock in 2001! - and the time is still going to be 'precisely' right, even when I'm doing the voice! It's a national institution, but you should hear what we've done to the pips!" 

  • Lenny's version of the Speaking Clock featured different character voices each day to raise the £200,000 for Comic Relief. 


SCHOOLGIRL TAKES OVER THE SPEAKING CLOCK - October 2003

Alicia Roland with Brian Cobby

  • At 1730 BST on 13 October 2003, the current voice of the Speaking Clock, Brian Cobby, was replaced with that of a Scottish schoolgirl for a week.
     

  • Alicia Roland, 12, from Renfrewshire, was able to utter the famous words "at the third stroke" after winning a competition to become the famous voice.
     

  • It was the first time that a Scottish accent and a child's voice have been used for BT's Speaking Clock and only the fifth time it has ever been changed.
     

  • The idea was part of the Big Listen, a week of activities which encouraged adults to listen to young people and raise money for ChildLine.


"AT THE THIRD STROKE..." THE SEARCH FOR A NEW VOICE FOR THE BT SPEAKING CLOCK BEGINS - RAISING VITAL FUNDS FOR BBC CHILDREN IN NEED - OCTOBER 2006

For the first time ever, BT is giving people across the UK the chance to take their place in history and become the new “permanent”* voice of the BT Speaking Clock – and all in aid of BBC Children in Need. A special competition phone line will be open from, Monday 23 October until midnight on Sunday 05 November 2006.

The BT Speaking Clock will have a new voice to help celebrate its 70th birthday, while aiming to raise significant funds for the charity. Established in 1936, the Speaking Clock has only ever had three “permanent” voices, so the lucky winner will take his or her place in British history.

The UK-wide competition is officially launched by BBC Children in Need and Brian Cobby (77), who has been the voice of the Speaking Clock for almost 21 years. Entry details can be found at bbc.co.uk/pudsey. The new “permanent” voice will officially go live on the BT Speaking Clock in the New Year.

Sir Terry Wogan says: “How would you like to be the most listened to voice in the UK? You can be the new BT Speaking Clock, and at the same time help BBC Children In Need. Just by calling 09067 533 533, answering a question about BBC Children in Need, and then recording your own unique version of the Speaking Clock message, you could be in with a chance of winning this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I’ll announce the winner on Children In Need's big night, Friday 17th November live on BBC ONE. Let’s be hearing from you!”

Calls to the competition number will cost no more than £1.50, with £1.10 going straight to BBC Children in Need. Callers must have the permission of whoever pays the phone bill. Every penny raised will help BBC Children in Need provide practical and lasting support to disadvantaged children and young people in the UK. These include youngsters who have experienced homelessness, neglect, abuse or poverty and encountered serious illnesses, disabilities, psychological disorders and addictions.

Sir Christopher Bland, chairman of BT, said: “The BT Speaking Clock is a national treasure. Even though we live in the Digital Age, more than 70 million calls are made each year to the BT Speaking Clock to get an accurate time check. We hope that this competition raises significant funds for BBC Children in Need and celebrates the Speaking Clock’s 70th birthday in style.”

BT has supported BBC Children in Need since the first televised Appeal in 1980 and handles more than 200,000 calls on the night of the appeal from more than 50 call centres.

 

THE FOURTH 'PERMANENT' VOICE OF THE BT SPEAKING CLOCK - NOVEMBER 2006

 

Sara Mendes da Costa, a telemarketer and part-time voiceover artist from Brighton has won the competition to become the fourth 'permanent' voice of the BT Speaking Clock.

Sara Mendes da Costa, 40, of Clarendon Road, Brighton, Sussex, a budding author was one 15 finalists who were shortlisted from the 18,405 people who entered the competition. The competition raised £20,000 for BBC Children in Need.

Ms Mendes da Costa has been working part-time as a voiceover artist and in telemarketing while she puts together her first novel. She said: "Wow! The Speaking Clock has been part of my life for so many years, its amazing to have been shortlisted. I only entered after my dad heard the competition on the radio and suggested I give it a go".

The judging panel included Sir Christopher Bland, chairman of BT, Nicola Loftus, general manager of Accurist, Brian Cobby, BBC presenters Natasha Kaplinsky and Alan Dedicoat (the voice of the lottery balls), as well as independent judge, Louise Crowley, who is a voice coach. Sir Christopher Bland said Ms Mendes da Costa's voice "had warmth and clarity and would be an excellent choice to succeed Brian Cobby".

A spokesperson for BT said the panel were looking for a voice with "clarity, character and one which is easily understandable". The shortlist also included Keith Gladman, 60, a coach driver from Torquay, David Battersby, 37, a stockbroker from Leeds, Emma Jesson, 37, a weather presenter on ITV Central TV from Edgbaston, Birmingham, Scott Crawford, 29, a DJ from Dundee, John Kinge, 29, a health and safety manager from Cwmbran, Torfaen and Tracy Cunningham, 34, a new mum from Glasgow.

 

TINKERBELL TEMPORARILY TAKES OVER THE BT SPEAKING CLOCK - OCTOBER 2008

The voice of the speaking clock is to be temporarily replaced with an actress in the role of Tinker Bell from Peter Pan. Callers who dial 123 for the BT Speaking Clock service will hear the new voice for three months  starting at 1.00 am GMT on Sunday 26 October 2008.

The change marks the end of British Summer Time and is part of a deal with Disney to promote a film of the 1904 JM Barrie play due out on 10 November. The deal will temporarily replace Sara Mendes da Costa with Mae Whitman who also plays Tinker Bell in the film.

 
NEW VOICES TAKE OVER THE BT SPEAKING CLOCK FOR COMIC RELIEF- FEBRUARY 2009

On 03/02/09 BT announced that the Speaking Clock will help fundraise for Comic Relief by using different celebrity voices each day between February 3 to March 23, 2009. Five of the Red Nose Day celebrities that are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro will share the time-keeping duties over the next two months. The fun starts at 08.00 on Tuesday 3 February. When callers dial 123 they will be given an accurate time check by celebrities, including: Girls Aloud’s Cheryl Cole and Kimberley Walsh, fellow popstar, Gary Barlow and presenters, Chris Moyles and Fearne Cotton. Each celebrity will replace the ‘pips’ with their own special Comic Relief sound, ranging from kisses, raspberries and piano chords in a bid to Do Something Funny for Money. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’ll be a special guest voice featuring in the run up to Red Nose Day on Friday 13 March but you’ll have to dial 123 to find out who it is.

BT is aiming to raise more than £300,000 for Comic Relief by donating 10 pence per call* that the BT Speaking Clock receives during this fundraising period. The only other previous Comic Relief voice on the Speaking Clock was Lenny Henry back in 2003, which helped to raise around £200,000. Gary Barlow, said: “BT is helping to make a massive difference to the lives of thousands of people across the UK and Africa. Call the BT Speaking Clock before March 23 and guess which famous voice will answer your call, it could even be me!

John Petter, consumer managing director, BT Retail, said: “We‘re delighted to support The BT Red Nose Climb with the BT Speaking Clock, which will help raise funds, as well as help vulnerable and disadvantaged people at home in the UK and in Africa. This builds on the vital support BT gives to Comic Relief’s telethons. The more people that dial 123, the more money Comic Relief will make. And we hope each of the celebrities will make callers smile, as well as giving an accurate time check.”

BT’s support of Red Nose Day  will be raising funds via a number of high profile activities, including sponsorship of the BT Red Nose Climb, a celebrity expedition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. BT will also be raising money with cause-related marketing initiatives in different business units such as BT Vision, BT Total Broadband, BT Business and the BT Shop, as well as a major employee fundraising programme. To find out more about how you can help BT raise money for Comic Relief visit www.bt.com/comicrelief. There is also the opportunity to win flights to Tanzania to meet the celebrities before they start their ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro, as part of the BT Red Nose Climb.

BT has supported Comic Relief since 1988 providing telephony, call centres, network management and thousands of volunteer hours, enabling the charity to take millions of pounds in pledges on Red Nose Day.  Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to call the BT donation line on the night. BT’s eDonate system will provide a secure online back-up for Comic Relief’s website. *If you call the Speaking Clock from a BT fixed line in the UK between the 2nd February and the 23rd March you will be helping BT to raise funds to support Comic Relief. BT will donate 10p to Comic Relief for every call made from a BT fixed line in the UK to the Speaking Clock during this period. Calls cost 30p from BT Residential lines.  Mobile and other providers’ costs may vary. Comic Relief, registered charity 326568 (England & Wales); SC039730 (Scotland).

Much of the information on the BT Speaking Clock was kindly provided by Justin McKeown of Grayling.com

 CALL THE TELEPHONES UK SPEAKING CLOCK SERVICE
WITH THE VOICE OF PAT SIMMONS ON 0871 789 3642

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