25 February, 2010

Control Room

Watching the NASA broadcast of the LCROSS mission in October was rather depressing in one aspect. Because modern computers are so powerful and well integrated with all manner of systems the mission control for LCROSS was simply a modest looking office with half a dozen desks - each with a bog-standard PC. It might as well have been a small call centre (pic here). Where was the enormous illuminated map taking up a whole wall? The serried ranks of technicians at banks of cool machines? It should have been something from Ken Adams' sketch pad not an IT department.

Similarly the PS10 Solar Power Tower in Spain is a project worthy of coming from Adam's fertile imagination - all Bond-villainesque architecture and grand vision. Unfortunately again the control room is barely more than a small plain room with a PC in it, very disappointing.

This panoramic photo of the Mirejovice hydroelectric power station's control room is from a different age when bespoke interfaces were the only solution. I love the period dials and gauges. Each bank of controls is gorgeous - check out the lovely green and red lamps and the decorative detail on the metalwork. Set it to fullscreen and drink in the detail.


Hydroelectric Power Plant, Mirejovice - Control Room Gigapixel in Czech Republic

Here's another panorama, this time of the control room of the substation at Lea Marston, Warwickshire, the only surviving building from the huge Hams Hall power station complex. It's got a different more utilitarian aesthetic but they still put in a lovely skylight.


UPDATE:

Went to the design museum today - primarily to see the Designs of the Year Awards again along with catching the last week of the awesome Dieter Rams exhibition...

...interestingly there was also an exhibition on ergonomics which along with lots of other stuff included a display on how the control centre at CERN was designed. As you can see it's off the shelf computer monitors all the way - I guess it's unlikely that there'll ever be another custom designed fantasy control room again. Apart from in the movies, they'll endure there for a long time which I think is a good thing.

5 Step to the white courtesy phone:

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How cool are those photos - I wish I had a photo of the Steel works in Teeside from when my dad was there!

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