Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Why I love the BBC

(1) the Creative Archive: pilot to start next year. This article discusses lots of cool aspects of the project, including:
- P2P distribution, "so that the public become not just their creative partners, but distribution partners too"
- metatagging of content, with layering of metadata "so that content will be searchable in many different ways"
- Creative Commons licences for the material
- Unfortunately, it looks like content is not supposed to be distributed out of the UK :-( but I'm sure there'll be ways to get access to it nevertheless
- no DRM scheme will be put on the material
etc.

(2) this Welsh-English word-by-word translation interface, called Vocab/Geirfa: mouse over Welsh words to see the English translation [via PaidContent.org]. Apparently, the program is being offered as open source code to Welsh-language sites, and it was designed to be used to translate words between any language. Oddly enough, not all words are highlighted and therefore translated: I wonder why words like sbon and gyfer receive short shrift compared to ones like Tacteg and llwyfan. Looking at a Welsh-English lexicon, it seems that:

sbon is an adverb used in expressions such as newydd sbon 'brand new/span new', and doesn't have an independent meaning.
gyfer, ddrama, cefnogwch are inflected forms - so the dictionary is basically looking up base forms, and can't handle such forms yet, it appears.
gyda "is used predominantly in South Wales", and the standard form (or so it seems) is cyda.

And of course proper names don't get a translation. Some kinks, but this is cool stuff.

I remember listening to the BBC when I was a kid, usually in the car. We'd hear the announcer saying in his RP accents (that was before they began diversifying to regional accents), "This is the World Service of the BBC, broadcasting from Bush House, London" and then the start of Lilliburlero [recording, lyrics], then the beeps to the hour. Sometimes, we'd get the Chimes of Big Ben and then "This is London" and the news. It always gave me a thrill. But nowadays they don't seem to use Lilliburlero anymore, and anyway I listen to all my BBC on the net. Radio 4 for intelligent programmes on current affairs, history, etc., BBC 7 for comedy (especially old episodes of Just a Minute) and Radio 3 for music.

We get the BBC especially strongly here (88.9 FM) because we have a shortwave retransmitter tucked in the backwoods somewhere. I went there once as part of a car rally. We were supposed to count the number of transmitting towers they had but they were hidden by the trees, so we just asked the watchman who promptly told us the answer. He knew it off the top of his head because another car had already come by and asked him the same question.

During the First Gulf War, my mum bought a little handheld receiver so we could get immediate news about all the developments in Kuwait - especially important to us because she worked in a Kuwait-based bank at the time. I remember going to her office after school and playing there and listening to the radio.

And then we'd listen to the Brain of Britain quiz and try to guess the answers (never got more than 5 in an episode), or enjoy the cleverness of the contestants on Just a Minute, and I remember scrounging around for tapes to record the science programmes (I've forgotten their names now.) Gosh, I can't wait to get my hands on the stuff in the Creative Archive. One of the first things I'd probably look for would be the broadcast by Michael Ventris of his decipherment of Linear B. If it still exists. I hope it still exists.

Other links:
Here's a nostalgic look back at 5o years of the history of the BBC World Service.
Wikipedia article on the BBC World Service

Update: I heard "Lilliburlero" today on the World Service, so it's still in use (I hadn't heard it for a long time before that). They have a new "modern" recording of it that sounds very nice. I think I might try to listen for a while to the Internet stream on the hour to catch it again.

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