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

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Album cover art - Electronic

Came across this band when browsing through a book: Factory Records - the Complete Graphic Album. Their album art is worth a mention here due to its association with the pixel and the electronic age - not 100% pixellated but heavily relies upon it.

Electronic's eponymous debut album (right) was released in 1991 prior to the 'Internet Boom', a time when the pixel was more associated with scientific stuff than a reminiscence of the past, as is the feeling in some quarters today. The interlacing/monitor flicker lines over the faces on the upper part would seem to back this up.

The single cover for 'Feel Every Beat' (left) also includes some of the previously mentioned elements. This time I am not sure if the pixellated figures are representing anything but they look pretty cool, actually. Might be something to do with the light blue colour scheme conjuring images of summer skies that makes this interesting to me. Not that you ever get blue skies in the north west of England.

Also reminds me in some vague way of scientific/medical charts, in particular those displaying DNA information, such as those in this image.

Back to the band. Not strictly electronica, but maybe the whole electronica scene would have more of the same design aesthetics. Worth looking further into, maybe?

More info at Wikipedia

Office art

One could conceivably create an artwork out of any office item imaginable - pencils, paperclips, staples etc. but it seems the most popular is the post-it note. This photoset on Flickr demonstrates the point in hand, the square shape of the post-it in this case being a substitute for a pixel with the iconic images of an enemy from the popular arcade game Space Invaders and The Mona Lisa being given the 'office art treatment'.

As a couple of small project these are pleasing on the eye, maybe due to their novelty and almost definitely because of the flourescent hues. They have an appealing spontaneous quality in that these were probably created one lunch break when the boss wasn't there.

Aside from this it's a basic idea but it works. This is often the best formula for success.

Google.com - Back to basics

Google is often cited as the simplest, most no-nonsense website around. Indeed, the fact it is the world's most popular search engine would back this up - it has many language translations including Spanish, Japanese and even Taiwanese. I set out, using the Wayback Engine, to see if this has always been the case.

Google, 11/11/98

The oldest archived version of Google's home page, hosted at Stanford.com, is simply a 'Welcome to Google' message with a couple of links - the ultimate in sparse. Except maybe for something.com. The search engine page itself is actually almost as 'cluttered' as the modern design but the layout is still very simple.

Google, 29/11/99

The simplification process continues as a year later Google is stripped to just a logo, a search box and a couple of relevant links. A bit closer to today's design, this version boasts a web design and application award.

Google, 10/11/00

As the Internet grew, so did Google. Its new web directory feature was an indication of this, as was the introduction of Adwords - an advertising service allowing sites to pay for a high Google rank. It seems simplicity is still key with no major additions to the overall layout.

Google, 10/11/01

Google's popularity booms. A small addition to the home page includes image and net group search facilities and the 'I'm feeling lucky' function appears but nothing else is added.

Google rules the world.

A site with just a logo and a search box. A brilliant idea stemming from a small project and eventually going on to rule the (Internet) world. Most importantly of all, it's very very simple - load up, type and click, with no distractions - a text-only design that works. The newer additions have been incorporated in a text only format going back to basics in its approach.

I love simplicity. Maybe it's just a nostalgia but the pages of the early Internet appeal to me with their uncomplicated, uncluttered designs. Today's websites are way too involved and overcomplicated. Come back, Tim Berners-Lee, all is forgiven.

A few web links


Some screenshots of different interactive TV interfaces and designs from around the world. Includes information on programs and quizzes.

The site itself is an information archive for interactive TV and has some up to date content despite the slightly dated layout design.

"ASCII Art is dead", according to Bill Gates.

"Microsoft isn't impressed with ASCII art's popularity. ASCII Art is the most universal of computer graphics, albeit the most simple, and uses the least amount of bandwidth - all one needs is a fixed-width font, and all computers have that capability... A very common post on USENET's alt.ascii-art newsgroup comes from people who are having difficulty changing [Microsoft's] Outlook Explorer default settings so that they can use ASCII art. Instead of addressing the issue with the software - or telling people how to readjust the default settings, Microsoft has suggested that people simply not use the ASCII art. After all, if everyone purchased a Microsoft product, all could receive graphics and HTML codes in their mail programs."

Joan Stark - ASCII Artist

This quote is from 1998. The page pins down the exact week Gates's quote was made.

EDIT: Since I wrote this I read somewhere that Gates denies ever making this quote. Perhaps it was misattributed or Gates now regrets his claim.

Joan Stark's web page

I also dispute the claim that ASCII is dead - even in 2007, smileys and text art still appear in forums, chatrooms and personal websites all over the Internet. Maybe the 'MySpace Generation' has something to do with this. Like it or not ASCII is alive and well.

That may be one reason 'older' sites like Stark's still exist - people have a sense of nostalgia about the earlier days of the Internet and newer web users have accepted the fact ASCII is a part of the web. It would seem, however, that Gates hasn't.

There's some brief explanation on the history of ASCII art here and a gallery of smilies here.

As a side note, I really like the old style early site design with simple formatting and no complications that would increase loading times. Something to look into further, maybe.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Interactive Mind Map

A textual mind map with the theme 'Bildpunkt' is uploaded to the microsite. It provides links to many relevant web resources and sites and can be found here.

A non-interactive A3 PDF version can be found here.

The pixel - about

From Wikipedia


The word pixel was first published in 1965 by Frederic C. Billingsley of JPL, to describe the picture elements of video images from space probes to the moon and Mars; but he did not coin the term himself, and the person he got it from (Keith E. McFarland at the Link Division of General Precision in Palo Alto) does not know where he got it, but says it was "in use at the time" (circa 1963).

The word is a combination of picture and element, via pix. Pix was first coined in 1932 in a
Variety Magazine headline, as an abbreviation for the word pictures, in reference to movies; by 1938 pix was being used in reference to still pictures by photojournalists.

The concept of a picture element dates to the earliest days of television, for example as Bildpunkt (the German word for pixel, literally picture point) in the 1888 German patent of Paul Nipkow. According to various etymologies, the earliest publication of the term picture element itself was in Wireless World magazine in 1927, though it had been used earlier in various U.S. patents filed as early as 1911.

Some authors explain pixel as picture cell, as early as 1972 .

Pixel Art

The term pixel art was first published by Adele Goldberg and Robert Flegal of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in 1982. The concept, however goes back about 10 years before that, for example in Richard Shoup's SuperPaint system in 1972, also at Xerox PARC.

Some traditional art forms, such as
cross-stitch, mosaic and beadwork, bear some similarity to pixel art by constructing pictures out of small colored units analogous to the pixels of modern digital computing.

Pixel art is distinguished from other forms of digital art by an insistence upon manual, pixel-level editing of an image (without the application of image filters, automatic anti-aliasing or special rendering modes), often at close magnification. In this form, it is commonly said that "each pixel was placed carefully" to achieve a desired result.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

More Teletext homages

Was watching a programme last night on BBC3 with credits made up in the Teletext style.

Most Annoying TV We Hate to Love

Up to now, could only find this clip from the show, sadly not the credits and not massively relevant but has a nice little intro clip:

Shopping TV

It's on again tonight but I don't plan to be up at half past midnight when the credits roll to capture them. Hopefully someone will upload them soon...

Teletext service guide

See here for my previous comment on this.

Yesterday morning I received the Teletext service guide I emailed for. This time there were no problems sending the email, it would seem. Must have been my computer's Internet connection or something.

The booklet is not exactly as I had hoped: I had visions of a 1970s style black and white typically teletext look. Instead it's a not very nice purple reflective and creaky laminated print version of what could be found on Teletext anyway.

Oh well, I suppose you get what you pay for and in my case I suppose the student's TV license doesn't extend to ITV and its associated products...

It isn't all that bad though - there's some nice little bits that vaguely hark back to the traditional teletext aesthetic: contrasting colours and bits of typography, such as the 'selection' chevrons (left) which remind me of ASCII art and crummy MSN/MySpace avatars and aliases but also simple interfaces for tuning various attributes on the telly. I do get the feeling this is more for technophobes and/or OAPs though. That's what you get with commercialism, I suppose.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Some useful links

Popular brands in a pixel landscape
Has a very similar style to eboy. Provides a virtual city in which all of the building link to a website. Brands can 'buy' space in the town much like one can with the Million Dollar Homepage. A bit thin on brands at the moment but could potentially be a successful marketing venture.

Jodi's personal map of the web
Some inspiration for a mind map of my own to sum up the progress and research made up to this point.

Pixel Pop
Proof that different media can be interchangable. I bet the music is rubbish, though.

Amateur teletext pages

It seems that New Zealand have, or used to have, a page for amateur teletext art and pages. This allows members of the public to create their own teletext art and have it broadcast.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Video Games & Internet timelines

Timeline of significant dates in the production of video games (selected).

1958: Physicist Willy Higinbotham invents the first "video game" at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. His game, a table tennis-like game, was played on an oscilloscope.
1966: Ralph Baer, an engineer at Sanders Associates, receives support from his company (a military electronics consulting firm in NH) to explore his idea of creating interactive games using a television.
1967: Baer and team are successful in creating two interactive TV games—a chase game and a tennis game. They are also able to manipulate a toy gun so that it detects spots of light on the TV screen.
1970: Computer Space becomes first video arcade game ever released. 1500 games are distributed. Public consensus is that it is too difficult to play.
1972: Magnavox's Odyssey, the first home video game system, is showcased at a convention in Burlingame, CA, and is released to the public later that year.
1978: Midway introduces Space Invaders into arcades. It is the first arcade game that tracks and displays high scores.
1979: Asteroids is the first game to allow high scorers to enter three character initials to be stored in the machine.

Source: Infoplease , Ralphbaer.com

An abbreviated history of Internet graphics.

1884: Nipkow (Germany) devises scanner for scanning and transmitting images.
1970: Lilian Schwartz produces 'Pixellation'
1987: GIF and JPEG formats developed.

Source: History of internet graphics

If I can merge this timeline with the Teletext and an abbreviated Internet one then select the most significant, there should be enough content for an overall timeline. Fingers crossed for that.

The mini-thingy is done

The project summaries in the teletext style are all but complete. Today I added Fastext functionalities and the description pages. However I have decided I will not use this - I am going to produce an A3 piece of a different kind. I will still produce some screenshots but these will not be the main focus - I will most likely produce a mind map/spider diagram of some sort to accompany these as I have been informed they are not up to standard.

I will need to spell check these and maybe rearrange some of the words but I will not spend too much more time on them. I will concentrate on producing my A3 print.

Teletext timeline

A timeline of events in teletext's history, sourced from this blog, Wikipedia and this.

1960s - Post Office researches 'Viewdata', a system connected via telephones.
1972 - The name 'Teledata' (Transmission of Alphanumeric Data via television) patented.
1974 - After development, Teletext goes live with 30 pages.
1976 - Teletext upgrades service. Palette of colours increased to 8 and coloured backgrounds now enabled.
1977 - First TV sets with built-in teletext encoders produced.
1980 - 'Pages from Ceefax' first broadcast.
1981 - Teletext upgraded to level 2, providing improved graphics. No British broadcasters adopt it.
Mid 1980s - Virtually every European TV set has built-in teletext encoding.
1990 - BBC finishes Telesoftware, its version of teletext for the BBC Micro home PC. The news service provided by ITN ends as ORACLE is shut down.
1996 - Ceefax relaunches in response to the popularity of ITV's Teletext service.
2000 - Digital teletext goes live. Level 2.5 (Hitext) introduced, providing enhanced text and graphics services. No British broadcaster adopts it.
2001 - Teletext broadcasts news of September 11th attacks. It proves a reliable service as pages of major news websites crash, overloaded with visitors. 5 text, channel 5's resident teletext service, closes.
2005 - BBC's Nightscreen service ends.
2008 - First analogue receivers that transmit teletext switched off. 1.133 Billion users of the Internet. Over 500 teletext services available online.
2012 - Ceefax, the world's first teletext service, completely phased out with the last of the analogue receivers switched off.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Power to the pixel!

I decided to pay homage to the traditional teletext design in my project summary, which I am currently working on. This will take the form of a Flash embedded HTML page in the style of a teletext page, as demonstrated below. The skins and designs are all but complete - now all I need is the actual content. I will work on my 300-word summary tomorrow and refine some of the details in the design - page number and date etc.

I will upload it here over the weekend.

I am also going to incorporate elements of this layout into the blog's design so expect an overhaul soon.