BBC1's mirror globe had been on screen since the beginning of colour. Fifteen years on TV technology had advanced rapidly and by 1982 it was the only mechanical symbol still in use. It also required frequent re-calibration. So from February 1985 in came the golden globe that was BBC1's COW - Computer Originated World.
 
Work on the COW began in 1983 and was a mammoth task combining the efforts of BBC Computer Graphics, Graphic Design and the Designs Departments. The COW was generated by a black box containing several circuitboards. Each board carried one layer of the animation - the BBC1 logo, blue background etc. The output had an aspect ratio of 5:4 and was cropped for transmission (and you thought cropping was a new phenomenon!)
 
The end result was a stunning, 3D revolving world image that was fully anti-aliased. Even today it's hard to believe the COW was not a model. Oliver Elmes designed the new graphics; six years earlier he created the design for BBC2's electronic ident.
 
This page has a full account of how the COW was brought to life. Warning - very technical!
 
http://www.bbceng.info/Designs/designs_technology/new_world.htm
 
The new globe first appeared at 7pm on Monday 18 February. Originally it was hoped to launch by 1st January 1985, but the launch was deferred to coincide with radical changes to the BBC1 schedule. So the COW was not Michael Grade's idea, as is commonly thought. But it signalled a new era for BBC1 - and presentation graphics.


Click for larger image BBC1 COW Globe - 1st TX
18.02.1985
Click for larger image At 7pm the wait was over. The golden globe finally appeared with Mark Waddington proudly introducing the first edition of "Wogan". BBC1's brave new world coincided with the introduction of computerised weather graphics, which had debuted half an hour earlier. And of course the new globe meant a new station clock. Or maybe not - the previous clock face was retained, with new blue and gold colours. Note the centre dot is missing from the clock face - this was never corrected during the clock's run.

BBC1 Closedown
18.02.1985
Doesn't time fly when you're having fun! The COW's first evening came to a swift end and Mark Waddington signs off with the new graphics.

Click for larger image BBC1 Closedown
1985
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Further continuity examples of the COW in action..


Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image BBC1 Ceefax 170
1985
BBC1 COW Symbol
1986
BBC1 Ceefax 888
1987
BBC1 COW Symbol
c1986


BBC1 COW stops!
29.03.1985
Being computer-generated, the COW eliminated many of the mirror globe's operational problems so never again would we see the globe break down on air. But could the globe be paused on screen? Have a look at this link into...The Day The Earth Stood Still.

BBC1 Clock Goes Forward
30.03.1985
The start of BST provides a candid look into the workings of the BBC1 clock - at the press of a button, the clock goes forward one hour. Your announcer is Peter Bolgar, a veteran of BBC continuity from the 1960s until 1995.

BBC1 Closedown
08.05.1985
Not another closedown, I hear you cry. Yes - but this one picks up from the moment Sportsnight goes off air. With the credits rolled we're straight into tomorrow's menu, followed by the weather forecast, a classic PIF with Frank Thornton followed by the closedown itself.
 
And it's no ordinary closedown; today marked the 40th anniversary of VE Day and the schedules were full of programmes to mark the occasion. Robin Whitting is your announcer; it's a large file but worth the download time.


Click for larger image BBC1 Closedown
11.03.1985
A shorter closedown from later in 1985
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Click for larger image BBC1 Closedown
10.05.1985
Click for larger image A Friday night closedown from 1985

Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Closedown
23.12.1985
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Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas
24.12.1985
Click for larger image We'd already got rid of the mechanised globe, so it was to be expected Christmas idents would go the same way. Yet BBC1's final model was definitely the best. Two mechanical robins adorned the new BBC1 logo; one on top of it, the other whizzing around. And both flapping their wings with excitement. Fans of the robins were in for huge disappointment at Closedown. The COW was shown as usual, but David Miles' announcement on Christmas night provided some compensation.

Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Ident
1985
BBC1 Christmas Ident
1985
BBC1 Christmas Ident
1985
BBC1 Christmas Ident
1985


Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Ident & Closedown
1985
Click for larger image Two more clips from Christmas Eve. Left: A promo for the Christmas edition of Hi-de-Hi is the focus of this clip and the right clip features the full Christmas Eve closedown.

Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Day Start-Up
25.12.1985
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Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Day Closedown
25.12.1985
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Click for larger image Noel shoots the poor robins!
04.01.1986
Noel Edmonds' Late Late Breakfast Show literally welcomes in 1986 with a bang - with Noel taking a blunderbuss to BBC1's Christmas Robins. Noel claimed he was acting on behalf of the many people who hated the symbol, but in the following weeks Points Of View was swamped by complaints by those who did like the robins. Although the base of the symbol is quite obviously what we saw in junctions, the robins may not be - though this may be wishful thinking on my part, they don't look the same and may have been specially made for detonation.
 
This clips contains violence against robins and scenes of Noel Edmonds which some viewers may find upsetting.

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BBC1 Clock Goes Forward
29.03.1986
The start of BST provides a candid look into the workings of the BBC1 clock - at the press of a button, the clock goes forward one hour. The announcer is Tim Nichols, a stalwart of BBC continuity in the 70s and 80s.

Click for larger image BBC1 Closedown
9.6.1986
The 1986 World Cup took place in Mexico so during this period, World Cup Grandstand was often the last programme of the day and the final few moments of World Cup Grandstand feature here ahead of the full closedown sequence.
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Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Idents
1986
Click for larger image Children's BBC held a competition to design BBC1's Christmas identity in 1986. Three winning icons - holly, a Christmas tree and its star - were blended together for this scene.

Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Idents
1986
Click for larger image Pure Christmas fare is trailed in these two clips - a musical and a Christmas special.

Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Closedowns
1986
Click for larger image A quick closedown announcement from Christmas 1986.


Click for larger image BBC1 Closedown
8.5.1987
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Click for larger image BBC1 Closedown
7.8.1987
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Click for larger image No Limits - Globe feature
1987
Click for larger image Whilst Channel 4 had Network 7, on the BBC was No Limits, the youth and entertainment show hosted by Jenny Powell and Tony Baker produced by BBC Manchester. In this clip Tony visits TVC and tells us more about the old and COW globes.

Click for larger image BBC1 Children In Need
27.11.1987
Click for larger image Time for the BBC's annual fundraiser again, and viewers are treated to a revolving Pudsey from 5:35pm onwards.

Click for larger image BBC1 Closedown
22.12.1987
Shutting up shop a few days before Christmas which includes a seasonal PIF.
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Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Ident - First TX
1987
Click for larger image For years the BBC Christmas idents had been mechanical models, almost always revolving on a turntable. Even when the models were ditched in 1986, an element of movement remained central to the idents, ie. a ring of dancing holly. But in 1987 all that changed. Bernard Newnham produced the 1987 Christmas look and felt the models were looking old-fashioned. Also they tied up a Pres studio (the famous Pres B). So he came up with the idea of merging the Christmas trail animation into the symbol; bosses agreed and were pleased with the integrated style below.

Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas
1987
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BBC1 Christmas Idents
25.12.1987


BBC1 Christmas Closedown
1987
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Click for larger image BBC1 COW with Ceefax
1987
Click for larger image The BBC1 COW with Ceefax 888 subtitles caption

Click for larger image BBC1 Saturday Night At The Movies
1987
Click for larger image A special ident was produced for BBC1's weekly Saturday Night at the Movies. It follows the introduction to this week's film, here voiced by Cathy Stewart.


BBC1 See For Yourself COW
03.01.1988
In the late 1980s the BBC presented "See For Yourself", a televised annual report showing viewers where their licence fee goes - and what the BBC can do that other broadcasters can't. To symbolise this glance "into the world of the BBC" the COW zooms in at the start of the title sequence. Both versions are edited together in one clip.

Click for larger image Open Air - Richard Straker Feature
1987
Click for larger image Open Air was the flagship programme of the launch of BBC1's daytime service. The programme was a viewers' right-to-reply programme about the previous night's television. Occasionally the programme took viewers' questions about other aspects of television and on this occasion, BBC1 continuity was featured with Richard Straker answering viewers' questions and showing us how it's all done.

Click for larger image Open Air - Continuity Feature
20.01.1988
Click for larger image Richard Starker, the BBC’s senior continuity announcer, teaches a viewer how to do continuity

BBC1 Comic Relief
05.02.1988
Click for larger image A major problem with the COW is it was difficult to adapt, so there were rarely any variations for special events. However, BBC1 wasted no time getting into the spirit of the first Red Nose Day fundraiser in 1988. Immediately after "Wogan" viewers saw a red nose being planted on Africa, and the BBC1 logo covered with a Comic Relief banner just before the evening telethon. The effect was achieved either through chroma key (which would involve a blue sphere rotating at an identical speed to the COW) or computer techniques.

Click for larger image BBC1 Children In Need
18.11.1988
A bigger Pudsey doubles as the BBC1 globe (the announcer actually said that in one junction), and he stops once he faces the camera.

Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Ident - 1st TX
24.12.1988
Click for larger image A bit more life this year. The theme was "A Partridge In A Pear Tree" and our noble bird would fly in and out of his tree. There were day and night-time versions.
 
Charles Nove made novel use of the fly-off on Holiday Tuesday, introducing "The Eagle Has Landed". His announcement was legendary - "and since The Eagle Has Landed I think our little partridge had best be off!" (partridge exits)


Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Nightime Idents
24.12.1988
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Click for larger image BBC1 Boxing Day
26.12.1988
second clip - closedown


Click for larger image One Day In The Life Of TV - BBC1 Closes down
01.11.1989
In 1989 Yorkshire Television broadcast "One Day In The Life Of Television" - a documentary examining the workings of all four broadcasters over a 24-hour period, highlighting the decisions faced by those on the frontline and in the boardroom. As a nice touch the end of the programme gave an announcer's eye view of BBC1's nightly closedown. It's clear from the following clip why NC1 was affectionately called "the Broom Cupboard" by Phillip Schofield...
 
Cathy Stewart closes down BBC1 for another night, before packing her things and leaving NC1. Mystery surrounds how the national anthem was played - it's widely thought to have come from a record, though we don't see the grams working here. However Cathy replaces some cartridges before she leaves - maybe that's how it was done?

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BBC1 Comic Relief
05.03.1989
March 1989 and Red Nose Day madness sweeps the country again. Bigger than before - and that's just the nose on the COW!

Click for larger image BBC1 Children In Need
17.11.1989
Click for larger image 1989 marked the 10th anniversary of the Children In Need telethon. Marking this milestone is not a stuffed Pudsey but a computer-generated one.

Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Ident
1989
Click for larger image Just when we all though mechanical models were old hat, this globe-shaped spinning top marked Christmas at the end of the 1980s. A case of "end the decade as you began", perhaps?

Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Subtitles Ident
25.12.1989
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Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Closedown
25.12.1989
Click for larger image Christmas Day Closedown

Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Closedown
26.12.1989
Click for larger image The end of BBC1's Boxing Day, and the all-too-brief appearance of the Christmas ident (it wasn't unveiled until evening on Christmas Eve). Andy Cartledge helps the festive globe sneak out quietly.


Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas
1990
Click for larger image 1990 saw the last Christmas free of corporate branding. BBC1's festive trails for that year featured a giant pop-up book which came to life. The ident utilises the book's front cover - with the COW sandwiched in the moon!

Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Ceefax Ident
24.12.1990
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BBC1 Christmas Closedowns
1990
Two of the three closedowns to incorporate the Christmas ident in 1990. First it's the end of Christmas Day, with Peter Brook doing the honours.
 
The Boxing Day closedown doesn't go according to plan. Despite a very chatty announcement from David Miles (in which he spoke of "putting the BBC1 Christmas logo away with the baubles", the National Anthem failed to play, leaving us with exactly one minute of the Christmas globe.


Click for larger image BBC1 Christmas Closedown
1990
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Click for larger image Final Neighbours COW
1991
For the last time with this, Neighbours. It’s a present from ‘them upstairs.’

Click for larger image BBC1 - Final COW closedown
15.02.1991
Click for larger image Almost six years after its introduction, the COW globe was finally put out to pasture in 1991. Here's the final showing as BBC1 closes down for the night; announcer Dave Adey warns viewers to expect a change tomorrow morning.

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