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back to article BBC pulls plug Ceefax ahead of analogue TV's end tonight

Ceefax, the BBC’s Teletext service, is no more. First broadcast on 23 September 1974 following its announcement two years previously, Ceefax comprised pages of text and crude block graphics transmitted as codes embedded in unused, off-the-screen lines of the 625-line PAL TV signal. Some 30 pages were provided at first, each …

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Angel

RIP

Ceefax. You served me well back in the days before the internet.

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Re: RIP

Sweden, Denmark and Iceland also still have teletext and at least the Swedish ones are still quite useful.

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Re: RIP

Most of continental Europe supports Teletext via DVB-TXT. I'm not sure if this is because people are particularly fond of it or because DVB-TXT comes on all the cheap set top boxes and DVB-MHP and HbbTV don't, and are also more difficult to develop for.

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GJC

Re: RIP

... and the Danes and Norwegians have it online and Apple/Android apps too:

http://ttv.tv2.dk/

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/tv-2-tekst-tv/id431851121?mt=8

http://www.dr.dk/nav/tekstttv/ttv1.asp?

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=teksttv.tekst.tv&hl=en

http://www.tv3.se/text-tv

http://nrk.no/tekst-tv/100/

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tekst.tv.nrk&hl=en

and there is an international app http://android.arnodenhond.com/apps/teletext

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Headmaster

Fear not

I'm given to understand that Finland still uses teletext, so it's not gone forever. You'll just have to move to Finland. And learn to read Finnish.

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Re: Fear not

Suomi on todella kova kieltä!

(props to Google Translate)

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Bronze badge

Re: Fear not

Suomalaisen kieli ei ole vaikeaa.

I studied Finnish at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in the early 1990s. It's actually a straightforward language - unlike English, exceptions to the grammatical rules are unsual rather than the norm.

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Anonymous Coward

I remember seeing the teletext data at the top of the screen on one colour TV we had and my father blaming one of the neighbours for it saying his CB radio was interfering.

So some TV sets didn't hide the pattern of dots that teletext used.

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Silver badge

You could show the dots

by changing the vertical scan amplitude - which usually meant twiddling a knob on the back.

The dots were part of the TV frame, but if the picture was sized properly they stayed out of sight.

I first saw Ceefax in a special room at the Science Museum, which had a special TV and *magical* touch switches you used to pick a page number.

The experience was made of awesome. Not even the fact that you had to wait for anything up to a few minutes for a page to load could spoil it.

It was very simple, very clever technology. For a long time you could buy decoder chips and kits to make your own decoder add-on for the many TVs that didn't yet have it.

If anyone's interested there's an online museum here: http://teletext.mb21.co.uk/

I quite like the idea of having the same spectrum used for the nth-generation mobile descendant.

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jai
Silver badge

fondly remembered, but not missed

I remember being taught how to write ceefax pages when i was 7 at school - gave me an appreciation for what was required by the people who made them each day for the telly.

while i made a lot of use of it as a kid, looking up tv listings, the top 40 results, grand prix results, i don't think i've used them since the early 90s. certainly, now that it's gone i won't notice the difference.

a shame, but purely for nostalgic reasons.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: fondly remembered, but not missed

I miss it. I bought an analogue TV/teletext card ~ 2002 and found the ttext really handy for catching up

with news and results quickly and w/o fuss. Especially since the software cached all the ttext pages

so that I could rapidly skip to what I was interested in. And way faster than this newfangled web browser

nonsense. :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: fondly remembered, but not missed

It was a godsend in the bookies. The football vidiprinter was better than both the in-house screens and the intranet.

It also meant the punters didn't bother me when I was reading the paper.

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Thumb Up

Teletext on the BBC Micro

Anyone remember the teletext modem the old BBC had which downloaded software broadcast over Ceefax?

Or the bulletin boards of the mid eighties which used teletext (Mode 7 on the Beeb) ?

Ah they were the days. Still miss them occasionally

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Happy

Re: Teletext on the BBC Micro

<misty eyed nostalgia>

I remember the teletext modem well. My first job was to write an emulator of the Teletext for Schools service (Wordsworth) for use in Sheffield schools that had BBC micros but not Teletext modem. My version (Keats) ran standalone and provided a page editor - I remember scratching my head for days trying to work out how to do a line-drawing algorithm with Teletext graphics characters. Happy days.

</misty eyed nostalgia>

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a little bit lives on

A little bit of ceefax still lives on in the form of the page numbers on the digital service. Football is still on 302 with the brief stories on 312.

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Anonymous Coward

Only useful thing on the telly, really.

Then again, I haven't owned a telly in at least a dozen years. Back when I used to use it mostly for the news and the weather, notably the general aviation weather forecast. It's quite useful to know along what line and with what speed a storm front is approaching to know whether you'll make the three quarters of an hour trip by bike to school without getting soaking wet, or whether taking the bus would be a better idea.

Curiously, the Dutch version has had a web presence for ages (teletekst.nos.nl) and still exists after terrestial tv there has gone completely digital. Maybe they did manage to put it on digital somehow. Then again, maybe it's merely for the rather large cable tv market. I wouldn't know, I have no tv set. I do use that website on occasion, as the page numbers are still the same.

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Digitiser

I used to read you every day, that is all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Digitiser

Indeed it was the best written videogame review place / magazine / site etc. The only thing that captures that sense of anarchy nowadays is the zeropunctuation video cast/tube thing.

I seem to remember the music reviews on Ceefax in the late 80's and early 90's were pretty good as well, staying out of the mainstream and providing something pretty unique on "TV".

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I built a decoder for this

When Ceefax first started, Wireless World published a design for a decoder & provided circuit boards. It was 2 boards full of TTL. I remember building this - must have been in 1975 or so, as it was before I moved house in 1976. The original lash-up connected it into the RGB drive circuits in the back of the TV - chassis connected directly to mains in those days! It was later put in a case with proper 75 ohm drivers etc. The page number was set up on thumbwheel switches - remotes were a thing of the future.

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Re: I built a decoder for this

Ah, that prompted me to dig out my old copies of "Television" magazine. They published a series of construction articles (9 monthly installments, starting April 1977) finishing with a decoder that fed the TV via a UHF modulator. By January 1980 they were describing how to add the new standalone TI Teletext module to their colour TV kit!

Always wanted to build the TTL one, but I was a poor student back then...

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"Not the Larry Ellison one"

I seem to recall that the teletext name 'Oracle' was a back-formed acronym for 'Optical Reception of Announcements by Coded Line Electronics'.

Don't know if it's true though.

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Happy

I thought it was the bees knees

When I had a VCR that could use the Ceefax TV listings to set a recording.

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Silver badge

Red Button

It amazes me that the Red Button text services are so unspeakably slow and otherwise just a bit shit, considering the it was introduced over 30 years after Ceefax was.

As an analogy: Ceefax started 7 years before the ZX81 was released; the Red Button started just after the PS3 was released.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Red Button

Sorry. My fault. I'll try and do better in the future.

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Re: Red Button

It really is cack isn't it? Often on even my brand spanking new Panasonic telly the red button takes a while to appear, and sometimes doesn't appear at all (BBC HD)

My dad and my in-laws were big consumers of Teletext as they have no interest at waiting for a pc to boot and pay poundzz for the internets. They are constantly frustrated by the red button services, half of the pages are missing for a start. The only benefit is they kept the page numbers.

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MJI
Silver badge

Digital text or press green to eff off.

Ah the press record rubbish.

Digital text has been here since early 2000s, I think it was 2001 or similar, a bit slow at first but later decoders were faster.

I do not press red that is very silly, I always use the text button, anyway BBC it should say press green.

For a month or 2 I had to watch BBC news on delay, until a complaint got them to mention green.

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Re: Red Button

Hoping that one day MHEG might support all the cleverness that teletext did, and that BBCi in particular might include all the pages that Ceefax used to... Not holding my breath though.

Performance wise, seems to depend a lot on the equipment manufacturer. Our Humax is more or less instantaneous whereas our old Inverto could be ponderous. I believe with teletext there were only a couple of manufacturers of the chipsets used, whereas there is more diversity with MHEG.

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Vic
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Re: Red Button

> It really is cack isn't it?

Yep.

The big problem, IMHO, is that the broadcasters want to keep quite a lot of screen space for video / advertising, so there isn't actually much content per page. As a result, you get more page reloads than under the old Teletext system.

This seems to be caused by the enormous startup/shutdown times of the MHEG decoder, meaning that flipping back to video isn't as easy as in thje Analogue days[1].

I've worked on many STB designs. A core part of the specification for a great many of them[2] is that they do VBI insertion. Sadly, no-one seems to use this in the final product :-(

Vic.

[1] Although some do have a fast-blank capability.

[2] I don't know if it's all of them.

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MJI
Silver badge

Performance

Well I have seen varying

Worst - I think the Nokia dodgy box was slow, IDTV was slightly better when Sony got round to writing the text software (RIP TVonics*).

After Ondodgy went bump the loan Nokia failed before they could reclaim it# So got a Pace Twin and retired the Sanyo M40, now the Pace (POS) was quicker than the TV.

Humax HDR Freesat Text, similar to the Pace, not THAT quick, rarely use it.

New Sony LCD, well that has the quickest digital text I have used.

* Where do you think TVonics came from? A few of them were from the Sony IDTV development team.

There was a time Sony bought in a cheapo PVR and rebadged, yet made a PVR badged as TVonics

# Only loan until my CAM arrived, and the software was updated to handle it. I had a first generation IDTV.

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Bronze badge

So, with analogue TV finally dead, when can I expect the digital TV signal's ramp-up to full power to cover all those not-spots and receive it with anything less than a huge external or loft aerial, like we did the old TV?

Oh. Apparently, that's *already* happened around London. And now they have to fight with 4G transmissions too because the bright sparks put them in a place they'd interfere with digital TV.

It's almost like we need a government office to oversee all these communications mediums and various frequency allocations, isn't it?

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Bronze badge

Aerials

Digital terrestrial TV hasn't been configured to allow the use of simpler aerials; it's been configured to allow more channels in less spectrum.

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Bronze badge

Re: Aerials

Are you insinuating that all those years of telling us that we can "just convert" every TV was possibly a blatant lie? Gosh.

Or is it that we get unlimited* free** TV*** through an aerial****, further-terms-and-conditions-apply, ISP-style?

*Subject to limits.

**Free only if you pay.

***Your TV will need to be replaced.

****Your aerial will need to be replaced

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Bronze badge

Re: Aerials

Erm no. Nobody (reputable) has been telling you that. Coverage has always been planned for rooftop aerials only. If your analogue TV happens to work with a coat-hanger for an aerial then nobody has promised you that a digital TV will work as well. Moreover, even a proper rooftop aerial might need replacing, due to changes in frequency. Learn about it here.

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Re: Aerials

Oh, and that is why a scheme is in place to help make sure more vulnerable people do not lose their TV reception after switchover.

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Boffin

Does anyone remember....

A TV ( I think it was a Ferguson, but I don't trust my memory sometimes) that had a built-in thermal printer. You could press a button and it would print out a hard copy of the teletext page you were viewing?

Seemed like Star Trek tech at the time...all looks a bit Button Moon tech nowadays....

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Happy

Re: Does anyone remember....

It was a Philips.

The paper was like the zx81 printer!

http://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/showthread.php?t=54404

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Bronze badge

Aertel still going

in Ireland, too.

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Re: Aertel still going

Yep. Analogue Switch-off is 24th October in the Republic of Ireland (the Northern Ireland switch-off is timed to coincide with this date). However, the teletext service lives on, on digital. Wheter you'll be able to access it is another matter, but it's there in the stream (Sky viewers access teletext this way).

For "Interactive services", the replacement terrestrial TV system (H.264/MPEG-4 video transported on MPEG-2 streams over DVB-T1) uses a later version of the same MHEG-5 text service as used in UK. But, like many European broadcasters, RTÉ will continue to broadcast their Aertel text service as an MPEG substream on the digital platforms, so it's available on DTT as well, and the streamed service loads even faster.

Unfortunately, many decoders will just select the MHEG-5 stream when you press "TEXT", rather than giving you the much faster videotext one.

And "faster" is a good word: A modern text decoder, capable of caching every page it receives, makes teletext faster and more responsive than any internet-borne news service. In the time it takes to load your favourite news site, the TV will have taken in the entire 1xx magazine, ready for browsing. Progress.

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Flame

LTE Mobile Broadband

No, it's not Broadband. It's Mobile Internet.

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Irish Compromise

RTE channels will close Teletext and only use Freeview/Freesat style MHEG5 Text

TG4 and TV3 will still use Teletext.

RTE will still provide full teletext to Sky Subscribers (RTE not available to UK addresses outside UK, but the teletext works if you add the channel manually on a UK sky box)

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This is what the (Teletext) service existed for...

C4 text page 182 BAMBOOZLE!

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Bronze badge

Re: This is what the (Teletext) service existed for...

There's now an app for that, believe it or not.

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Anonymous Coward

Fond memories...

the digital replacement is so confusing I don't know anyone who bothers with it. I avoid pressing Red like the plague, being mightily annoyed that I have to press Green all the time to get rid of the stoopid logo (DTV). At least on Sky it can be told to go away automagically after a few seconds.

My old Dad used to surf Teletext for hours. So much so, that the TV ended up with phosphor burn-out, because the Teletext was drawn to screen directly - bypassing the brightness/contrast controls - at full pelt. The screen had a permanent grid pattern etched into it!

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Re: Fond memories...

"My old Dad used to surf Teletext for hours"

Well, your new Dad will have to get used to surfing for hours to see Teletext.

Digital text is the SLOWEST thing ever and has died a death because of it. I once applied for a job at the BBC which would have been writing the pseudo-HTML code that ends up as digital text. Needless to say, I'm glad that I didn't get it. I have a feeling there's high-churn, unlike the digital-text page refreshes.

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Silver badge

I'm going to build an encoder for it

After all, it's fairly simple, just some bits transmitted at 444 times the line frequency. One can use a PLL to lock a microcontroller to that frequency, then have an external 8/1 switch and a synchronous counter to multiplex 8 pins into one signal. Maybe we can run a CATV network at the OHM 2013. :)

BTW Teletext is still very much alive in Germany.

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Swedish text-TV on the web

And you can even pick the way you watch it. TV style

http://www.svt.se/svttext/tv/pages/100.html

or Interweb style

http://www.svt.se/svttext/web/pages/100.html

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Credit where credit's due

"Sensing the shift to digital, Telextext Ltd made an early leap onto the web."

Good grief.... it's not just that Teletext (the system itself, not the company (*)) was fully digital (**) anyway, it's that it was probably the *first* widespread digital service- or digital anything!- aimed at the home user.

Under normal circumstances, this might be considered pedantry, if one is the sort of mouth-breather that considers criticising misuse of the word "digital" to mean "online" instead of... er, "digital" to be pedantic.

But despite all the nostalgia, this is one thing that few- if any- people have given it credit for, despite it arguably being the most important thing about it. Digital in the mid-70s, aimed at the man on the street, years before CDs were launched and the closest thing to a home computer was the Altair 8800 hobbyist kit (screen display and keyboard optional). Information on demand- primitive and limited by modern standards, but still amazing for the mid-70s, and the first spark of the modern information-drenched age.

(*) What f***wit let them get away with launching a service with the same name as the technology itself? It's like calling a new TV station "TV station" or "Television".

(**) What *is* it about the word "digital" that people use it to mean online, or downloadable or whatever? CDs are digital copies. DVDs are digital copies. Blu-Rays are ******* digital copies.

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Paris Hilton

RIP homie

Ceefax was the long legged mack daddy of looking up the news in a hurry - bbc.co.uk is a low level street hooker in comparison when you just need to check the news first thing in the morning to make sure terrorist aint blown the place up, etc!

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Still on RTE

Aertel is still going on satellite - encrypted but the teletext still works.

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