Welcome, teletext fanatics! I'll just leave this here...

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Some links

From Wikipedia:
Interactive TV
Enhanced TV and Media multitasking
Internet TV and Digital TV

Enhanced TV.com
Enhanced Tv at ensequence.com

Image above right: enhanced tv for a Gorillaz video on MTV.

Audio Switching and this weekend's Interactive TV

Interesting interview on today's Points of View with the BBC's head of interactive programming, Tom Williams. In it, users' comments on quality of viewing are passed on to Williams at which point he mentions that a new feature known as audio switching is in developement. This would be an addition to interactive TV which would allow users to select which audio stream they would like for this particular programme, much like selecting the language of subtitles (where available).

This feature is actually already present on some screenings. For example this weekend's FA cup final allowed for selection of regular commentary or the Five Live audio stream, commentary from the BBC's national sports radio station. In addition, after the game users could watch highlights all weekend by pressing the red button on their remote.

Williams mentioned people can give feedback at the Points of View website as to ideas and comments relating to the technology.

Enhanced Commentaries

As well as for the cup final, the BBC also offer a teletext/internet style service on the latest cricket score for the current Test match England vs West Indies. This is constantly updated and has pages much like the teletext pages which scroll through but is more advanced, providing latest photography and news of the event as it happens. Layered over the top is a live radio commentary stream.

Enhanced commentary

Teletext regular service

There's a bit more on the BBC's interactive TV services here. Image from here.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Reject Reject Reject

Fault screens interest me, particularly this one, a full text warning sign from Melbourne, Australia.

This one, from Malaysia, attempts to create some interesting filler in place of regular transmission.

Finally, this screenshot is of the 'in-vision' function Teletext provides/used to provide, demonstrating a somewhat dying medium. However, as the screenshots below show, the function is not fully lost, rather recontextualised, often to a more aesthetically pleasing extent:


Saturday, 12 May 2007

More ASCII art

Above: a couple of screenshots from ASCII Art Generator in action. Needs to be unlocked for full features such as copy and save as.

This site is more limited but provides an online auto logo generator.

Above image created with MacOSaiX, a piece of software that can be used to create mosaics.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007


Staying with the 8-bit computer era, a few screenshots of early computer graphics and art:

Top: Anthony Crowther's William Wobbler loading screen for the Commodore 64.
Middle: Screenshot from Monty Mole, also by Crowther.
Bottom: Shot from Hacker for the Apple 2.



This is a computer art subculture specialising in demos, non-interactive digital presentations. These have been present since the 8-bit computing era of the 1970s, first appearing on the Commodore and Spectrum systems. Began as software 'cracking' where people would hack into the codes of games to produce alternative outcomes.

The aesthetic of demos can often be quite retro, harking back to the era of pixellated graphics, such as in this example from 1995:

The above movie also incorporates explanatory text alongside the typically 90s graphic styling.The below one, (mainly a musical piece) however, is more reminiscent of 80s computer graphics:

Modern day demos use patched/modded videogames for repurposing of existing games with level editors etc. Machinima is a good example of this. It is part of a wider range of mediums within the grounping 'video game art' which involves painting, sculpture and appropration amongst other things.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Some links

About Jodi's Teletext series - "Bastard-ASCII"
Teletext telesoftware
A piece about Digital TV
Early days of Teletext - Brief history of early years of teletext. Loads of text art.
Teletext shows the way

More misc. teletext screens

From top to bottom; Canadian level 2 text; Dominion text, late 1990s; MTV text; Nick text. Note the advanced incorporation of JPEGs in the Canadian text screen reminiscent of modern digital teletext. Dominion text has some small block graphics at the foot of the page and for the main title. A more intricate design for the MTV text screen incorporating the corporation's logo alongside some text. The bright colours on Nick Text appeal to the younger audience of the channel.

ASCII Art - history

Art Typing, Nathan Krevolin, 1962 - excerpts

The text file in the first link, created in 1999, briefly examines the history of imagery as text, citing the hieroglyphics used by Ancient Egyptians to communicate. It makes reference to a 1950's artwork by Korean Gwang Hyuk Lee made up of text from the "Book of John". An image of this is shown right.

In the early 20th Century, "calligrams", that is, utiilising shaped text in visual word poems, became popular. Most of the ASCII art is from Krevolin's book and there is mention of teletyping, a forerunner to the ASCII format. EBCDIC was another competitor for the standard encoding on computers, but in the end, ASCII, a code by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) won out. ANSI code is essentially ASCII.

Early ASCII art was spread via e-mail, bulletin boards and other online activities, such as in MUDs (Multi User Dungeons). This page from the earlier days of the Internet explains ASCII art briefly and a number of 'artpacks' to download. The site's design is also typical of the early days of the Internet, being rather primitive with jagged, brightly coloured graphics.

"Microsoft declared ASCII art "dead" in June of 1998. Why? I'm not sure. But I would guess that Microsoft is encouraging people to use GIF and JPG graphics -- of course, with their software."

Whilst there is no doubt ASCII and ANSI art is on the decline somewhat in comparison to the early Internet, I would tend to disagree with this - it seems to be sensationalism on Bill Gates' part. Maybe because of its synonymous links with the Internet as well as its existence as a creative and distinctive artform, the medium survives today.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

ASCII Art - a brief introduction

Wikipedia Entry
History of ASCII art

Relying mainly on computers for presentation, ASCII art is an artistic medium making images from piecing together any of the 92 (of the available 128) characters in various combinations. Prominent in the early days of the Internet due to its low file size in comparison to images, people would map out pictoral representations using ASCII art as a more customisable, compatible alternative to images.

Today, the medium is used for more elaborate creations such as webs comics, as in this example, animations, as demonstrated here and even desktop art (example here). In the example above right, some block ASCII is shown in two different font sets, demonstrating the slight difference across formats. This makes it less compatible than photographs with regards to consistency. The block method, however, allows for more intricate and smoother-looking art whilst retaining the jagged edged pixellated look characteristic of the medium.


ASCII stereograms, meanwhile, attempt to recreate 3D effects using ASCII. These can be compared to early computer games and their fascination with achieving a pseudo-3D effect using minimal polygons. Taking simple data from an ordinary stereogram, these are converted into the lower-res format for ease of transmission.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Teletext via computers


Acccessing teletext services via home computers - a widely used option open to modern information-seekers - is nothing new. This article describing the renewed interest in the BBC Micro explains how, with an adaptor, it is possible to view Teletext on the system rather than a television - there is a built in mode for teletext.

The teletext mode became quite popular because of its speed, low memory footprint, and suitability for serious (text based) applications, for example teletext information services and bulletin board systems (like Prestel).

And, according to this article, there exists a program with which one can actually program the pages. Whilst I am sure this is not what is generally used to enter the information it was quite a big breakthrough in 1983 when the technology was still less than a decade old.

As a side note, I have subscribed to the Teletext mailing list.


This article is an instruction manual for ITX, a computer program which allows users to view Teletext pages on their computer. They can enter the desired page number into a text field to navigate and can switch between analogue teletext services such as Ceefax and Teletext. It even makes mention of how it can be adapted for a hand-held device, meaning teletext services can be accessed from almost anywhere at a time convenient to the user.

Misc. commercial teletext art

Teletext as a public information system


On 11th September, 2001, many major Internet sites suffered lockdown as people clambered to find news on a series of terrorist attacks in America. In its place, Teletext served as a useful resource for those without access to digital television and 24-hour news broadcasts.

Sometimes, though, teletext can report less serious items, serving as a remedy to the endless news of death and terrorism:

Level Two Teletext

In the UK, all services currently are using, and have pretty much always used, Level One encoding. However there have actually been advances in the technology, significantly improving the graphics to look smoother. On a large scale, this has never really caught on, however, with only a select few services choosing to employ Level two. This excerpt addresses this issue:

"But nobody reads teletext, it looks crap" some might say

True, it does look crap. The thing is, most people don't care - but the majority of people just don't notice its limitations. The computer press often likes to bash teletext, branding it defunct because of its looks. This is in spite of the fact that over 22 million people look at teletext every week (
ITC), that it needs no technical expertise, and that it's free of subscription and phone charges.

The blocky graphics have been addressed. 'HighText' - teletext level 2.5 - provides more colours and simple, but smoother, graphics. In the UK, TV manufacturers and teletext providers have both ignored it in a chicken-and-egg scenario. Not only that, but if teletext providers used all the extra features, it'd slow the service down. And now that digital TV has launched in the UK, it looks unlikely that the providers will invest anything into updating the analogue teletext services.

With many people suggesting that Teletext is slow as it is, Level Two teletext was what the service was supposed to go on to become, and in many ways was a precursor to the digital TV teletext technology we see today.

The BBC flirted with Level 2 Teletext, which offers higher resolution graphics, wide text and more colours. The BBC have now abandoned Level 2 and say they have no plans to broadcast it in the future. -- http://teletext.mb21.co.uk/gallery/ceefax/in-vision.shtml

The future of Teletext

What is the future of teletext?

Digital television has 'digital teletext'. Despite the name, the only thing common to 'analogue' teletext is the fact that the viewer looks at information on the TV screen. The methods used to broadcast and decode it, as well as the way it looks, are much removed.

Some channels on SkyDigital, the UK's digital satellite operator, carry analogue teletext despite the promise of digital teletext. Sky's own-brand channels carry an expanded version of SkyText, although it directs viewers to the Sky Electronic Programme Guide instead of carrying TV listings.

Channels on the UK's digital terrestrial channels don't carry analogue teletext. This was due to a decision by The Digital Television Group (DTG), who decided that such things were unnecessary. In the long term, this is probably true.

Digitally encoded Teletext

Been playing around with my analogue television reception (an aerial) on my computer via my TV card. This actually allows for some interesting extras not present in the original, traditional television broadcast. To start, there is less distortion, as the service simply shows as a black screen if the quality of reception is not clear enough. Screens from this service shown below.

In addition, this service seems to be more efficient than traditional teletext. By pressing left and right keys one can scroll through the pages at one's own leisure and the up and down keys highlight the three-digit codes on the screen to be selected. There is still the option of entering a three digit code using the keypad however. The user still have to wait for the pages to load, which is quite time consuming. There are also mix and hold options but I still haven't found the button to make the text larger.

Teletext glitch art

Inspired by this image at Photobucket, thought it might be interesting to see what effects I could create using my analogue aerial and television with teletext. Some of the results are shown below, from Channel 5 and ITV's Teletext services.

Sometimes this stuff is more interesting than the actual content of Teletext today.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Teletext - up to date for the 21st Century

Uploader's comment:
New ad campaign for Teletext: inspired. Standing for simplicity in an age of info, noise and overload is a great idea, and I love the football commentators... Also a nifty reworking of Trio's 1982 hit "Da Da Da"

Factor in the new look, very purple, website and this advert is in contrast to the 1975 one shown in the previous post and the differences in timespan are evident. Albeit embracing a different medium in presentation (TV advert, as opposed to an information leaflet), the focus here is on simplicity and getting across the bare facts in a world of sometimes too much information. The focus in the previous ad is on immediacy of information at a time that is convenient to the user. Whilst this is still an effective selling point of the modern teletext service it is evidently not a priority what with the Internet being the primary competition. This seems to be a factor which sees teletext survive today, albeit in its adapted, Digital TV format.

Meanwhile, this video concentrates on the use of a teletext service via the Internet as its primary use. It's in a foreign language but it the rough message is transmitted.

Early advertising - Information at your fingertips

Just an interesting little information flyer from the early days of teletext, advertising a television receiver:

A few interesting and/or relevant observations:
The flyer states that to access the information, the user must first enter the number of the desired page, preceded by a 'p' button for 'page'. This seems to have died out since as it is rare today to see a teletext interface work this way. This could be said to be 'evolution', weeding out extra button presses in favour of ease and quickness of use.

"Teletext is transmitted through a regular 16 hour viewing day" - this is in contrast to today's 24-hour broadcasts of the service. Maybe they needed to switch off the service to give it a rest.

The article makes note that the service is in full-colour, something that would be a given today. However it's not really full colour, but limited to the teletext colour palette.

The whole language used is one of excitement and the innovative capabilities of this shiny new service, which "Immediacy is a major feature of... you get the information when you want it, not at pre-set times."

Teletext and the Internet - C4 information services

Planet Sound - http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/thewow/teleindex.htm
The Mega-Zine - http://www.vegetablerevolution.com/
Teletext category
Links from Wikipedia

Some elements of teletext become so popular that they make the transition from a large teletext 'community' to a credible Internet one. The above examples, all from Channel 4's Teletext service, developed a cult following on the teletext format and, with the traditional format's decline, the Internet serves to continue the 'legacy' they have left. In the case of Mega-Zine, it was taken from the broadcast before being 'brought back by popular demand' but only on the Digital format of the medium - Teletext Digital.

Planet Sound still exists, for now, but the inevitable rise of the Internet could see the web-based version of the service overtake the original, despite fervent interest from 'hard-core' traditionalists. It provides a music news service that is actually quite detailed for the format, even though the traditional method of condensing the info down into more 'managebale' chunks is still employed.

Pic from Myfirstairport.com.

A couple of small things

A teletext timeline

It has been suggested that maybe a timeline/wallchart could be one possible outcome for the ersearch project. Perhaps this could be transposed into a more Teletext-esque format for presentation.

Five text
Just a few screen grabs from one of my favourite teletext services, design-wise.
On 31-Dec-2001 the contract for the main teletext service carried by Channel 5 expired and the ancillary service on magazine 5 was revamped.

Note the animated Gif showing the advertisements switching between frames, one possible conversion of the format for the web. Pro - remains faithful to the original format, is quicker. Con - not really interactive - no hold button.

Analogue shutdown


A couple of questions concerning teletext and/or its functionalities in the forthcoming analogue shutdown, from the Freeview FAQ link above:

Does Freeview have subtitles?
The font used for subtitles on most Freeview boxes is superior to that used for Ceefax and Teletext on most analogue televisions. However, Freeview lacks mix mode, so subtitles are always displayed on a black rectangular background. That makes them easier to read, but more distracting for other viewers.
Because subtitles are added to the picture by the Freeview box, they will be recorded by a VCR, provided they are enabled at the time when the recording is made.

What provision is there for regional variations on Freeview?
BBCi, the BBC's digital text system, does not appear to be regionalised yet, judging by its television schedule listings.
Teletext on Freeview channel 100 is fully regionalised.

The first of these displays one or two elements that will be lost from the traditional teletext system. The 'mix' mode, whilst debatably useless, was a hallmark of teletext upon its inception. However nowadays there is less use for this function apart from with subtitles. Maybe in time this will be incorporated into the newer digital boxes but at least in my opinion the white text on the black background is far easier to read, despite its obstruction of more of the viewing area.

The second point made in the first question is recordability. Whereas previously people would have to purchase a special decoder to connect to a VCR in order to record subtitles, the overlay of pictures on Freeview (in this case) means it will be possible to tape with an ordinary VCR or a DVD recorder.

Finally, the second question adresses the problem of regional teletext. It is expected that this will be developed in the future, but for now, all services are merged into one and navigation between regions is made via an area selection page.

The Death of Teletext?
Finally, a screenshot which will become more and more familiar over the coming few years: