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back to article RIP Ceefax: Digital switchover kills off last teletext service

Over a decade ago the majority of UK holidays were booked by TV, but today London lost Ceefax – and by the end of the year teletext as we know it will disappear entirely. Ceefax is the BBC's teletext service, as opposed to the eponymous Teletext Limited, which produced text services for the other channels from 1993 to 2010, and …

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Trollface

hmm

We went digital last year, saves me best part of £200 as now I can't get a telly signal

And judging by the shit that's on all those extra channels, I'm quite glad I don't have to pay for them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: hmm

www.thebox.bz

That is all.

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Gimp

Fast moving accurate information

People who worked on Ceefax often comment it's the quickest moving news service as updates were absolutely instant when they updated the page.

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Thumb Up

Re: Fast moving accurate information

Absolutely, having worked briefly for a travel agents in my youth I know it was that rapid update which attracted holiday firms to advertise on Ceefax. A little PC in the corner with a modem so the company could update their pages "live" as it were.

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Windows

Ceefax nostalgia...

One sunday morning in the Autumn of '92 I woke up in my grotty student digs, blearily made coffee, staggered to the telly in the lounge to peruse the headlines, and discovered an ex-schoolmate had been arrested for killing someone with a machete.

Happy times.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ceefax nostalgia...

I used to work for ladbrokes, if you've been in a bookies you'll know that they have hundreds of screens these days. They still saw less action on a saturday when compared to the staff telly showing the football vidiprinter; this allowed me to read my paper in peace without someone asking me to dial up the (usually out of date) scores on our results console evey 30 seconds.

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Silver badge

Re: Ceefax nostalgia...

That wouldn't have been in Essex by any chance was it?

If so, then I remember that night well too. I was staggering home from a few too many with the guys (back in the days when the beer scooter still worked) and every police car in the country went flying past me. It was only the next day I found out why.

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Re: Ceefax nostalgia...

Same here - I was browsing the teletext news headlines in the mid 90s and discovered by chance that someone on my skiing holiday, who ran a pizza takeaway in London had been arrested for a murder. I don't think it made the national headlines.

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Windows

Re: Ceefax nostalgia...

Not Essex - the event I'm thinking of took place in a cricket club in Buckinghamshire. That's quite enough information for anyone who remembers the event to recognise it.

I'm fascinated to learn that other people have had a reading-about-a-local-murder-on-Ceefax experience.

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Flame

Re: Ceefax nostalgia...

The bloke across the road from us had gone downstairs, got an axe and then bludgeoned his wife with it before calling the police to tell them what he'd done. The police came, he went quietly and no-one knew anything until ceefax told us why there was a van outside.

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jai
Silver badge

noooooo

When i was 7 we spent a couple of weeks in our computer classes learning how to write Ceefax style pages on the bbc micros they had in the rudimentary computer dept (read: room).

ah, such halcyon days...

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Trollface

Re: yessssss

It just reminds me, that the Acorn Electron didn't have Mode 7.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: electron

looZURRR

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Re: noooooo

Ah yes - and to make double height text you had to print the line twice with a modifier IIRC. VDU 141 maybe? Fun times.

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Re: noooooo

10 PRINT CHR$(141);"DOUBLE HEIGHT!"

20 PRINT CHR$(141);"DOUBLE HEIGHT!"

RUN

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Boffin

Downloading software

I had one of these for my Amstrad CPC in the days before we had a teletext TV:

http://www.cpcwiki.eu/imgs/0/07/Teletext_adapter.jpg

You plugged it into the VCR to use the tuner (in that article they use a separate tuner model) and loaded some special software into your Amstrad et voila, you had Ceefax/Oracle on your computer. This meant you could save and print pages.

They also had software you could download. Ceefax restricted itself to mainly BBC micro stuff, but Channel 4 had some stuff for other micros.

However I used to have a awful job getting anything to download and work. I did manage to get a racing game to download but it was obviously terrible. With no proper error correction it wasn't really a service that was reliable in any sense!

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Silver badge

Today London lost Ceefax!

OMG the world must be ending for you southern pansies.

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Silver badge

Re: Today London lost Ceefax!

Is Lewis Page an Oracle? It would explain a lot.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Today London lost Ceefax!

You mean he's someone who chews laurel leaves, then utters inarticulate sounds before fainting? Yes, that sounds about right.

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Re: Today London lost Ceefax!

IIRC, Oracle was an acronym: Optical Reception of Announcements by Coded Line Electronics.

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Digital text

It's interesting how digitial text appears to be slower and less useful than the thing it's replacing.

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Silver badge

Re: Digital text

The core content (news/weather) is the same. What actually happened was that the Internet took over the non-core stuff like Holidays etc.

Arguably the content is less interesting but thats just because the range is smaller and there are other/better delivery channels.

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Gold badge

Just use the website?

http://www.teletext.co.uk/

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Meanwhile, in a county not far far away...

You don't have to go far from the comfort of your city based desk, we still have it in Kent (Blue Bell Hill and Heathfield) so ner!

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Silver badge

Actually in Germany

We still have a Ceefax-like teletext service. You can embed it perfectly into DVB and even get it online:

http://www.ard-text.de/

http://module.zdf.de/teletext/master.html

etc...

Unfortunately the "online decoders" rarely support level 2.5 features. Some good satellite receivers do however.

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Silver badge

Re: Actually in Germany

We still have it in the UK, there are slightly differing flavours on Freeview, FreeSat and Sky.

Cant speak for Virgin.

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Happy

I remember playing Bamboozle on Channel 4 Teletext.

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Bamboozle

And after choosing an answer, watching to see what page number (and page letter!) it tried to load, and correcting the answer quickly and accordingly lol

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Go

Septics and Teletext

I'll never forget watching a US equivalent of "Tomorrows World" in New York in late 1990, to see a piece about how US scientists and engineers had devised a way to use the 4 blank lines in a TV picture for digital data, and were excited about the possiblities it offered ...

Being horribly jet lagged, it took me a few moments to realise they were describing Ceefax. Mind you, on the same trip, I had a US sailor explain how the US gave Britain radar in 1942.

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Headmaster

Re: Septics and Teletext

Septics? Are you sure?

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Re: Septics and Teletext

or Shermans .. YMMV

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Sad

I still miss Turner the Worm.

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turner the worm end screen

Turner the worm went out with a bang

NSFW if your boss hates cartoon ejaculate

http://farm1.staticflickr.com/212/506622777_1b9520378f_z.jpg?zz=1

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Re: turner the worm end screen

What do you mean ejaculate? He's clearly being sick!

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Stop

Re: turner the worm end screen

"Ejaculate" means to eject with great force.

In days gone by, people shouting or exclaiming with force were often said to be ejaculating.

"Good God!" ejaculated Watson.

The connotations of sexual mechanism are a fairly modern interpretation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: turner the worm end screen

As you would know if you've ever read a Biggles story. Biggles was always ejaculating.

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Linux

sad to see the end of ceefax

Would be nice to see a Raspberry_pi Model B running a web server delivering news and weather feeds as web pages in the style of Ceefax.

hmm....

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Boffin

Re: sad to see the end of ceefax

Shouldn't be too hard to hack AleVT to receiving data from an http address instead of /dev/vbi.

.. oh god. I'm giving myself really silly ideas now.

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Digitizer

The Computer pages on C4 were good/bonkers. (cant remember if digitize were the original one or the poor outsourced imitation)

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Bronze badge

Memories

I can just about remember when we first got Ceefax.

For some reason our family was picked out for a trial of Prestel, which some may recall.

For this we got a huge (by the standards of the day) telly, and a free(ish) connection to Prestel.

After so many months on trial, they took the TV back but in the meantime we had gotten to like Ceefax so much that we made sure we bought a TV that had it.

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Re: Memories

Actually after a series of used TVs, we bought our first new TV in about 1987. It just happened to have teletext. Back then German Teletext was still in it's "2 year test period" which lasted from about 1982 till about 1990. They used to turn it off in the morning, however it was a fully fledged teletext system, including the German version of "Pages from Ceefax" called "Videotext für alle". (Of course that's now gone as German TV executives are drooling morons)

I actually read most of teletext on Austrian Teletext. They were the first ones to have Teletext outside of the UK. And what a service they had. It included things like programming courses (Pascal, 2 different assemblers, etc), or program exchanges where you could send in software they would then publish in sourcecode for everyone to type in. However we were in a _very_ marginal reception area, so all pages were sprinkled with bit-errors.

Anyhow, Teletext is alive and well throughout Europe.

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Anonymous Coward

dispute the comment on badly rendered text

The text was very well rendered, it was the graphics that was clunky and made out of tetris style blocks to keep to bandwidth limitations.

We have gone a long way to make things harder to read since.

delivering very sloooowly via TV signal overflow was not going to stay the delivery protocol though.

NB I remember downloading programs onto my BBC B from teletext in the early 80's and using the format to deliver presentations. eat your heart out powerpoint!

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Holmes

Badly rendered text?

There’s an interesting history of Teletext text rendering. The text produced by the SAA5050 (etc) used in the BBC Micro and most TVs of the period was really good.

Although it only used a 5x7 bitimage font, it used a clever wheeze to double the resolution. Taking advantage of interlacing it delayed the interlace field by half a pixel horizontally (matching the “half pixel” vertical offset of the interlace) and then output a pixel wherever two and only two pixels met diagonally – smoothing the jagged diagonals. The result was in effect a 10x14 bitimage font, with a few idiosyncratic design decisions!

Later chips and software emulations didn’t do this hardware resolution enhancement, so newer TV’s just used the original 5x7 shapes, or even some other generic 8x8 instead. In addition, the roughly square SAA output was (often) stretched into the 5:4 aspect, resulting in non-square pixels.

I wrote a Teletext editor a long time ago and producing the anti-aliased glyphs to perfectly emulate the old SAA5050 was the best bit.

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Happy

Re: Badly rendered text?

I love it when the commentards get all technical like this.

I will probably never have a use for the information you provided in your post but I am glad to read it!

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Thumb Up

Teletext has been the only successful TV information service

It was the only access people had to real time news and information before 24 hour rolling news and the internet. Its usage and acceptance was far higher than its MHEG digital replacement will ever be. The fact that there are no other real interactive TV success stories should be a warning to Google for Google TV.

[Note I don't count video content services (including the extra video channels on the red button and iPlayer etc.) as interactive TV as they are just interfaces to reach video content rather than being done for the experience and the data services themselves].

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Happy memories in the Science Museum

Fiddling around with Prestel and Hacking the Animal Game

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Bronze badge

How are we going to impress Americans now?

With subtitles, aka "closed captions" in the US. European subtitles took advantage of the coloured text capabilities of teletext; US ones were only monochrome and all caps if I am not mistaken. Subtitles on digital TV continue to use colour and lower case. Have the US ones now improved?

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Re: How are we going to impress Americans now?

US subtitles have italics I think.

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