Electronic Calculator Into A Control Room

The Weird, Sci-Fi Beauty of Control Rooms

Nuclear plant? Electrical station? Transportation hub? A peek inside the nerve centers that rule them all.

The design and construction of an operations center must be absolutely, positively perfect. A shadow that makes a monitor hard to read or acoustics that make conversations difficult might lead to disaster, while a second's hesitation in an emergency can mean a meltdown. Literally. The Cold War-vibe operations hubs seen here — thick with glowing dials, meters, and read-out screens — serve as sterling examples of what countless people think of when they hear the deceptively simple phrase, "control room."

Kinda Blue Walter Nurnberg/SSPL via Getty Images Kinda Blue The technical heart of the British Gypsum Plant, where they manufactured plaster and plasterboard, in Kirkby Thore, England, 1976. Minor Adjustments Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Minor Adjustments The Joint Institute of Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, 1959. The Machine and Me Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images The Machine and Me The Joint Institute of Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, 1959. High Stakes robert wallis/Corbis via Getty Images High Stakes The control room of a nuclear power plant in an undated photo. Meter Men Fox Photos/Getty Images Meter Men Technicians check the dials at the Battersea Power Station, a then-humming coal-fired power station located on the south bank of the River Thames, in London. The station, long since decommissioned, is one of the largest brick structures in the world — and is familiar to millions of rock and roll fans as the building that graces the cover of Pink Floyd's 1977 album, "Animals." The Sky Above Walter Nurnberg/SSPL via Getty Images The Sky Above The main control room at Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station in Somerset, England, 1965. The plant was shuttered in 2000. Three Men and a Beast Steven Gottlieb/Corbis via Getty Images Three Men and a Beast A trio of workers exhibit total focus, in an undated photograph. Man and Machine Fox Photos/Getty Images Man and Machine London's Fulham Power Station, built in the first years of the 1900s, was designed as the largest city-owned station in the United Kingdom. Finger on the Button ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images Finger on the Button Inside the broadcasting studios of a German radio station, 1972. Hold the Phone Walter Nurnberg/SSPL via Getty Images Hold the Phone The Sizewell Nuclear Power Station in Suffolk, England, 1965. Attention, Passengers Chris Hunter/Corbis via Getty Images Attention, Passengers The dispatcher board in the control room of the Cincinnati Street Railways Company, which opened in 1859.