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.
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, …
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the football vidiprinter; this allowed me to read my paper in peace without someone asking me to dial up the (usually out of date) scores on our results console evey 30 seconds.
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.
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.
I had one of these for my Amstrad CPC in the days before we had a teletext TV:
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!
We still have a Ceefax-like teletext service. You can embed it perfectly into DVB and even get it online:
Unfortunately the "online decoders" rarely support level 2.5 features. Some good satellite receivers do however.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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].
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?
The uppercase restriction was because the earliest decoders didn't handle lowercase text very well (the descenders didn't descend, making the text less legible).
The US ones have technically improved, but programme-makers tend to use a backward-compatible subset of the more modern standard, as this makes it easier to generate old Line-21 and the newer ATSC title streams from the same source material.
DVB also has some quite clever subtitling features, but most European broadcasters have stuck with using Teletext embedded into the programme stream, because they have an infrastructure in place to produce Teletext streams.
But it's not quite Ceefax - it's a kind of semi-dumbed down version. Look at the weather pages - the digital offering only has odd little regional maps, whereas Ceefax has 5 day predictions for over 30 towns, UK current weather inc temp & wind and world cities. I don't see why the same information can't go onto the digital pages, I suspect it's a "policy decision" that Ceefax is old and outdated and it's got to go.
I recall working at the head office of a major UK building society and one the techie squad emailing us a Ceefax utility installer package that gave us access to Ceefax on the PC. This would be mid 90s, before the net took off and before wasting your day at work reading pointless stuff from the outside world was the norm.
It was a revelation. Constant access to football news, news headlines, TV guides for later on when we all went home etc. Not surprisingly senior manglement latched on to the drop in productivity in the IT Dept and banned it instantly, except for those who had 'special cause' to use it, i.e. senior manglement.
We used to be able to access it from text terminals (aka TA Alphatronics) at the campus network at uni - even if you had no login access on campus computers, you could request pages via the PAD prompt (did anyone other than UKC ever use a Cambridge Ring network in anger?).
IIRC this was how we discovered the joyous news that Maggie had resigned.
I remembering the first TV I bought in France (as an ex-pat). Teletext sets were rare, only the very top-end ones had it, even though there was a Teletext service. Some digging through the "Sendz components" adverts in "Television" magazine turned up ex-equipment Teletext boards pulled from the UK version of my TV. £15 and a coupling capacitor later, and I had Teletext! Great for news, and subtitling to help me learn French.
The BBC broadcast pages in the small hours. Sad it's gone as a service, but now we get the press RED crap shoved in our faces whenever news or sport is broadcast. (I know you can press green to get rid of it.) Funny how it's only the BBC who have the nerve to do that, must the the way they are funded. Gladly they get not one penny from me.
Anyone remember when the BBC used an updated teletext for their in-vision Ceefax service during the 1990's?
It had improved graphic capabilities and more colours. But the only place I ever saw it used was in-vision Ceefax and the BBC have dropped it since.
I now can't find any reference to this online but am 100% certain I didn't imagine it.
I remember at one time Channel 4 used to broadcast teletext test pages.
Some of these pages had enhanced functions (if you could get them) that I think included:
support for different languages with alternate character sets (I think mostly for European accented characters)
some sort of palette mapping to adjust the colours available on a page.
I think at the time my TV could do the alternate character sets, but not a lot else.
Actually that's still in service. It's called "Level 2.5" Teletext.
Unfortunately less and less decoders support it. Most open source ones do, however.
It has user definable characters, up to 64 or so characters per line, and 32 out of 4096 colours. I think it even has 3 phase blinking.
DTV has huge amounts of spare bandwidth compared to analog TV. It's odd that there's no UK replacement.
In the US, it's common to multiplex low bitrate audio and video subchannels into the broadcast. They're usually weather, news highlights, international satellite feeds, and such. KAXT-CA is notable for being nothing but 20 of those streams.
and thinking, why don't we get a computer to cache it so its instantly available?
Drifting off topic...
Happy memories of returning to the UK in the early 80's and seeing all the cool tech: Teletext, Commodore, Spectrum, Apricot, Amstrad QL, PCjr, Mackintosh and big sister Lisa. We picked up an Apple ][+ (also upper case only, though one wordprocessor switched to graphics mode and rendered all the text as graphics, allowing lower case) which matched what we had at school, so I was a very happy bunny. Dual floppies too! I remember taking the case off the disk drive and tuning the drive speed with a screwdriver to give Locksmith 4 an easier time; poking a sector scanner into memory so I could load and modify the title screens for games. BSAVE memaddr,length. "Locked down device" meant you hadn't unscrewed the case bolts.
Happy, happy days...
My TV had 4 colour coded buttons for teletext that I think corresponded to 'Next Page', 'Previous Page', 'Home' and 'Index' (something like that anyway), and when you were on a page, the pages corresponding to the coloured buttons were cached in the background, so as long as you didn't step forwards or backwards too fast it gave the impression of being instant.
back when MPEG was 1.5, and we were looking at a 19 inch rack to make a MPEG II encoded of TV signals,
Oh how we loved Teletext,
We had an amazing number of technical meetings to decide should and how the teletext information of a TV signal should be encoded onto a MPEG II stream,
So much passion, sub sampling theories, trellis code detection,
now all gone
long live great thinkers who come up with the new ideas.
The digital text services may (arguably) have better content, but they are P A I N F U L L Y S L O W compared to teletext!
Until Tuesday, I found it much more convenient to switch to analogue and get the information off teletext rather than the digital text services. Ceefax was lightening fast in comparison.
<Sigh!> Another triumph for technology.......!
> they are P A I N F U L L Y S L O W compared to teletext!
Part of the problem is that you have to start the teletext application - it doesn't run all the time.
So fast-switching between TV and Text (which analogue teletext does so well) isn't really possible; although some decoders have a fast-clear, you'll still get long delays switching apps. So the teletext app was redesigned to have a video pane visible - thus reducing the available screen area.
Back at the start of the Sky Digital project, we put a load of effort into getting VBI Insertion working, so you could still watch analogue teletext. I've no idea if anyone still uses this - my decoders certainly don't support it :-(
"Americans did put watermarking and V-Chip information into the same gap, but they lacked the monolithic BBC which could dictate a standard and ensure commercial partners conformed to it."
Err, we don't have monolithic mobile phone companies but we still ended with international standards such as GSM et al.
It'd be cool if web pages had a reveal feature like teletext pages do (should I say did). El Reg writters could hide funny quips about Paris and such amongst their articles!
Maybe someone should invent a new HTML <reveal> tag and used in conjunction with <blink> and some oldskool fixed width fonts we could recreate the 70s-ness of Ceefax on the web once more!
Mines the one with the Fastext remote sticking out the pocket.
Pretty sure I've got copies of SEAFAX kicking about. I'll post a copy somewhere and put a note on the BBC Micro mailing list.
Harking back to Oracle, has everybody seen
But of course, my fondest memories are of Prestel - same display format, but delivered via the telephone, and thus able to be totally interactive!
While over here in Scandinavia, we switched to digital years ago, and still have the old blocky teletext services. They're not sent in the invisible lines anymore, but rather embedded in the DVB data stream nowadays. There has been much talk about these new fancy good-looking teletext replacements, but still it is nowhere to be seen (and, last I checked, the digital BBC World News service had a simplified Ceefax teletext service).
My God. You lot will go misty-eyed about any oul' crap, provided it existed more than a couple of decades ago. Ceefax was shite and only had any viewers at all because there were only a couple of channels back in those days and 24hr broadcasting was unheard of. So Ceefax was the only thing on the box between 01:00 and the start of breakfast telly at about 06:30.
Not for nothing is it laughingly referred to as the "skinternet".
> Ceefax was shite
No. Ceefax was technologically marvelous, given the capabilities of the time, and extraordinarily useful.
> So Ceefax was the only thing on the box between 01:00 and the start of breakfast telly
Yeah, you seem to have confused "Ceefax" with the "pages from Ceefax" transmissions the BBC did overnight.
Ceefax was a 24-hour data carousel. It was an exceptional design - 40 years later, we haven't beaten it on a broadcast medium. I, for one, mourn its passing.
 On the grounds that the MHEG-based "replacement" really is shite.
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019