Saturday, 3 December 2011

Mr T and the Astra 1N telecom satellite

We're all only human and, if you are anything like BFTF, the occasional "well done" or "good effort" is always nice to receive. If nothing else, it tells you that you are on the right track.

And the same thing goes for organisations. As FSC representative Amy Mulkern has pointed out, "they're also consumers, they're also individuals, they're also people"

So, to try and recognise the many good things that are around us, BFTF tries to fire off a "well done" for every "could do better" email that is sent out.

Today sees a double bill of Mr T and satellite builder Astrium.

You may wish to pause here, dear reader, and reflect on the fact that you are unlikely to see those two subjects linked together in one sentence ever again. . .

As an 80's kid, BFTF has a soft spot for TV and film legend Mr T (who, incidentally, has a fascinating life story)) and was sad to see him disappear from the TV screens during the "noughties". His appearance in the recent Snickers adverts brought a smile back to BFTF's face but was all to brief.

Then purely, by chance, BFTF happened upon "World's Craziest Fools", a show produced (to BFTF's surprise and delight) by the BBC and presented by Mr T, who introduced a selection of YouTube-esque clips of people doing stupid things from around the world.

The clips are pretty much irrelevant, it's just great to hear Mr T on air again. He could read a telephone directory and still sound good. In fact, perhaps there is a case for giving him a higher profile role, perhaps something like the anchor for the 10 o'clock news. Dear reader, just think about that for a moment. I'm sure you will agree with me that viewing figures would go through the roof. Mr T interviewing David Cameron - I'd pay good money to watch that.

So, to let the BBC know they have hit on something big here, BFTF sent them an email saying well done and suggesting that perhaps the evening news presenter was something they should consider for Mr T !

Mr T - the next presenter of the 10 o'clok news?

Moving on to the second part of this post, BFTF has been entranced by the BBC2 series "How to build. . ." which looks at how some of the worlds most complex machines are manufacured. A recent programme looked at how a Astrium make a communications satellite at their hi-tech plant in Stevenage (a town not generally given the same kudos as the likes of Houston and Baikonour. It was a fascinating to see how each individual component is tested to ensure that it can survive the vibration and G-forces of launch. As there is no servicing option for satellites in geostationary orbit, everything has to be proven to work correctly beforehand. Some components have moving parts that have to work, in space, every day for the 15 years that the satellite is guaranteed for. For example, the solar panels motor has to orient the solar panels correctly every day to ensure that they are facing the sun and generating energy. If it fails, the satellite dies. No pressure there then...

The satellite featured was an Astra 1N, which you can find out more about here, while the background technology to communications satellites can be found here.

Satellite technican Bob decided it was probably best to keep quiet about the set of screws he had just found in his pocket . .

One aspect of the programme that BFTF was relieved to see was that it was made in a straightforward fashion, with no jerky camerawork, unnecessary zooming and rapid cutting. In short, it was an educational programme that actually gave the viewer the information and time be be informed.

In contrast to Horizon, BBC2's flagship science programme, used to be a great prog, but now seems to be produced by people who would rather be doing pop videos.

If you, dear reader, or I wanted to present a graph of key data to a viewer, we might put the whole graph on the screen, including the axes and units, and then leave it there for a few seconds so that the viewer can take it all in. That is certainly how science programming was done when BFTF were a lad.

These days, however, the Horizon production team know better. They feel that the best way to impart information is to put the graph on a laptop and then zoom right up to the laptop screen so that only part of the graph is visible, wiggle the camera about a bit and then move onto something else.

Anyway, BFTF sent an email to the BBC congratulating them on the "How to Build" series and thanking them especially for keeping the Horizon production crew well away from it.

Do you have an example of where you were moved to say well done to an organisation? If so, it would be great to hear about it !

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