From the London Morning Standard:
Big Ben's Big Image Makeover: High Tech
by Tim Perdue
Hanging 320 feet above the capital in the dead of night, a
team of technicians stealthily brought Big Ben into the Digital
Age - an act that caused near-riots when dawn revealed the
dramatic changes to shocked Londoners.
Commuters and tourists were stunned to find
the eerie red glow of LED digits peeking through the morning
fog, bringing and end to almost 150 years of tradition. Even
the famous bells have been replaced by an electronic version
which allow for variable volume control and options for playing
traditional tunes during holidays such as Christmas and New
Prime Minister Tony Blair defended the change as riot police
ringed the Palace of Westminster, keeping outraged throngs
at bay. "Big Ben's new digital readout symbolizes our
goverment's unwavering commitment to transforming Britain's
image and economy from one ruled by the Dickens' Age to one
which leads the Digital Age."
The Great Clock, which everyone calls Big Ben, was set in
motion in May 1859. Designed by Edmund Beckett Denison, it
was the most expensive and accurate clock of its day. Big
Ben's new quartz movement is synchronized with the Royal Observatory's
atomic clock in Greenwich, capturing the moment to a millionth
of a second. Its original mechanical movement and bells have
been removed to the Royal Observatory's museum of horology,
where they will be preserved as the focal point of the distinguished
1,500 clock collection.
Jonathan Betts, the museum's curator, was philosphical about
the move to modernize Big Ben. "It may lack romance,
but it is a logical step in the progression of greater accuracy
in measuring time. The mechanical clock has gone the way of
the sundial and the hourglass. It has become a quaint curiosity
in a world where time now marches to the beat of electrons."
The original movement and its bells will be cleaned and restored
by expert clockmakers from Thwaites & Reed. They will
then be placed on public view in the Royal Observatory's main
gallery, where they are expected to attract crowds of curious
Londoners and clock enthusiasts from around the world. Bett's
face brightened at the thought. "It will be a marvelous
draw for the museum. People are very big on Big Ben."