The UK speaking clock has been around for nearly eighty years. It was started in 1936 when time keeping started to become more important to people’s lives. Initially available only in the London it was rolled out to the whole country during World War II.
There have been four people that have had honour of providing the permanent voice to the speaking clock over the last 70. And over 70 million calls are made to the speaking clock making it an important from of accurate time but have you ever wondered how accurate it is and where the time comes from and how accurate it is?
The speaking clock is controlled by a major British telecoms company who took over the General Post Office (GPO) and the time was originally supplied by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) who also provide the MSF signal that NTP time servers use as a source of atomic clock synchronisation.
NPL no longer help with the speaking clock but the time is still controlled by NTP servers, either GPS or MSF, which ensures that the time you hear on the end of the telephone is accurate.
NTP servers are also commonly used by computer networks to ensure that IT systems, from traffic light signals to the office PC are all running an accurate form of time.
NTP time servers can either receive the MSF radio signal broadcast by NPL or, more commonly now, GPS signals beamed directly from space.
Often network administrators opt to use online NTP servers that send time signals over the internet but these are not as accurate and cause security problems so it is far better to have a dedicated NTP time server to control the time if you wish to have a computer network that is running accurately.