EasyTimeline - Generate graphical timelines from a simple script

1b. Example of what not to do: A history of the BBC

Back to Introduction

This timeline is based on a text only timeline in the English Wikipedia. Unlike similar timelines this one was a pain in the neck to create, and is still unsatisfactory (texts too small).

Reasons why this was no fun:

  • The original html table contains long texts, loaded with trivia, which makes a one on one conversion impossible.
  • Also the table contains too many events, often of lesser importance, which occurred close together in time. Hence with default settings many texts overlapped.
  • Shortening texts, adding line breaks, repositioning overlapping texts (with shift attribute) was a painstaking process, that went through many iterations. It was done offline. When you do this in an interactive session directly in Wikipedia, with its it unpredictable reponse times, you might need even more time than I did and give up.

Lesson learned: do not try to copy/paste a verbose textual timeline into an editor in order to adapt it to EasyTimeline syntax. Instead build it from the ground up, event by event, be selective, make catchy concise statements. Graphical timelines should offer a grand perspective, too many details takes this away.

You will find the script below.

ImageSize  = width:1000 height:1500
PlotArea   = left:40 right:10 bottom:40 top:10
DateFormat = dd/mm/yyyy
Period     = from:1922 till:2004
TimeAxis   = orientation:vertical format:yy
AlignBars  = justify

Colors =
  id:canvas value:gray(0.9)
  id:grid   value:gray(0.8)
  id:red    value:rgb(1,0,0)

ScaleMajor = increment:5 unit:year start:1925 grid:grid
ScaleMinor = increment:1 unit:year start:1922 grid:grid

BackgroundColors = canvas:canvas

Define $leftdw3  = shift:(-25,-15) align:right
Define $leftdw2  = shift:(-25,-10) align:right
Define $leftdw1  = shift:(-25,-5)  align:right
Define $left     = shift:(-25, 0)  align:right
Define $leftup1  = shift:(-25,+5)  align:right
Define $leftup2  = shift:(-25,+10) align:right

Define $rightdw2 = shift:( 25,-10) align:left
Define $rightdw1 = shift:( 25,-5)  align:left
Define $right    = shift:( 25, 0)  align:left

PlotData =
  bar:BBC color:red shift:(25,-5) width:25 fontsize:XS mark:(line,white)

  from:start till:end # this draws the actual bar

  at:16/02/2004 $leftdw1  text:"Network news titles relaunched in the style of BBC News 24 - Feb 16"
  at:08/12/2003 $rightdw1 text:"Dec 8 - BBC News 24 relaunched again with a new set and titles,~as well as a new Breaking News sting."
  at:09/02/2003 $leftdw1  text:"[[BBC THREE]] is launched in a [[simulcast]] with [[BBC TWO]]. It replaces [[BBC Choice]] - Feb 9"
  at:02/03/2002 $rightdw1 text:"Mar 2 - [[BBC FOUR]] is launched in a [[simulcast]] with [[BBC TWO]]. It replaces [[BBC Knowledge]]"
  at:11/02/2002 $leftdw1  text:"[[CBBC Channel]] and [[CBeebies]] begin broadcasting on digital TV - Feb 11"
  at:03/03/2001 $leftup1  text:"Bomb explodes outside Television Centre (atrributed to IRA) - Mar 3"
  at:15/09/2000 $right    text:"Sep 15 - Final edition of Breakfast News on BBC1"
  at:01/06/1999 $leftdw1  text:"[[BBC Knowledge]] starts broadcasting on digital services - Jun 1"
  at:20/05/1999 $right    text:"May 20 - The BBC's digital teletext service starts"
  at:15/11/1998 $rightdw1 text:"Nov 15 - Public launch of digital terrestrial TV in the UK"
  at:23/09/1998 $leftdw1  text:"The BBC launches [[BBC Choice]], first new TV channel since 1964 (only digital). - Sep 23"
  at:15/08/1998 $rightdw2 text:"Aug: BBC's domestic TV channels available on [[Sky Digital]]'s satellite service"
  at:09/11/1997 $rightdw1 text:"Nov 9 - [[BBC News 24]], the Corporation's UK television news service launched"
  at:04/10/1997 $leftdw1  text:"Current corporate identity adopted, new logo introduced, cost 5m - Oct 4"
  at:28/02/1997 $rightdw1 text:"Feb 28 - BBC sells out to CTS for 244 million, preparing for digital age"
  at:25/12/1996 $leftdw1  text:"The Christmas Day episode of [[Only Fools and Horses]],~24 million viewers, largest TV audience in 20 years - Dec 25"
  at:07/06/1996 $rightdw1 text:"Jun 7 - The BBC is restructured by [[John Birt]]. BBC Broadcast will~commission programmes, BBC Production will make them"
  at:15/01/1995 $leftdw1  text:"World Service Television is renamed [[BBC World]] Jan" # date unknown
  at:28/03/1994 $rightdw1 text:"Mar 28 - Radio 5 is renamed Radio 5 Live, focus on news and sport only"
  at:01/11/1992 $leftdw1  text:"The satellite TV channel [[UK Gold]] starts broadcasting - Nov 1"
  at:14/10/1991 $right    text:"Oct 14 - World Service TV launches its Asian service"
  at:31/08/1991 $left     text:"First official BBC broadcast in stereo, using the [[NICAM]] system - Aug 31"
  at:31/07/1991 $rightdw2 text:"Jul 31 - The BBC's Lime Grove studios close"
  at:15/04/1991 $leftdw1  text:"The World Service Television News service is launched.~Carries advertising, unlike radio counterpart - Apr 15"
  at:05/09/1990 $rightdw1 text:"Sep 5 - New BBC building at White City opens"
  at:27/08/1990 $leftdw2  text:"[[BBC Radio Five Live|Radio 5]] begins broadcasting - Aug 27"
  at:21/11/1989 $rightdw1 text:"Nov 21 - Television coverage of proceedings in the [[British House of Commons|House of Commons]] begins"
  at:20/09/1988 $leftdw1  text:"The [[Radio Data System]] (RDS) launches - Sep 20"
  at:01/09/1988 $rightdw1 text:"Sep 1 - BBC External Services is renamed the World Service"
  at:27/10/1986 $leftdw1  text:"BBC1 starts a full daytime television service -  Oct 27"
  at:01/04/1986 $rightdw1 text:"Apr 1 - All commercial activities of the BBC are now handled by BBC Enterprises Ltd"
  at:23/01/1985 $leftdw1  text:"Television coverage of proceedings in the [[House of Lords]] begins - Jan 23"
  at:17/01/1983 $rightdw1 text:"Jan 17 - [[BBC Breakfast Time]] UK's first breakfast television service is launched"
  at:02/09/1979 $leftdw1  text:"[[Closed captioning|Subtitling]] of television programmes on CEEFAX begins - Sep 2"
  at:03/04/1978 $rightdw1 text:"Apr 3 - Regular radio broadcasts from [[Houses of Parliament|Parliament]] begin"
  at:23/09/1974 $leftdw1  text:"Regular CEEFAX teletext service begins - Sep 23"
  at:15/03/1973 $rightdw1 text:"Mar: Experimental CEEFAX teletext transmissions begin" # date uknown
  at:23/10/1972 $leftdw1  text:"The BBC announces plans for [[Ceefax|CEEFAX]] [[teletext]] service - Oct 23"
  at:03/01/1971 $rightdw1 text:"Jan 3 - [[Open University]] programmes start on both radio and television"
  at:15/11/1969 $leftdw1  text:"BBC1 starts broadcasting in colour (simultaneous with rival [[ITV]]) - Nov 15"
  at:08/11/1967 $right    text:"Nov 8 - [[BBC Local Radio]] starts. The first station is [[BBC Radio Leicester]]"
  at:30/09/1967 $leftup1  text:"[[BBC Radio 1]] is launched, as a response to the threat from [[pirate radio]] stations.~Light, Third and Home services are renamed Radios [[BBC Radio 2|2]], [[BBC Radio 3|3]] and [[BBC Radio 4|4]]  - Sep 30"
  at:01/07/1967 $rightdw1 text:"Jul 1 - Regular colour TV transmissions (625 lines) begin on BBC2,~starting with the Wimbledon tennis championships"
  at:25/06/1967 $leftdw3  text:"The first worldwide live satellite programme, ''Our World'', is televised - Jun 25"
  at:01/05/1965 $rightdw1 text:"May 1 - The General Overseas Service is renamed the BBC World Service"
  at:20/04/1962 $leftdw1  text:"[[BBC TWO|BBC2]] starts broadcasting (on 625 lines); existing channel is renamed [[BBC ONE|BBC1]] - Apr 20"
  at:28/08/1962 $rightdw1 text:"Aug 28 - Experimental stereo radio broadcasts begin"
  at:29/06/1960 $leftdw1  text:"[[BBC Television Centre]] opens in [[Shepherd's Bush]] - Jun 29"
  at:16/10/1958 $rightdw1 text:"Oct 16 - Britain's longest running children's television show [[Blue Peter]] starts"
  at:05/05/1958 $leftdw1  text:"First experimental transmissions of a 625-line television service - May 5"
  at:25/12/1957 $rightdw1 text:"Dec 25 - First TV broadcast of the Queen's Christmas Day message"
  at:10/10/1955 $leftdw1  text:"Alexandra Palace begins test transmissions~of a 405-line colour television service - Oct 10"
  at:02/05/1955 $rightdw1 text:"May 2 - The BBC begins broadcasting on [[Very high frequency|VHF]] ([[FM radio|FM]]), using the [[Wrotham]] transmitter"
  at:02/06/1953 $leftdw1  text:"The coronation of [[Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom|Queen Elizabeth II]] in [[Westminster Abbey]]~is televised by the BBC, 20 million viewers (est.) in Britain - Jun 2"
  at:27/08/1950 $rightdw1 text:"Aug 27 - First live television from the European continent,~using BBC outside broadcast equipment"
  at:21/05/1950 $leftdw1  text:"Lime Grove television studios open - May 21"
  at:26/12/1948 $rightdw1 text:"Dec 26 - The first [[Reith Lectures|Reith Lecture]] is broadcast on radio"
  at:29/07/1948 $leftdw1  text:"The [[1948 Summer Olympics|London Olympic Games]] is televised - Jul 29"
  at:09/11/1947 $rightdw1 text:"Nov 9 - First use of [[kinescope|telerecording]]: the Service of Remembrance from the Cenotaph~is televised live, and a telerecording shown that evening"
  at:29/11/1946 $leftdw1  text:"The Third Programme starts broadcasting on radio Nov 29"
  at:07/06/1942 $rightdw1 text:"Jun 7 - BBC Television broadcasts (405 lines) resume after the war.~The first programme shown is the interrupted Mickey Mouse cartoon"
  at:29/07/1945 $leftdw1  text:"Regional radio programming resumes, and the Light Programme starts - Jul 29"
  at:07/01/1940 $rightdw1 text:"Jan 7 - Forces Programme starts on radio, precursor of the post-war Light Programme"
  at:01/11/1939 $leftup2  text:"The BBC Television Service is suspended,~in the middle of a Mickey Mouse cartoon ([[Mickey's Gala Premiere]]),~due to the imminent outbreak of the [[Second World War]].~On radio, the Home Service replaces National and Regional Programmes - Sep 12"
  at:29/09/1938 $right    text:"Sep 27 - European Service starts on radio, broadcasting in [[French language|French]], [[German language|German]] and [[Italian language|Italian]].~[[Portuguese language|Portuguese]] and [[Spanish language|Spanish]] are added before the start of [[Second World War|WW II]]"
  at:30/04/1938 $leftdw2  text:"First BBC coverage of [[FA Cup]] - Apr 30"
  at:03/01/1938 $rightdw1 text:"Jan 3 - The BBC begins broadcasting its first foreign-language radio service, in [[Arabic language|Arabic]]"
  at:21/06/1937 $leftdw1  text:"1st TV coverage of [[Wimbledon Championships|Wimbledon Tennis Championships]] - Jun 21"
  at:12/05/1937 $rightdw1 text:"May 12 - First use of TV outside broadcast van,~for the [[Coronation (United Kingdom)|coronation]] procession of [[George VI of the United Kingdom|King George VI]]"
  at:02/11/1936 $leftdw1  text:"The BBC opens the world's first regular high-definition television service,~from [[Alexandra Palace]] - Nov 2"
  at:25/12/1932 $rightdw1 text:"Dec 25 - King George V first monarch to deliver a [[Christmas|Christmas Day]] message by radio"
  at:19/12/1932 $leftdw1  text:"The [[BBC Empire Service|Empire Service]] (precursor of the [[BBC World Service|World Service]]) launched - Dec 19"
  at:22/08/1932 $rightdw2 text:"Aug 22 - First experimental television broadcast from Broadcasting House"
  at:01/05/1932 $leftdw1  text:"[[Broadcasting House]], the BBC's headquarters, is opened May 1"
  at:14/07/1930 $rightdw1 text:"Jul 14 - Transmission of first experimental television play,~'The Man with the Flower in His Mouth'"
  at:20/08/1929 $leftdw1  text:"First transmissions of [[John Logie Baird]]'s experimental 30-line television system - Aug 20"
  at:01/01/1927 $rightdw1 text:"Jan 1 - The British Broadcasting ''Company'' becomes the British Broadcasting~''Corporation'', when it is granted a Royal Charter.~Sir [[John Reith]] becomes the first Director-General"
  at:04/05/1926 $leftdw1  text:"The [[UK General Strike 1926|General strike]] begins.~The BBC broadcasts five news bulletins a day as no newspapers are published - May 4"
  at:01/07/1925 $rightdw1 text:"First BBC [[shortwave]] transmissions are broadcast from [[Daventry]]'s [[Borough Hill]]" # date unknown
  at:23/04/1924 $leftdw1  text:"First broadcast by [[George V of the United Kingdom|King George V]],~opening the [[British Empire Exhibition (1924)|British Empire Exhibition]] at [[Wembley Stadium]] - Apr 4"
  at:28/09/1923 $rightdw1 text:"Sep 28 - First publication of the ''[[Radio Times]]'' listings magazine (price 2d)"
  at:18/01/1923 $leftdw1  text:"The UK [[United Kingdom Postmaster General|Postmaster General]] grants the BBC a licence to broadcast Jan 18"
  at:08/01/1923 $rightdw1 text:"Jan 8 - First outside broadcast"
  at:14/11/1922 $leftdw2  text:"First BBC broadcasts Nov 14"
  at:18/10/1922 $rightdw2 text:"Oct 18 - The British Broadcasting Company is formed"

TextData =
  textcolor:black fontsize:XS
  pos:(60,17)  text:"This timeline has been produced with [[meta:EasyTimeline]]."
  pos:(60,7)  text:"by Erik Zachte, author of EasyTimeline."
  pos:(350,17) text:"Warning" textcolor:red
  pos:(390,17) text:"Think twice before you start converting a text intensive timeline like this."
  pos:(350,7) text:"In this case text editing, inserting line breaks and repositioning overlapping texts was not easy at all."

Back to Introduction Copyright (C) 2004 Erik Zachte, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Email:erikzachte@+++.com (nospam: +++=infodisiac).

Wikipedia on your PDA  My other Wikipedia projects  Statistics for all Wikipedias


EasyTimeline is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2.