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Britain’s speaking clock turns 75

Stephen Beard Jul 25, 2011
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Stacey Vankek-Smith:
Britain’s ‘speaking clock’ is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Why do the Brits still rely on something so antiquated?

From London, Marketplace’s Stephen Beard explains.


Stephen Beard: The Speaking Clock has been telling the Brits the time for 75 years — 12 hours, 50 minutes and 45 seconds precisely. And it’s still going strong. It still gets 30 million calls a year, earning the phone company BT some $16 million. A bit of a mystery…when you can check the precise time for free on your cellphone or computer. But BT’s Sian Wynn-Jones says many Brits still have more faith in the “Speaking Clock.”

Sian Wynn-Jones: It is the single point of accurate time in the UK. It’s accurate to 5,000th of a second. It’s so accurate that even Big Ben is synchronized by the Speaking Clock.

Beard: Brits use it most on New Years Eve. But the need for accuracy may not be the only reason people call the Speaking Clock. The man whose voice delivered the time for 22 years used to get fan mail. Some people called the service late night just to hear his calm, reassuring tones.

In London, I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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