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Airport information boards

Old 8th Apr 2012, 12:03
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Airport information boards

Please, where is a timeline for technology developments in departure and arrival time information boards for passengers to read? I can find nothing about it in Wikipedia.

Recently they all seen to be television / computer screen type, but I seem to remember from former years a type where each letter position had turning flaps with letters on. When was the first advance from merely a paper-printed timetable or someone chalking it on a blackboard? E.g. what method was usually used in 1950, or 1960?
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 12:10
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There were called flap display boards and were made by a company in Udine, Italy. They used to fascinate me during long boring hours at airports waiting for delayed flights, or when I was on standby. Sometimes letters would get stuck, giving odd results.

I think Frankfurt still has some, I know that used to be the biggest I'd seen.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 12:14
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Might be worth talking to the National Railway Museum. They may have info in regards to large displays at stations. I can remember a flapper one at Victoria(London not Manchester).
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 12:35
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Ah the nostalgia - the whirring sound used to be such fun too!
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 12:42
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See this link: Split-flap display - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

But what was used in (say) 1950, or 1955, or 1960?
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 12:44
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Ah yes, Melbourne (Aus) still has one. Definitely a nice piece of kit. If I recall correctly, Brussels has a 'modern' flap board.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 13:55
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The great things about the flip-flap boards was♠:

  1. The letters and numerals were large enough that you could see them from a long distance away.
  2. You could sit on a bench (remember when airports had those?) and read your book or newspaper without having to look up.
  3. When there was a change in the display, you heard the flapping and knew to look up.
  1. The screens are cheap to buy and very small, so you have to get closer to them, or use binoculars. I have used the zoom lens of my camera before now.
  2. You cannot stand (no seating) far away so you must stand near to the screens, which causes a crush.
  3. You have to constantly glance up at the board to see if there's been a change. They could have a small beeper signal on the board, but that would mean thinking about the customer and spending money.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 16:22
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Google "Solari Board" will show you plenty - this is what they were generically known as, after the company that manufactured them.
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Old 8th Apr 2012, 16:43
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try this

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Old 10th Aug 2012, 21:22
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In Egypt the destination boards are in English half the time and in Arabic half the time.
I soon learned what "Gatwick" looks like in the Egyptian Arabic alphabet: جاتويك
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Old 10th Aug 2012, 21:41
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And the new style monitors are invariably arranged so as to position the scrum of passengers watching them in the middle of main passenger thoroughfares. One favourite in LHR T3 manages to block a junction of two such thoroughfares!
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Old 10th Aug 2012, 21:47
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Solari, from Udine in Italy, were indeed the pioneers of these boards. They are still in business using video displays nowadays.

The boards were driven by pre-prepared punched cards which an operator inserted and then operated a switch to send electronic pulses to each display.

There were two basic types, ones that did each individual letter of words (popular at airports) and ones that displayed the whole name at once (more common at train stations).

Downsides of the system were the need for a skilled full time punched card operator (and thus multiple shifts of them), and the sheer mechanical complexity that could absorb a technician full time to keep them going, as well as quite a comprehensive storeroom full of spare parts that had to be ordered and imported from Italy through Solari's local dealer. Although driven by electric motors they used a bicycle chain mechanism (actually lots of them) behind the boards to drive the displays, all of which needed oiling, jammed, broke their bicycle chains, showed nonsense, and sundry other misdemeanours. You needed a walkway space behind the large boards for a technician to access and work on them. They were also all custom designed and manufactured rather than just using standard IT screens, and therefore were a considerable cost to buy. The whole-name ones also needed updating with new words from time to time, which meant you had to resequence the whole display.

The one installed at Waterloo railway station in London, a whole-word type, displayed at the bottom of a particular train, only if required, "Delayed"/"Cancelled", then "due to", and then a whole series of excuses, which you saw momentarily when it was cycling round - "Staff Shortage"/"Late incoming train"/"Bad weather"/"Snow"/"Signal Failure"/"Vandalism", etc, it was an extensive and hilarious series of justifications.

Last edited by WHBM; 10th Aug 2012 at 21:56.
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Old 10th Aug 2012, 21:49
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Reading the Wikipedia article in more detail than I did when this subject was first raised I see this about the lack of noise from electronic displays:

In the case of the latter the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has specifically designed the new LED replacements for its aging Solari boards at North Station and South Station to emit an electronically generated flapping noise to cue passengers to train boarding updates.
Now - how do we get BAA plc to follow this fine example?
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Old 10th Aug 2012, 22:23
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They still have such display boards at major train stations in Germany and Switzerland, but they display the whole place name at once.

Belgrade airport also still has a "solaris"style display board in the main check in hall, which seemed to work perfectly fine.

I much prefer these styles to the ones they have today. Sure, you can fit more flights on to a TV screen, but then why bother doing that? One upside is that you can place screens pretty much anywhere and in multiple locations in a terminal, whereas in the old days, one large information board would have been the norm.

Take LHR for example. If you stand in T1 and look at such screens then you will see flights for several hours away, often showing flights for the next morning. There is no need to display such things as most people will only turn up in the 2-3 hours before their flight. If it is delayed then a flight will usually stay at the top of the screen anyway. These days you see a message such as "16:40 SN1234 Brussels Gate Opens 15:40" or "Please wait" in the space of "gate opens".

Now when a gate doesn't open bang on when it says it will on the screen, people get anxious and start to panic, asking if their flight is delayed, or why the gate isn't up etc etc. In the days of "solaris" boards, the message would simply read "please wait" and as someone else said, people only paid attention when they heard the clicks starting! Much better way of doing things!
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Old 11th Aug 2012, 15:20
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At Leeds/Bradford, from the 'new' terminal opening in 67/8 up to the early eighties departs and arrivals were shown in a window on the outside of the Duty Office. Even in summer there were probably only 15-20 arrivals and departures.

Flight number, time and origin/destination were made up from individual numbers and letters which clipped into preformed channels. Duty officer's last job of the day was to enter up tomorrow's schedule.

Arrivals were announced by PA - (Chime) 'Air Anglia announce the arrival of flight AQ605 from Stavanger, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, passengers may be met in the arrivals concourse'. Delays, and calls to the departure gate (a door straight to the apron for domestic services) were announced by same means.
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Old 12th Aug 2012, 08:32
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ahhhh - checking in at Normanton in Queensland - empty hut except geezer in office, feet up, radio on, drover hat over face

"Cough cough"

no movement but "You'll be Heathrow Harry yeah?" "Yes, just wanted to check-in"

"Consider it done" - without opening his eyes or moving a muscle
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Old 12th Aug 2012, 09:24
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There were called flap display boards and were made by a company in Udine,
The sound of these reminds me of Terminal 1 at LHR up to about 1992/3 I think, they were in place, was a fascinating sound and sight!

Last edited by EI-BUD; 12th Aug 2012 at 09:28.
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