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

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

A modern teletext font

If teletext had, or should it, live on after the switchoff, in order to fit in with the plethora of new technologies available on the Internet and elsewhere it would need to develop. It would be interesting to see how far I could take this whilst remaining faithful to the 80 x 69 pixel canvas. This could mean changes to:
  • Colour palette, increase from 8 to 16, 24, or even higher.
  • Change in character set. This might include:
    • Addition of extended Unicode symbols such as @, (, | etc.
    • Addition of new symbols for the teletext format
    • Addition of emoticons.
      • (Basically a whole new character set.)
    • Option to redefine the font. Eg. Courier, Fixedsys

Monday, 26 November 2007

Various references

Whilst actually creating the text part of the dissertation I'm finding more specific and relevant information about the subjects I am researching.
  • Bob Bemer was an IBM employee who was involved in the creation of the ASCII character set in 1970. He proposed the curly and square brackets ([],{}) and the backslash (\).
    • Here he discusses his 'status' as 'Father of ASCII'.
    • And here he talks of the ASCII characters.
  • Scott Fahlman is the person first credited with specifying and using an emoticon.
  • A bit about the Jodi blogs and the source of the aforementioned Otowa ASCII game.
  • This is a screenshot from BBC Multiscreen, an interactive television service providing a number of news video streams.
  • A bit of info on the analogue switch off. I've probably posted this here before....
  • Here's a timeline of the evolution of British satellite television. Maybe an equivalent one for Teletext might be in order.
  • At the TV Ark, there's lots of screenshots from the history of BBC News 24.

The Otowa ASCII game

I like this game, it's really cool how a game's whole graphical style can be created using ASCII.

Interview with Dirk Paesmans

Some very interesting extracts from an interview with Dirk Paesmans of jodi.org. Warning, the translation is a bit ropey in places.
"We, I especially, did a lot of writing and mailing into mailing lists, but that was all unreadable stuff. Sometimes cut and paste from the text and with a lot of graphic stuff in between. Sometimes they looked as that if you would start to read them, most of the time they were not ascii drawings, they were ascii texts. I did hundreds of them, a lot a lot alot. I also tried to do it in the serious mailing lists. That time rhizome, I bombarded it."

"Anything media tries for their own explanations, like all these type of festivals like this, is actually more a warning for me as an artist to take care that don’t ever become like that, because it’s so general, everything can be replaced by something else and you won’t notice it. I want to feel a personality of the maker, of the person within this group that has a vision that will be real or strong."

On My Desktop:
"But then you have the ways when you do it in a very technically advanced way that you create a friendly virus, then you have to do it very constructive. And you demonstrate so bad amateur behaviour that it almost has the same effect, I mean you can’t imagine that someone is doing something so stupid or so different from the normal rules. For example multiplying folders, opening them at the same time, then throwing them to the trashcan and trying to delete it. A virus would do it a really advanced virus could do it, but you could also do it yourself when you were in the state of a five year old, let’s say, a five year old child for example would do it for fun, because it would like it, it makes sound and talalla, they think it’s great. It’s like a ball is not made for playing football only you can also just play with it on the walls, I mean it’s not just to be played eleven players against eleven players."
Source text

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Peecol - design with restriction

One relatively recent example that could be compared to the concept of teletext art is Eboy's Peecol. The equivalent font set can be seen as a webbificated, modernised version of teletext design. Taking the idea of pixel by pixel design on a small, monotone canvas, each letter corresponds to a 'body part', upper half or lower half. The parts can be combined in any way possible to form whole characters. In particular, the ones from the 'play' variation of the typeface can be likened to pixellated video game characters in their minimal, restricted approach.

It is very similar to Eboy's other work, which generally centres around the concept of low-resolution art; grid art; pixel art. Summarised, the canvas used is a 'shrunk down' version of the one used on teletext.

Peecol toys

Monday, 19 November 2007

Weather Watch

One feature that defines teletext is the weather map. British people always want to know what the weather's like and teletext has always provided a facility for this. This is a trawl through teletext history as demonstrated by weather maps.

Ceefax, 1973 test page. The one that started it all.

Ceefax 1978. Not much difference but the map seems to have had a redraw.

Ceefax, 1985. Seven years on and the map looks a bit more like a television broadcast weather map, complete with blue sea. The title has been redesigned with readability instead of space efficiency. Parts of Scotland get excluded and Ireland is reduced to but a squiggly yellow line.

Ceefax, 1990. Notice the 'weather' title is gone to make way for some more textual bits of information. The page now credits the Met Office. Southern Ireland now completely gone! Very psychedelic, a bit like one of Fred's sweaters.

Sky weather, 2002. The map is squeezed into a smaller area although all the content is still there. Notice the cluttered pages due to commercial elements.

Ceefax weather, 2007. The somewhat eye-watering blue background is gone and the overall map is reminiscent of Sky's. Plenty of room for textual information and weather warnings.

Digital TV weather service, 2002. Standardisation complete. The blocky map has gone in favour of standard weather iconography and photographic quality. Page starting to look like a static version of the TV broadcast weather (right). A long way from the original teletext page - at least Ireland will be happy the BBC now acknowledges its existence.


Friday, 16 November 2007

Some more links

  • This blog entry talks about the analogue switchoff and one person's nostalgia for the teletext format.
  • This page has a few more details on the Microtel project, including exact dates of transmission.
  • Here's some more info on Telesoftware, courtesy of Teletext Then and Now.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007


The obvious thing would be to produce an essay but that might not be that great. I think I could easily achieve a reasonable standard project but it would be a bit boring. I need to discuss with tutors what course of action I am going to take, however here are some proposed formats:
  • Documentary film bringing together all the material collected into some sort of interesting graphical piece using teletext imagery. This would be fun but I don't know if this is achievable in the four weeks.
    • A more watered down version might be a radio reading but I can't really see what this would bring to the piece seeing as teletext is largely silent and image-based.
  • Website. This would simply be a more organised form of the blog, formalising some of the text and splitting the content into pages. I would say this is achievable, with some effort.
  • If all else fails there is always the essay with associated imagery. I might have to resort to this if time is running low.
It might be good to first compile, select and write the actual text, though. This could then be reproduced in any number of formats.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Some proposed chapter headings

Here are some rough headings for possible chapter sections, along with approximate dates. This assumes the project will be in essay format. Subjects I am more interested in will take the form of case studies rather than just a paragraph or two worked into the main body of text.

Intro - Technical/history
  1. Teletext's invention and inception (1970).
    1. Background: other digital media around at the time: arcade video games, links in commercial popularity and aesthetic. 1972 - Pong becomes widely popular, 1976 - teletext launched. ARPAnet in America - primitive early version of the Internet. Functionalities.
    2. Aesthetic. 1974: the 40x24 character grid was agreed upon, including text and a few graphic characters for creating simple graphics. The constituent media of 'teletext' - Teletext and Viewdata.
  1. Teletext's growth in popularity
    1. 1990s - firmly in public conscience.
    2. Teletext and television.
      1. Television sketch parodies - Alexei Sayle.
      2. Pages from Ceefax.
      3. Case study: Tom Moody's 'Dallas' project (1990). Teletext as an extension of television, a text version of the medium. Comments on television and society
      4. 1997 - teletext spreads to satellite. Small case study - Data Design commercial teletext design - MTV teletext.
  2. Pioneering: the medium's status as first commercially successful digital information retrieval method. Bringing technology to the masses through limited set of aesthetic restrictions.
  3. Teletext's service - uses. Simple games. Information service. Accessibility tool - subtitling.
    1. Case study: functions as compared to (early) Internet - Viewdata's crude email system; reader view pages - use of teletext pages as discussion forums etc. How the two mediums never genuinely converged.
Coexistence/crossing of mediums
  1. Internet growth in popularity (1990s).
    1. For the 1990s, coexisted with teletext.
    2. 2000s: Internet begins to take over.
  2. Teletext adapted for the web browser.
    1. Jodi's 'text' piece.
    2. Carola Unterberger-Probst: 'Framed'
    3. Encoding to receive analogue teletext via net.
  3. Teletext's expansion worldwide (1980s)
    1. Ceefax grows from 30 pages in 1973 to 600 in mid-80s. Spread to France, America in early 80s.
    2. Along with Atari home console, propagating the 'jagged pixellation' aesthetic. Paul Slocum: Atari > windowed GUI.
Death of the traditional aesthetic
  1. From first analogue aerial switch off in 2007 to the complete switch off in 2012.
  2. Differing public opinions - "sad to see it go", "natural progression of technology would see it die out".
  3. Introduction of digital TTX and later Interactive TV - an evolved form of the traditional analogue version. 'Sounding death knoll' of the traditional aesthetic.
  4. Level 1 and 2 teletext upgrades - how these relate to modern 'digital teletext' in terms of aesthetic. The 'stepping stone' between teletext and digital teletext.
Future of traditional teletext
  1. It would seem the traditional format is doomed but the very medium which could see it die out would be the one allowing it to live on after the analogue switch off, namely the Internet.
  2. Estonia - still the No.1 method of information retrieval ahead of the Internet. Tarmo Tanilsoo's tribute websites.
  3. Case study: Lektrolab - 2006 Microtel project. People still using teletext aesthetic to create art.
Some conclusions
  1. Despite sharing a number of functions, Teletext is not really the predecessor of the Internet, more a separately evolved medium with some similarities. Whereas the ARPA network developed in America teletext was more a British invention and, even though there were signs they might with Viewdata, at no point did the two converge.
    1. Maybe a simple diagram showing the two separate 'evolutions' could explain this point.
  2. The teletext aesthetic survives?
    1. Later, the Internet allowed for enthusiasts to create homages to the medium. To date, there are over 500 worldwide terrestrial teletext services available on the Internet. This could be the medium that sees the aesthetic live on, even after the analogue version is gone.
    2. The mobile web browser as having similar technical/aesthetic restrictions.
    3. Lektrolab's project shows there are still those who value the aesthetic as a medium for artistic expression. Eboy shows that the pixel as an aesthetic is still in the public's conscience in the fact it still has commercial value (brief mention of Eboy, not worth going into great detail over).
    4. Services such as Digitiser, even after they were taken from terrestrial screens, adapted to the online format (Digiworld). Fan sites.
It might be worth having an appendix with some of these timelines in them to help illustrate. Perhaps these could be written timelines as in Internet Art by Rachel Greene. Should the medium of the outcome facilitate it, include with/alongside the text/content.

Cross reference sections in some way.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Tele Giffer, a tribute to jodi

Inspired by jodi, been playing around with the idea of glitch art in the same way as the short video I did on Monday. I thought it would be interesting to see what this would be like if it were computer generated rather than video shot.

So, I set about creating a set on animated gifs then applied them to HTML, the result below:

This was created using a grid of 4 different animated gifs, comprising of a few graphic and text characters, each with a different timespan and running order. This is what produces the different patterns. These were then arranged into three HTML documents which are navigated by clicking on the animations. Each page has a progressively jumbled collection of animations on the same grid.

Elsewhere, been thinking about the wider picture with regards to presentation. This might be jumping ahead too much too soon but I'd like to visualise a final outsome for this, hence the reason for these videos. Would be good to create an archive/showcase site like the microsite compiling all the data from this project, including videos, photosets etc.

Index cards

Bought and made some index cards in an attempt to organise the vast amounts of information in this weblog. Some of the selection has already been made in a previous post; I used this as a basis for making the cards. Tried out a few different arrangements of both the artists and the technological information separately, still, for the moment. Need to find a way of bringing these together, I think. Some shots of arrangements (pity about the terrible camera resolution):

They were pretty useful, actually - helped me get a better idea of what I have and how it could be arranged, for whatever medium. The best of these was an idea to have the Teletext timeline central to the piece and the other aspects, such as video games etc. auxiliary to these. Here's a rough Photoshop version:

The diagram is indicative of how mediums will be mentioned, as will their 'evolutions', but not included in great detail; only as a reference point as to the state of digital technology at that particular point in teletext's evolution.