A recent comment asked about the loud beeping noise heard throughout the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s when a serve was long and what it was.
The answer, of course, was Cyclops, the very first electronic line judging aid which was first used at Wimbledon in 1980.
Let's take a look at the technology that paved the way for future aids such as the electronic net machine and later Hawkeye. And keep reading to learn a fun fact about Roger Federer and Cyclops!
What Was Cyclops?
Cyclops was the first line monitor used to assist officials in tennis. It was developed by inventor Bill Carlton and Margaret Parnis England in 1979. The system was quickly adopted by Wimbledon in 1980 and went on to be used at the US Open and Australian Open. Like Hawkeye, it was never used on clay as the undulating surface and dust particles caused problems
It was only ever used to determine if a serve was in or out and was activated by the umpire before each service point. Then deactivated when the service was good.
While no statistics were ever provided to prove it's efficacy, it was never a hugely controversial system. In the main, it was used as a complement to the line judges, not a replacement and the line umpire had the final call. In some matches, the system was shut down if there were questions about its accuracy or the dreaded ‘phantom beep'.
Cyclops in Action – The ‘Whistle' Sound
The sound changed to a beep as the crowd had begun imitating the whistle and it wasn't easy for those sat away from the court to hear it.
How Cyclops Worked
The Cyclops system was installed at the side of the court by the service box. The setup was two boxes both of which were in line with the service box line.
One of the Cyclops boxes emitted five infrared beams across the court (around 10mm off the ground) to the other box known as the receiving box. This was also connected to a smaller control box held by the service line umpire. And of course, there was an identical setup on the other side of the net.
One infrared beam ran along the good side of the service box line, and the other four ran outside the service line, up to 45 cm from the line.
When a ball hit was good (or just inside the line) it broke the first beam and turned off the others. If the serve was long, it broke one of the four other beams.
In the first scenario, the control box signalled with a green light that the first line had been broken and the serve was good. If the ball broke any of the others without breaking the first beam, it signalled with a red light and a loud beep.
The beep that most of you guys will remember was actually a whistle when the system first burst onto the scene but after the crowd starting mimicking it, it was switched to a beeping sound as this was also deemed clearer to hear in a loud stadium.
The system only worked for close calls and serves that weren't close to the infrared beams were considered easy pickings for umpires and line judges to determine purely by eye.
Why Was Cyclops Only Used for Serves?
Cyclops was limited to just serves because it had no idea what object was breaking the beam. In fact, there were times when foreign objects caused phantom beeps such as insects and dirt in the wind, although it was improved over time to be less sensitive to light and other objects.
However, on the baseline and sidelines, players are continually crossing the lines with their feet and racquets. The system would be going off every time a beam was tripped.
As a result, Cyclops had to be switched off (the umpire pushed a button on the control box) immediately after a good service so another ball, racket or the player's feet by the service line do not trip the beams again, triggering a beep.
Sneak Attacks by Roger – Impossible Under Cyclops
What Happened to Cyclops?
The introduction of Cyclops marked the advent of electronic aids to assist officials in tennis and that naturally meant other systems were always going to hit the market that were more effective.
Cyclops twenty-five year run came to and end in 2005 with the launch of Hawkeye. The US Open was the first to replace it in 2005, followed by the Australian Open and then Wimbledon replaced it to use hawkeye for the first time in 2007.
Once the slams got rid of it, it was quickly replaced en masse and condemned to the rubbish bin of history with the superior, more accurate and all-encompassing hawkeye taking the reigns.
To my knowledge, it's no longer in use at any tennis tournaments but it certainly paved the way for future technology.
Did you guys know about Cyclops? Or did you only start watching when it had already been replaced? Let me know in the comments.
PS. I was hoping to find a clip on YouTube of the iconic beeping sound but wasn't able to. If you know of one, please comment below.