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

Monday, 20 August 2007

Teletext free service guide

I spotted a note on ITV Teletext itself: an offer of a free guide. I sent a request email to them asking for one but the message failed to send, leading me to think that the service has been discontinued. I will look to follow this up, maybe writing to the address though I am not hopeful of getting a reply.

On a more positive note, I did find a guide from 1995:

Source, and a higher res version - mb21

Bring back teletext?

On a day when 5 Live ran a news story on the 'bring back Wispa chocolate bars' campaign, I set out to look for similar campaigns for teletext. Surely a phase of the technology will be lost when the analogue switch off comes.

The search proved somewhat fruitless. Maybe this could be a gap in the market - for my project I could create a kind of campaign website, for example with the name 'TRUMP' (Teletext Revival Unified Members Project) to jointly celebrate the life of teletext as well as attempting to gain recognition for the 'death of teletext'.

I explored this idea a bit more in my notebook, so be on the lookout for that...

Bring Back Wispa!

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Teletext comedy

A piece by comedian Mark Wooton. It's alright.

Possibly the inspiration for the Wootton vid above (it contains the same joke), an Alexei Sayle presented piece.

Teletext/Ceefax stories

In Praise of Ceefax - Guardian Unlimited

The clunking letters and block graphics are not cutting-edge, but Ceefax retains loyal fans. It was devised by the BBC in the 1970s to provide subtitles for the hard of hearing, using the "spare lines" that sit at the top of normal TV pictures to transmit the text. But from 1974, when it went live, Ceefax did more than subtitles - putting "the world at your fingertips" in the form of easy-to-browse pages of news, sport and information. Teletext technology was eventually copied not only by Ceefax's ITV rival Oracle but by broadcasters right across Europe. Mass appeal, though, did not come quickly - not least because the early decoders were costly. Only when, in 1980, the Beeb started filling gaps in the TV schedules with a set menu of Ceefax pages did the nation get the bug. Before long the full a la carte version was being enjoyed by millions, and the future looked bright. Recent years, however, have been less kind, and Ceefax's condition is now looking terminal. The slow death by red button continued this week, when Auntie's scalpel was applied to the specialist film, music and games pages, which were cut down and merged. Teletext seems dated not because the chance to see facts on screen is no longer valued, but because we have found new ways to do it. Like the French Minitel system, also now withering on the vine, Ceefax prefigured the internet - paving the way for a technology that would eventually overtake it, and ungratefully consign it to the past.

Laurie Sanchez and Roy Essandoh
Guardian Unlimited
Wikipedia entry

The story of a professional footballer that responded to an advert on Teletext for players during an injury crisis. Essandoh was the only one to respond but promptly scored the goal that knocked Premier League side Leicester City out of the FA Cup.

Goes to show the extent to which advertising could reach the public's wider perception, used prior to the rise in popularity of the Internet. One could say that this would have been less likely to happen on the Internet because of the limited space on the Teletext 'server' leading to more chance of people seeing the request and thus getting a response. On the other hand, the Internet would reach a wider audience. In this case, the advert only applied to the UK due to the short timespan available, so advertising on the net wouldn't have been a massively greater advantage.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Teletext then... but now?

The Death of Teletext.

When the BBC and ITV engineers developed teletext and launched it in 1974 they had produced an almost perfect product. It could be generated quite cheaply using a handful of computers, journalists and writers and cost next to nothing to add to the existing television transmissions.

It had been 10 years since the introduction of BBC-2, 7 years since the first appearance of regular colour and 5 years since its introduction to BBC-1 and ITV. TV set manufacturers and retailers, having grown used to innovation in the TV market, were ready for another initiative and got behind teletext, as did the TV companies.

Once you had teletext you then discovered another useful bonus. The quality of the journalism was, in general, excellent. With each page consisting of just a couple of dozen short lines (around 900 characters) news stories had to be reported clearly and succinctly. There was no room for journalese or hype. This all came as a blessed relief from the rambling column-inches of newsprint and the seemingly endless speculations of the television news bulletins.
That Digital Text doesn’t rely on page numbers for navigation is a further nail in teletext’s coffin. How can programme makers refer viewers to Ceefax page 673 when it doesn’t exist on the digital equivalent? It’s far easier just to give out a website address.
Yet how much easier it would be for TV viewers just to press three or four buttons on their remote and get a screenful of information in seconds. Not every TV viewer has a computer or easy access to one, let alone a broadband 24/7 connection.

So teletext is dying, but come the inquest it will be seen, all too late, that it did not die of natural causes, and it will be much missed.

Source: Techmark

More teletext screenshots.... and a test card

Source: TV Ark

Want to save Teletext? Don't press the red button

Yesterday the BBC axed another swathe of Ceefax pages as it continued the switch to digital text in anticipation of the end of analogue TV.

Of course Teletext has been dying a slow, largely unreported death since its heyday. Despite most channels dabbling in the technology, it's the BBC that held this medium together since first introducing it in 1976 and continuing to keep faith while others dithered. Ironically, ITV at last seems to be investing but still can't figure out quite where the service belongs. Channel 4 still shares the one-sided alliance with ITV that allows it racing and financial information, but no news pages - especially ridiculous given the schedules are anchored by Channel 4 (and more recently More 4) News while ITV can't even agree whether its News still belongs at 10.

The BBC, meanwhile, threw license money and newsroom staff until, by the mid 80s, Ceefax provided our most reliable source of breaking news before the internet and rolling news channels took over. In fact, with so many digital channels now around, Teletext still provides something worthwhile for your remote that doesn't involve hopping between the same loan commercial on different channels while missing the restart of the show you were watching in the first place.

Ceefax has been clinging onto life since 2001, repeatedly flatlining and then sitting up in bed shouting "No, I'm feeling better!" However, this time the decline does seem terminal, as indicated by the decreasing frequency of page updates. During last week's Wimbledon, for instance, score updates were lagging nearly a set behind the live action - so no more watching Tellytubbies with the kids whilst keeping the cricket scores onscreen.

And it's all the more painful because of what is now meant to replace all this. Was there ever a TV advance more pathetic than Digital Text? Now, I am a Virgin Cable customer, so I'm used to being at least two years behind the times, but my digital text seems to involve a 30 to 60-second delay while the screen goes blank, then the complete loss of the programme I'm watching - while single paragraphs of text have to be cued by hand at 15-second intervals. Compared to this, Teletext still looks state of the art to me.

And don't get me started on those omnipresent red button services, that clutter up the screen while allowing ITV to promote This Morning on every peak time show, incurring further 60 second delays should you be stupid enough to press it. Once again, BBC Interactive does it best, but it's not nearly good or fast enough and after nearly five years in development and nobody has ever explained why.

All in all, I feel a Save Teletext campaign coming on but I simply can't be arsed to launch it. And if that doesn't say something about the red button generation, I don't know what does.

Mike Anderiesz, Guardian Unlimited, July 12 2007

Teletext on the web

Talking Teletext
A piece of equipment that employs text-to-speech software and plugs into televisions, reading the text on-screen via a 'voice synthesiser' for the visually impaired. Looks quite old, though. It will be interesting to see whether this is still used by anyone - there are certainly similar pieces of software that do the same thing on PCs.

Teletext Media Site
The bridge between the Internet and traditional Teletext formats? Online info on how to advertise on Teletext.

A disgruntled Teletext fan laments the demise of teletext
On the Digitalspy forums. Plus a lengthy discussion on the pros and cons of the Digital Switchover.

Teletext in the news

Vanguard: Teletext hooks more Nigerians, expands horizon
(15 July 2007)

... today, going by the analysis of the providers, Teletext may have not only caught the interest of many Nigerians but has also brought a lot of education to teeming Nigerian TV viewers, about the inherent valuable technological manipulations of the TV, that their counterparts in the developed world have been enjoying ever since.Teletext is a well established user friendly medium provided by several major European and Asian television channels and accessed by millions of viewers on daily basis. Today it is in Nigeria, courtesy of Tgmedia and Silverbird alliance and accessed by Nigerian viewers on STV and NTA television stations.

Vietnam news: Projects to increase IT use in remote areas
(20 June 07)

HA NOI — Several projects to boost the use of information and communication technologies in rural areas were announced at a symposium held in Ha Noi on Tuesday in association with the Ministry of Post and Telematics (MPT).
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) floated several projects at the symposium. One such initiative, Teletext, will use television to help farmers stay informed about the weather, disease outbreaks and the price of agricultural products on domestic and world markets.

And finally...
(16 July 2007)

Sven-Göran Eriksson’s reputation for gnomic utterances (“Talking is silver,” he has said, “but being quiet is golden”) grows apace, thanks to teletext subtitles. After the former England head coach’s new team, Manchester City, beat Doncaster Rovers 3-1 at the weekend, anyone watching Sky Sports with the sound turned down would have seen the suave Swede declare: “It is better to win than Toulouse.”
Whether he meant the inland city in southwest France or a certain hard-drinking, short-living painter, he is almost certainly quite right. (Late result: André Breton League, Division One – Real Madrid, 4, Surreal Madrid, a fish.)