Automatic timing, a little story


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Automatic timing, a little story

Postby AFTERBURNER » Wed Aug 21, 2013 6:26 am

In 1932 a man by the name of Gustavus Kirby invented one of the most if not the most important piece of technology in the history of athletics: the automatic timing device or as it was called back then, the Kirby device.

It was ready just in time for the Los Angeles summer olympics that were held that year. Now this is where the story gets well...CRAZY.

The I.A.A.F. waited until 1976 that is a whopping 44 YEARS to make this device mandatory regarding the events that needed it the most: 100m, 200m, 400m, 110mh, 400mh, and the 4x100m, and for the long relay and distances from 800m-10.000m not until 1981. 49 years after automatic timing hab been invented :shock:

Imagine all the performances from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, that we'll never know the true timing value. Imho hand timing does not tell the truth since only auto times down to 100th can only tell what really took place.

Hell, event the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials were not auto timed :evil: and yet the 1968 U.S. Olympic trials were. What happened there?

How did the I.A.A.F. miss the boat on that one? Why wait for decades for implementing what is perhaps the most important piece of technology in the history of our beloved sport?????????

Your thoughts
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby rhymans » Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:06 am

The Kirby device, though clever, wasn't a fully automatic timing device. His camera, like the device used at the 1928 Olympics had the capability of superimposing a chronometer-dial onto cine film. These devices had the disadvantage of non-continuous photographic images (cine film with a series of rapid sequence still frames). For the sport of horse racing an Italian optical researcher, Lorenzo del Riccio, reversed the normal camera process by coming up with a device which kept the camera shutter open with the film moving past the aperture at a regular speed producing a continuous image. Bing Crosby bought the idea for the Del mar racecourse. Other racecourses followed quickly and the idea would have been taken up but for the war.

Bulova produced a timing device in 1948 [which curiously was sound activated - the time for Ewell of 10.33 was probably 0.02 slower because of the placing of the device relative to the starter's gun]. It was a bit bulky and not always reliable, and after the sound activation problem was sorted, there was still the problem with photos not always coming out clearly and with uncertainties of whether the gun was properly linked to the device as some times produced were clearly incorrect.

As much as a guide to sorting out positions as recording times, automatic devices were used as highly accurate backups from 1952 onwards. The late ATFS president, Bob Sparks, who initially wrote most of what appears in the first paragraph above [in the introduction to the 1973 Womens all-time handbook] was able to get hold of all the Olympic timing data from 1948-68.

Timing devices were expensive to manufacture until research in the late 1960's and 1970's, allowed for miniaturisation in components. Once devices were portable the principle problem was solved - though semi-automatic devices [with photo-finishes, but hand started] caused problems. Longines was the timer for the 1972 Trials, and I believe they weren't specifically asked for a fully automatic timing device for Eugene [though of course there was one in place for 1976]

So the principle reasons for the delay in using fully automatic timing devices were the timing of the invention - with the interruption of war - and the bulkiness and expense of the devices for a long time
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby Marlow » Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:39 am

"Chips!" he screamed, as he was dragged off to the Funny Farm.

Much madness is divinest sense . . .
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby AFTERBURNER » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:15 am

Marlow wrote:"Chips!" he screamed, as he was dragged off to the Funny Farm.

Much madness is divinest sense . . .


Really! could you please elaborate :lol:
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby AFTERBURNER » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:31 am

rhymans wrote:The Kirby device, though clever, wasn't a fully automatic timing device. His camera, like the device used at the 1928 Olympics had the capability of superimposing a chronometer-dial onto cine film. These devices had the disadvantage of non-continuous photographic images (cine film with a series of rapid sequence still frames). For the sport of horse racing an Italian optical researcher, Lorenzo del Riccio, reversed the normal camera process by coming up with a device which kept the camera shutter open with the film moving past the aperture at a regular speed producing a continuous image. Bing Crosby bought the idea for the Del mar racecourse. Other racecourses followed quickly and the idea would have been taken up but for the war.

Bulova produced a timing device in 1948 [which curiously was sound activated - the time for Ewell of 10.33 was probably 0.02 slower because of the placing of the device relative to the starter's gun]. It was a bit bulky and not always reliable, and after the sound activation problem was sorted, there was still the problem with photos not always coming out clearly and with uncertainties of whether the gun was properly linked to the device as some times produced were clearly incorrect.

As much as a guide to sorting out positions as recording times, automatic devices were used as highly accurate backups from 1952 onwards. The late ATFS president, Bob Sparks, who initially wrote most of what appears in the first paragraph above [in the introduction to the 1973 Womens all-time handbook] was able to get hold of all the Olympic timing data from 1948-68.

Timing devices were expensive to manufacture until research in the late 1960's and 1970's, allowed for miniaturisation in components. Once devices were portable the principle problem was solved - though semi-automatic devices [with photo-finishes, but hand started] caused problems. Longines was the timer for the 1972 Trials, and I believe they weren't specifically asked for a fully automatic timing device for Eugene [though of course there was one in place for 1976]

So the principle reasons for the delay in using fully automatic timing devices were the timing of the invention - with the interruption of war - and the bulkiness and expense of the devices for a long time



Thanks alot rhymans. I wasn't informed about the intricate details concerning the Kirby device and it's full history
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby BBTM media » Thu Aug 22, 2013 5:36 pm

This thread was timely (and interesting)! On Aug 19, 1981, Sebastian Coe (GBR) set the Mile world record of 3:48.53 in Zurich; the first Mile WR recorded in hundredths of a second.

Mile WR progression here: http://bringbackthemile.com/history
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby rhymans » Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:50 pm

The 3:48.53 was the first ratified in 1/100ths, but Snell's 3:54.1 was 3:54.04 off the photo-finish picture.
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby BBTM media » Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:19 am

rhymans wrote:The 3:48.53 was the first ratified in 1/100ths, but Snell's 3:54.1 was 3:54.04 off the photo-finish picture.


Meant "recorded" as "ratified", but good to know the above. Thanks!
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby Jackaloupe » Fri Aug 30, 2013 10:55 am

Hilmer Lodge, at Mt. Sac. in the early 60s, installed one of the first auto-timers for outdoors: Activated at the Start by little TouchPads for the hands, I can't say how they were stopped, possibly by linked hand-operated StopWatches at the Finish.
I can further testify, FWIW, that my 10.8 100m in the Mt. Sac Decathlon in 1960 had a corresponding 10.7 handtimed by a TafNut nicknamed Rollo who ya might suspect was built more for SP than Sprints.

1950s Indoor Sprints/Hurdles at Madison Sq. Garden had klunky Shoulder Gates, but I can't say if these were connected to Bulova Timers or just used to mark False Starts. Certainly lent a Horse/Dog Race tenor to the whole show.
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby etlodge » Thu Sep 26, 2013 11:34 am

[quote="Jackaloupe"]Hilmer Lodge, at Mt. Sac. in the early 60s, installed one of the first auto-timers for outdoors: Activated at the Start by little TouchPads for the hands, I can't say how they were stopped, possibly by linked hand-operated StopWatches at the Finish.

A little background on the Lodge Electronic Starter: Hilmer (my dad) was plagued by the memory of a meet he started in January, 1939. It was the Pacific Association Indoor Championships at the Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. The 50 yard dash was marred by 17 false starts! The crowd booed poor 24 year old Hilmer, but he stuck by his guns and called them back each time. I'm not sure what the disqualification rules were in those days, but the race was eventually won by Ray Dean in 5.3. Although the fans were upset, famed T&F writer, Art Rosenbaum, said that "Hilmer was only guilty of sticking by the rules."

Anyway, the Lodge Electronic Starter was designed primarily to detect and prevent false starts. The touch pads went under each runner's thumb and completed an electronic circuit that was connected to the starters pistol. If a runner's thumb moved off the pad before the gun fired, it would disconnect the circuit and the gun wouldn't fire. Also, on a separate box a button would pop up indicating which runner jumped first. It may have also been hooked up to an electronic timer as you indicate, but its primary purpose was take insure fair starts and try to take some of the guesswork out of calling false starts.
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby tandfman » Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:05 pm

From the last two posts, it appears that this device was not an "auto-timer".
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby Jackaloupe » Tue Oct 01, 2013 9:19 am

That's not a conclusion you can reach from the above, where Lodge affirms "the primary purpose", which I take as "driving factor", motivation. Since AutoTiming was already on the horizon (Weren't those Shoulder Gates used Indoors hooked to the Timer).

I was always under the impression that those races at Mt. Sac., in 1960, were indeed auto-timed, but this background certainly raises doubts. I'd mentioned that my 10.8 100m, in the Decathlon, had a backup handtime of 10.7.
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby br » Tue Oct 01, 2013 12:34 pm

Wikipedia article covers this pretty well. I could not paste the entire article, but the link covers the advent of automatic timing in 1928 up to the 1976 Olympics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fully_auto ... ite_note-7

The first known time with an auto timing device in the Olympic Games was in the steeplechase in 1928, won by Loukola in 9:21.60 (9:21 4/5 official hand time) . The device used was the Löbner camera-timer.

In 1932 three systems were used - official hand timing, hand started photo-finish times, and the Gustavus Kirby timing device, which was designed by Kirby to determine the correct order of finish in horse races. The official report for 1932 Olympics states: "In addition to hand timing, two auxiliary electrical timing devices were used. Both were started by an attachment to the starters gun. One was stopped by hand at the time the runners hit the tape. The other was provided with a motion picture camera which photographed the runner at the tape and the dial of the time indicator simultaneously."[7]

In 1936 FAT was used but very few times have been found.

In 1948 Bulova began developing the Phototimer, a unique combination of photo-finish camera and precision electronic timing instrument. The Phototimer was the first automatic timing device to be used in competitive sports. It was used extensively in North America, including at the 1948 US Olympic trials. The Bulova device was activated by the sound of the starting gun firing, rather than by a direct connection, which means that the times were around 0.02 seconds faster than reality.[8] The 1948 Olympics, however, continued to use Omega timing with a device called the 'Magic Eye', developed by British Race Finish Recording Co. Ltd.[9] The automatic times produced in the 1948 Olympics have never been released, but examination of the photos at the finish means that margins have been calculated to 1/100 second accuracy.
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby dj » Tue Oct 01, 2013 3:54 pm

Jackaloupe wrote:Since AutoTiming was already on the horizon (Weren't those Shoulder Gates used Indoors hooked to the Timer).


Not really. The shoulder gate was hooked to the starter's pistol, as was the Bulova timing system used in Madison Square Garden. But the Bulova camera could also be started by hand, and often was.

The shoulder gate was never hooked directly to the camera.
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby dj » Tue Oct 01, 2013 3:58 pm

br wrote: ". . . the Gustavus Kirby timing device, which was designed by Kirby to determine the correct order of finish in horse races."[7]


Kirby had been experimenting on a finish camera to be used specifically for track events. He had no interest in horse racing. It was Bell Laboratories, which was funding Kirby's research, that saw the money for the system was to be found in horse racing, not human racing.
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby bambam » Tue Oct 01, 2013 4:46 pm

br wrote:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fully_automatic_time#cite_note-7
The first known time with an auto timing device in the Olympic Games was in the steeplechase in 1928, won by Loukola in 9:21.60 (9:21 4/5 official hand time) . The device used was the Löbner camera-timer.


The 1912 Olympics had a "semi-automatic" timer - stopwatches started by the gun and stopped manually by timekeepers. It was only used for the close second place finish in the 1,500 metre final, but no times were announced.

A very early variant of "automatic timing" was actually known to have been used at the AAU Championships in 1891. In this case the time was started by hand and stopped electronically. It had first been used at a small meet earlier in 1891 in Syracuse, NY
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby Jackaloupe » Tue Oct 01, 2013 8:46 pm

bj, dr & bambam, You Dudes are totally amazing! Thanks so much for all the detailed insight!

I still don't know if I had a legitimate 10.8 at Mt. Sac. or not, but I sure know it was great to finally register my legitimate sub-11 100m in Decathlon: At Crawfordsville, I was the victim of the old ShopTeacher syndrome (our NJ HS set of Officials included the Mechanical Drawing teacher as Starter and the ShopTeacher on clock), whereby my ~11.2 came out as 11.4, w/ fellow competitors whom I'd beat to the line getting faster times--Lyman "Buzz" Fraser, Colorado multi-eventer who .on to win the AllAround in Baltimore vehemently protested to the Officials, to no avail. It's only 60 Pts. or so, but that first event's worth a lot.

As for those cumbersome ShoulderSlats, I didn't expect anyone to recall them, but I was under-estimating the amazing depth of experience (and recall) of the denizens of T&F News.com.
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby tandfman » Wed Oct 02, 2013 5:44 am

bambam wrote:A very early variant of "automatic timing" was actually known to have been used at the AAU Championships in 1891. In this case the time was started by hand and stopped electronically. It had first been used at a small meet earlier in 1891 in Syracuse, NY

I'd be curious to know what kind of technology existed in 1891 that would have enabled a timer to be stopped "electronically".
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby bambam » Wed Oct 02, 2013 1:30 pm

tandfman wrote:
bambam wrote:A very early variant of "automatic timing" was actually known to have been used at the AAU Championships in 1891. In this case the time was started by hand and stopped electronically. It had first been used at a small meet earlier in 1891 in Syracuse, NY

I'd be curious to know what kind of technology existed in 1891 that would have enabled a timer to be stopped "electronically".


Don't know. But didn't you ever watch The Flintstones? They had all sorts of really advanced machines. Give these guys some credit.
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby tandfman » Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:18 am

bambam wrote:
tandfman wrote:
bambam wrote:A very early variant of "automatic timing" was actually known to have been used at the AAU Championships in 1891. In this case the time was started by hand and stopped electronically. It had first been used at a small meet earlier in 1891 in Syracuse, NY

I'd be curious to know what kind of technology existed in 1891 that would have enabled a timer to be stopped "electronically".

Don't know. But didn't you ever watch The Flintstones? They had all sorts of really advanced machines. Give these guys some credit.

Ah, yes. I hadn't thought of that. :)
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Re: Automatic timing, a little story

Postby gh » Thu Oct 03, 2013 9:20 am

one needs to remember that electricity=automatic in many peoples' minds. As soon as digital stopwatches came out, the myth that could accurately use such a watch to time to 100ths was born fully grown.

Easy to imagine an electric clock stopped by a simple relay switch. But that's just another form of hand timing.
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