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Happy 25th birthday PACE
Written by Pamela Reynolds

PACEPACE is the largest technology company in England and has its headquarters in Salts Mill, here in Saltaire. On Friday 8th June at 3 p.m. a bunch of people were gathered in the PACE conference suite, just to the right of reception, located in the grand Salts Mill building on Victoria Road, Saltaire. There were Saltaire yokels, the Mayor and Mayoress of Bradford and lots of chic people in business suits. I wore my best jeans. Glasses of champagne clinked together in celebration of Pace's rather brilliant survival in the TV technology business for 25 years. In 1982 memory sticks and emails didn't exist. Mobiles were carried by people who had big muscles out of necessity. PACE is, in their own words, "a leading developer of digital TV technologies for the global payTV industry creating intelligent and innovative products and services that allow our customers to grow their subscriber base and increase ARPU" (average revenue per user). Which is good for companies I suppose - though I've never been a corporate groupie, if you'll pardon the expression.

Neil GaydonNeil Gaydon, Chief Exec. of PACE called for hush. He began by telling us that his speech would be short - always a mercy at such events - there was food, after all, and it was rather warm, so obviously drinking to avoid dehydration was a must. Give the lad his due - it was a good speech - short(ish), pretty sweet (plenty of references to lovely Saltaire, home of Pace's headquarters) and informative. The conclusion was appropriate - that PACE's success was entirely down to true Yorkshire grit - no doubt entirely inaccurate but nice to hear if you hail from Yorkshire like me.

We learnt that 99% of homes had televisions. Not surprising really, but boy - that's a market! Analogue TV is quickly receding into the past - the digital age is here - one flat panel TV is sold in the UK every 30 seconds. Meanwhile, three million Americans watch TV through PACE technology - and they watch a lot of it - averaging about 8 hours a night. It's a good job then that PACE has developed the first energy star compliance set top box for the USA. PACE are also aiming to be a carbon neutral company - which is great - though did you know that over 40% of people now tune into radio via their set top box (is this bad - wouldn't switching on a little radio leave less of a carbon footprint?). Ah, the conflict between commerce and capitalism, energy and the environment - and ignorance. It's hard for a body to keep track, especially after a glass of champagne.

PACE is working alongside gifted engineers at Leeds University to develop the technology the TV hungry world can rely on. It's true - high definition pictures are fabulous - and now this TV-on-demand lark means that soon, with the right equipment, when the phone rings you can press pause, tell the caller you already have a fitted kitchen, and then pick up your programme where you left off. You can even redirect your programme to another room (doesn't everyone now have TV in the study, bedroom and loft conversion?) and when you've donned your pyjamas and brushed your teeth, you can press play again, snuggle down under the duvet with a nice relaxing episode of Police, Camera, Action while recording the latest news on Iraq from another channel. Sweet dreams are not inevitable. This is the world we live in.

Still - TV is important to us and PACE is leading the way with the technology so that we can enjoy seamless television. Apparently PACE's global media colleagues (Time Warner, Rupert Murdock, Comcast, Sky and Foxtel, to name a few) are aware that PACE's heart belongs in Saltaire. Hello you moguls out there. It would be nice to see a bit about Saltaire on the PACE website though guys - and how about a link to the Saltaire Village website?

All in all - PACE is doing great. Outstanding engineering - great products - they're leading the way. TV is the window on the world no doubt - but let's remember that the world lies just beyond our front doors. There are places to explore - like Saltaire - its charm sealed in the stones which were placed down well before TV was invented - its aspiration, mutual aid and a peaceful society where friendship overrides difference. If only the world reflected those values. Sigh. I think I'll opt for a carbon neutral evening down the canal path on my bike.

Happy birthday PACE. Keep up the good work and don't forget to smell the roses.

© Pamela Reynolds, June 2007

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