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Millions of Brits Lose Ceefax News Service

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the no-news dept.

Television 211

judgecorp writes "Millions of Britons have lost access to Ceefax, the real time information service that has piggy-backed on blank lines of the analogue TV signal since the 1970s. Analogue TV is being switched off, and the low-res news service looks to be going with it. From the article: '“Although we won’t be saying our proper goodbyes to Ceefax until later in the year when switchover is complete across the country, I wanted to send a note of reassurance and a reminder: our digital text service, available via the red button to people who use cable, satellite or Freeview, provides national, local and international news, plus sport, weather and much else besides,” said Steve Hermann, editor of the BBC News website.'"

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..and the actual link is: (5, Informative)

Bongoots (795869) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731629)

The title and summary seem to suggest that the system as a whole has had a failure of some kind, though it's nothing of the likes. It's just the analogue > digital switchover means that people will "lose" access to it, however the BBC provides digital services anyway.

Steve Hermann's post on his blog can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2012/04/from_ceefax_to_digital_text.html [bbc.co.uk]

Re:..and the actual link is: (5, Interesting)

mindwhip (894744) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731655)

The "Dear Ceefax" article on the BBC news site gives a more human perspective... http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17745100 [bbc.co.uk]

I'm sad in some ways part of my childhood is going with it. I have many childhood memories of the kids pages, bad jokes, looking up when my favorite TV show was on and *having my name on TV!* on my birthday.

But the world has moved on, the Ceefax that is/was available today is a shadow of its former self.

I'm going now before I get too far down memory lane that I end up late for work...

Re:..and the actual link is: (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731981)

I was very slightly too young for it, but when the BBC Micro was introduced they used to broadcast source code on a few of the Ceefax pages overnight. The idea was that schools could retrieve them using the teletext decoder and use them in lessons the next day.

I do remember when I was young enjoying the jokes and puzzles on Ceefax. Remote controls had a 'reveal' button and you could hide some parts of a page until this button was pressed, so pages contained jokes with the punchlines hidden and puzzles with the solutions hidden. Some film and book review pages also used this to hide spoilers.

It was generally the easiest way to get a TV schedule, especially once the newer TVs came in that did caching for pages (each of the pages would have its content updated very few seconds to scroll through things that were longer than a single page of text - newer TVs would record these and let you page through them without waiting for the next page to be broadcast). My mother still uses it to check the weather forecast.

I won't miss Ceefax - I've not used it for about a decade - but it was a very impressive technology for its time.

Re:..and the actual link is: (2)

Malc (1751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732247)

I knew an Aussie living in Edinburgh in 1995 who "watched" the Ashes on Ceefax. I can't remember why he didn't have the radio on... maybe he didn't want to hear pomme commentators :) Ceefax was replaced by the internet for me, listening along with the radio (I hate you Rupert Murdoch for putting our national sport on pay tv; give it back!)

Re:..and the actual link is: (5, Insightful)

arkhan_jg (618674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731771)

And of course, it's only come up as news because London has just done its analogue switchoff so the digital channel transmitters can be upped to their full broadcast power.

For almost everyone in the rest of the country, we went through the digital switchover quite some time ago; years in many cases. And of course, ceefax went with it back then. My own switchover happened in may 2009 - I barely noticed, as I'd already been on freeview (digital broadcast) for several years before that.

To be honest, I haven't looked at ceefax in many years, so I won't miss it. The 'net has long since superseded it for me as a source of news, weather, info etc.

Re:..and the actual link is: (2, Informative)

pe1chl (90186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731817)

What all you Britons should know is that there is no technical reason why you don't get Ceefax after the digital switchover.
The digital system has support for TXT and in many other countries, including the Netherlands, the TXT service has remained in
place after digital switchover, which was completed years ago here.
There must be some political or financial reason why your BBC is dropping Ceefax. It has nothing to do with the digital switchover
as it is.

Re:..and the actual link is: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39731859)

We have a digital text service. It's now just pants.
You get News, and sport, and that's it.

Re:..and the actual link is: (3, Interesting)

clive_p (547409) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732025)

One very useful thing that the new digital text service doesn't have is the accurate time. Old analogue teletext had a display of hours minutes and seconds. New one has only hours and minutes, and because of decoding delays etc. even the minutes don't change right on the 0 seconds point. I have to find another way to check my watch.

Re:..and the actual link is: (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732199)

You are posting on /. so you should be able to configure your computer clock to synchronise with an NTP server.

Re:..and the actual link is: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732209)

1. set up time synchronization on your computer
2. check your watch
3. hand in your geek card
Simple!

Re:..and the actual link is: (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731967)

We do sort of get Ceefax on digital services in some cases - we get a single page telling us to use the digital interactive replacement instead [mb21.co.uk] , which doesn't have a lot of the pages that Ceefax did.

Re:..and the actual link is: (1)

pe1chl (90186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732009)

Yes, and there also still is page 888, isn't it?

It clearly shows that you are being fed shit.
There is no such thing as "Ceefax has to go because analogue tv ends".
It is a decision made for other reasons.

Re:..and the actual link is: (2)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732241)

Yes, and there also still is page 888, isn't it?

It clearly shows that you are being fed shit. There is no such thing as "Ceefax has to go because analogue tv ends". It is a decision made for other reasons.

The sort of stuff that used to be on Ceefax and isn't on the digital text service is now on the BBC website, except that there it's far more extensive and interactive. Ceefax is simply obsolete; it's no longer a sensible way of delivering those services.

Re:..and the actual link is: (2)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732023)

We do get it on the BBC, there is a "Red button" text service with all the same information as was provided by Ceefax ....

Re:..and the actual link is: (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732217)

And you should try to understand what the BBC offers before thinking it's some nefarious reason why they're dropping Ceefax. Ceefax was entirely different to the "TXT" stuff you speak of, which is still being offered. :)

Re:..and the actual link is: (2)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732223)

What all you Britons should know is that there is no technical reason why you don't get Ceefax after the digital switchover. The digital system has support for TXT and in many other countries, including the Netherlands, the TXT service has remained in place after digital switchover, which was completed years ago here.

And including the UK. The digital text service is far more flexible and powerful than Ceefax (and ITVs TELETEXT), and the BBC has been taking advantage of that, so the digital text service is not the same as Ceefax.

Re:..and the actual link is: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732207)

I spent plenty of time in the 90s browsing Ceefax pages, and the C4 computer games pages, etc. Saturday afternoon when I cared about football I'd be all over pages 304, etc, getting the latest scores before Final Score came on the TV. Or checking up on the news instead of waiting for the bulletin.

Thank god the internet came along.

Stolen Joke: For your own experience of Ceefax, print out the plain text of a webpage on multiple sheets of paper in a large, ugly fixed-width bitmap font, and attach them to tortoises doing laps of your room, and only read the page directly in front of you.

Re:..and the actual link is: (1)

nozzo (851371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732179)

At first I thought I was reading an echo from the 1990s as I thought Ceefax was gone long ago. Ceefax as an information service has been copied into the digital format and works pretty much the same way i.e. you can enter 'page numbers' to go to the information needed directly and it's a lot better as it has different fonts and pictures. The old Ceefax had a similar look to Prestel and although fantastic resources in their day, have not had their day.

London bias (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39731647)

Yawn - this happened ages ago for the rest of the country, but as usual nothing is said until it affects London ...

Re:London bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39731673)

And your point is what, exactly?

Re:London bias (3, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731827)

British media has a very London centric bias even though only about 10% of the population lives there

Re:London bias (1)

jaymemaurice (2024752) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731853)

because 90% of the BBC reporters dream to live and work in London?

Re:London bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732205)

Gee, thanks for your insightful post! None of us ever realised that the original post, and then the post you were replying to, were actually saying EXACTLY THIS!

Re:London bias (1)

spongman (182339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731857)

yes, only 10% live there, but more people live there than anywhere else.

Re:London bias (2)

Theophany (2519296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731887)

10% of the population live within 1500 square kilometres. Statistics are meaningless without context.

Re:London bias (3, Informative)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731911)

The greater London area, those that commute in or are centred around there, makes up somewhere closer to a quarter of the population, maybe more. Most of the money in the UK is made in the capital and surrounding areas.

The UK is London-centric. Not just the media.

I don't live there any more (ex-pat) nor will I when I move back to the UK later this year, but it's a bit of an unavoidable thing with Britain.

Re:London bias (5, Informative)

TheMathemagician (2515102) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731955)

Yes you're right. In fact if you just consider England, not Britain, then 1/3 of the population lives in London or the South-East. This isn't a good thing - it leads to ridiculous imbalances in employment and property prices - but it's the way it is. And population density aside, London has a much higher concentration of newsmaking entities (eg. Parliament, the City (financial district), many cultural/arts organisations). I understand the frustration people living in, say, Manchester or Birmingham feel about the London-centric news but the fact is that very little happens in your cities which is of national significance.

The B ark (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732255)

1/3 of the population lives in London or the South-East. This isn't a good thing

Yes it is, it means the other 2/3 don't have to put up with a load of shandy-drinking wankers.

Re:London bias (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732079)

Which means it makes sense to focus on things that are happening in London exclusively, but this only affects those people who actually live in London, has affected more people than that overt the past 3 years and will affect even more in upcoming months.

Re:London bias (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39731807)

Yeah, I've had enough with all this pro-London bias on Slashdot. How about some US news for a change?

Re:London bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39731811)

Yawn - this happened ages ago for the rest of the country, but as usual nothing is said until it affects London ...

I think you should be impressed that Slashdot even noticed -- after all, it isn't affecting the US at all.

Re:London bias (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732265)

The submitter probably thought it was something to do with censorship.

Re:London bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732231)

All these miserable non-Londoners complaining about stories about things happening in London making the news. The Crystal Palace transmitter serves a significant fraction of the population, so it is significant news, and it's not like you didn't get localised news when it happened to you. ... and somehow it's the Londoners that are supposedly miserable!

Now sod off!

Re:London bias (2)

Malc (1751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732263)

What? There's another country outside London? Is there anything worth seeing there?

The earliest "digital" mass service (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731687)

I'm amazed Ceefax was still up. It wasn't even interactive, but it was "digital". There were other systems from that era, such as Prestel (UK, a flop), Minitel (France, a big success), and NAPLPS (North American Presentation Level Protocol Syntax), still used by some gambling terminals that need to send graphics over slow dedicated lines).

None of the pre-PC era stuff ever caught on in the US. France Telecom deployed dial-up Minitel service in the US, but it was used by few Americans. QUBE, a cable TV based system, was deployed in Columbus, OH. But that was about it until the PC era.

Re:The earliest "digital" mass service (2)

dredwerker (757816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731739)

I'm amazed Ceefax was still up. It wasn't even interactive, but it was "digital". There were other systems from that era, such as Prestel (UK, a flop), Minitel (France, a big success), and NAPLPS (North American Presentation Level Protocol Syntax), still used by some gambling terminals that need to send graphics over slow dedicated lines).

None of the pre-PC era stuff ever caught on in the US. France Telecom deployed dial-up Minitel service in the US, but it was used by few Americans. QUBE, a cable TV based system, was deployed in Columbus, OH. But that was about it until the PC era.

Minitel was a big success as far as I remember as people were given minitel terminals.

From wikipedia:

"Millions of terminals were handed out free to telephone subscribers, resulting in a high penetration rate among businesses and the public. In exchange for the terminal, the possessors of Minitel would not be given free "white page" printed directories (alphabetical list of residents and firms), but only the yellow pages (classified commercial listings, with advertisements); the white pages were accessible for free on Minitel, and they could be searched by a reasonably intelligent search engine; much faster than flipping through a paper directory."

Re:The earliest "digital" mass service (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732297)

Minitel was a big success as far as I remember as people were given minitel terminals.

From wikipedia:

"Millions of terminals were handed out free to telephone subscribers, resulting in a high penetration rate among businesses and the public. In exchange for the terminal, the possessors of Minitel would not be given free "white page" printed directories (alphabetical list of residents and firms), but only the yellow pages (classified commercial listings, with advertisements); the white pages were accessible for free on Minitel, and they could be searched by a reasonably intelligent search engine; much faster than flipping through a paper directory."

If that doesn't sound like a win-win situation.

Phone company pushing their system into market
No more phonebooks clogging your mailbox
free minitel device
search engine access to the phone directory

Re:The earliest "digital" mass service (4, Informative)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731889)

Eh?

It was too interactive, did you never press the 'reveal' button to see the answers to a quiz?

Re:The earliest "digital" mass service (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732003)

There were also occasionally some story puzzles split over a lot of pages. You'd solve a puzzle and then the solution would be the next page number. You'd enter that and go onto the next part of the story.

Re:The earliest "digital" mass service (1)

gigatux (1906806) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732129)

Ceefax (or equivalents on other, non BBC channels) were indeed interactive. I have played quite a few games via this service which basically involved you dialling a number and navigating to the page you get told on the phone. From there, you can press buttons on the phone and watch the content change within a second later.

There were even one or two banks that allowed for online banking via Teletext (ITV's equivalent to Ceefax). If you couldn't afford the phone bill, it was always fun to navigate to pages blindly to see information on other peoples' accounts, so it arguably wasn't the best idea!

Re:The earliest "digital" mass service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732145)

I assume "Ceefax" is what shows when you press the "TXT" button on the remote, i.e. Teletext. That's as interactive as a book. The "reveal" button just shows characters that are broadcast with a "hidden" bit and therefore not shown initially.

Re:The earliest "digital" mass service (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39731913)

Prestel wasn't a flop, it ran for years! I still have my old 1200/75 bps modem! Erm the very nature of Ceefax meant it was interactive...

Re:The earliest "digital" mass service (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732005)

A pal from school had a stereo tv in the early 80's - despite no stereo broadcasts!
It also had a thermal printer that could print out ceefax pages...

He also had an Atari 2600 - According to my mum he had no sister, but I did - apparently this made me better off...

Re:The earliest "digital" mass service (1)

havana9 (101033) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732191)

Minitel and videotext systems were cheaps terminals that used the phone lines to send and transmit data. Ceefax and teletext systems are data transmission on television signals. Teletext is compatible with digital television and almost all DVB decoders could either process the data stream internally and display it or add the codified data on the PAL or SECAM video signal to be displayed on a standard definition TV set. Other european nations mantained the Teletext system on DBV broadcasting,for instance Italy: http://www.televideo.rai.it/televideo/pub/pagina.jsp?p=101&idmenumain=1 [televideo.rai.it]

Unfortunately the replacement service is far worse (5, Insightful)

MROD (101561) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731693)

The most unfortunate part of the whole affair is that the "more advanced" digital service which is replacing the old teletext system is actually less useful and feels slower than what it replaces.

The old system may have been text only (except for some block colour "graphics") and take a while for each page to be transmitted but it was clear and easy to read. Also, the art of providing content in the limited text space available had become an art and hence the content itself was good.

The new system which replaces it take an age to start up (up to a minute) as opposed to the almost instant teletext system and because it only uses the right-hand third of the screen to display in (most of the time) has less space for information. If you add to this the fact that the only reasonable way to navigate to pages is via a deep menu system of pages (each page taking up to 30 seconds to load), rather than being able to memorise a three digit number for the page, it becomes too painful to actually use at all.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731767)

The real question is why is anyone still getting their news this way?

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731839)

My dad is addicted to the FTSE share prices. All the information is on one page and updated frequently. He found it useful to have it on at all times while at home.

Cricket matches were updated in the same way. It works well for brief information that you want to consult regularly.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732027)

The real question is why is anyone still getting their news this way?

Because if you want to check the news headlines, travel news, sports results or TV listings (on analogue) while sitting in the comfy chair with a cup of tea and a biscuit, Teletext does the job rather well. You don't need to get up and turn on the computer or get biscuit-y fingerprints over your tablet/laptop, and even if your new smart TV has a web browser, web pages are mostly desiged for use on a computer screen with a mouse.

Oh, yes, and since its been around since the 1970s (when it really was cutting edge) so people are in the habit of using it. The content has been going downhill for the last ten years, and one of the main services closed completely, though.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731815)

Here's the BBCs "what's on" page. Absolute bag of arse. http://www.bbc.co.uk/tv/guide [bbc.co.uk] . It was a lot quicker to look it up on ceefax. By the time you've walked over to the computer, waited for the page to load (if it does at all), navigate to the right date & time the programme you were looking for is finished. And what about people who don't have intarwebs?

The rest of the website is largely content free, just links to videos that spin for 20 minutes and then decide not to to play because you're in the wrong country.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732225)

I just opened the page you refer to and it's one of the best "what's on" type of pages I've seen. Much better than the old teletext version. All the channels are visible on one screen, future programs are listed, programs currently broadcast are highlighted... what problem could you possibly have with it?

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (4, Insightful)

Malc (1751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732269)

Became irrelevant with modern Freeview/Freesat devices and their superior (and faster) EPG.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

pe1chl (90186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731829)

I think you are discussing implementation in your particular equipment, not features of the system.
When teletext first appeared, its limitation were the same. You could type in a page number and then
you needed to wait some 30 seconds before it appeared in the carroussel and you got it on screen.
But then, TV sets appeared that loaded pages in memory ahead of them being requested. First a limited
system with 4 or 8 "related" pages being loaded, later the entire page repertoire was kept in memory for
instant recall. Apparently you have such a set and teletext is instaneous for you.
But any followup system (that is not interactive) could do the same thing. Apparently your new device
does not have the memory capacity or cleverness to do this, but a better device could be built that operates
the same way as your teletext set.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

MROD (101561) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731865)

I've tried using the new text service on a number of systems, both low-end and high-end and both Freeview and Freesat. They're all as tardy.

Indeed, early teletext was pretty slow (but it was fun watching the page numbers fly by at the top right of the screen). However, with the advent of the "Fastext" page caching system, the initial page was fast enough and far faster than the new system. (And I do remember the original implementation too, having played with a teletext TV in the local library when the service first started in the mid-'70s.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732007)

What amazes me is that the broadcast model ever worked at all for something like Ceefax. Caching apparently made it even more practical, but still, the amount of bandwidth dedicated to the service is barely line noise compared to what's available today. By my calculations, it was managing over 600kbps in its final form (reading a spec from 2003), but it had to send the whole catalog repeatedly, so you had to wait for the useful bits to come by, limiting the total size of what Ceefax could offer.

So, if the modern day equivalent is loading more slowly and providing less, then it's due to a clear lack of caring at all about the service, I'd say than anything about the technology. There's more than enough bandwidth available, and you don't have to constantly replay all the content for everybody on the hopes that anybody would see it, like the broadcast model. You only have to serve it on demand.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

pe1chl (90186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732039)

So what you are saying is that today's equipment manufacturers are not as capable as the guys in the past were.
Even with all the CPU power and memory they have available they are not able to code a decently performing system.
They probably have different priorities than a fast and slick result, today.

With a capable design team, it should be possible to design a well working digital broadcast news system, even today.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

MROD (101561) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732099)

Well, my only comment on how modern, high-speed equipment is slower:

Time to boot into a usable state to start programming:

BBC Micro: 2 seconds.
Dual, quad-core Xeon processor PC running Windows 7: 2 minutes. ;-)

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732277)

Or to put it another way, "Boooooooop Beep"...
I wonder how many people heard the exact noise in their head just reading that? Everyone who went to school in the UK in the 80s, I suppose.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732257)

So what you are saying is that today's equipment manufacturers are not as capable as the guys in the past were.

No. Today's equipment manufacturers don't see this as a feature for which they could charge a premium, so it's not worth R&D investment.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

cardpuncher (713057) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731861)

If you remember Ceefax back in its original form when TVs would typically have 7 1Kbit RAM chips to store one single page of data, it could take a considerable age for the page you wanted to arrive - pages weren't transmitted sequentially, but popular pages were transmitted more frequently to improve their access time, at the cost of significant delays to other content.

It's only later incarnations of TVs that had much more memory and could cache pages (helped by the hinting of the coloured button cues) that made Ceefax acceptably responsive.

The same is true of the MHEG service that replaces Ceefax on (some) digital platforms - if the TV caches the carousels as they come past rather than awaiting their next transmission (and provided the TV has a reasonable CPU) it's actually quite quick. Early integrated TVs (and cheap STBs) don't have the memory or horsepower to do this.

The replacement service is much less comprehensive, though. This is partly because there's relatively little bandwidth allocated to the data channel (at least on Freeview), partly because the content has to be disseminated through incompatible platforms (Sky, for example, uses OpenTV rather than MHEG for "red button" services) which means the editorial process is a bit more complicated than it was for Ceefax - but mostly because far more comprehensive information is available via the Internet...

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

MROD (101561) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731885)

Other than the usability design issues and the speed, I do miss the comprehensiveness of the old service. The web system is not an ideal replacement as it requires me to change to a different device, possibly even boot it up and wait for that. (Oh, and the usability of the BBC's web site is poor as well. Style over content rules.)

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731975)

Maybe the solution is to include a web browser in the TV? Many TVs are Linux based and require an Internet connection for updates, so why not go a step further? Sure it would probably mean needing to provide a keyboard with the TV or pages customised for navigation on a TV.

BTW does anyone know whether there is any method of providing the URL of the TV channel in the broadcast stream?

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (2)

pe1chl (90186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732053)

That is the HBBTV system.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (2)

cardpuncher (713057) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732063)

Indeed, and it is slated to be included in the next generation of the Freesat (UK free-to-air satellite) specs, along with MHEG for backwards compatibility.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (3, Interesting)

gazbo (517111) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731891)

An example of the block graphics: German Teletext porn! [a-blast.org]

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731941)

If you add to this the fact that the only reasonable way to navigate to pages is via a deep menu system of pages (each page taking up to 30 seconds to load), rather than being able to memorise a three digit number for the page, it becomes too painful to actually use at all.

Not true - at least on the BBC service you can navigate between the main sections using page numbers (they're actually vaguely compatible with the old Ceefax numbers - 102 for news, 300 for sport etc.)

Also, the speed issue is down to bad implementations on some hardware. On My first digital TV, a Phillips widescreen CRT (relatively early for a integrated digital TV) it was buggy and unusable, and I wouldoften switch back to analog to use Ceefax or Teletext. My newer Samsung LCD does it properly and gives a service that is much better than the old system. The split screen works wellon modern large, widescreen, hi def TVs.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

MROD (101561) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731979)

The new service's "page numbers" are not consistent in any way, however, which is why I said "the only reasonable way to navigate to pages is via a deep menu system of pages".

It is true that many of them are similar to the old Ceefax numbers, however, the system only seems to have numbers for the index pages for sections rather than sub-pages. It's also a darn more tedious system to use.

As for speed, you may see a comment to another comment made above, I've used lots of equipment and it's all seemed just as cumbersome. This is Freeview and Freesat and low and high end equipment.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732155)

"feels slower than what it replaces"

That's probably those new-fangled adverts loading.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (2)

rklrkl (554527) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732173)

When I got my first "digital teletext" TV set years ago, I was appalled at how slow it was to load pages up compared to the fairly fast analogue teletext. Of course, later analogue teletext sets had "tricks" like large page caches that would save almost every page that was transmitted (including sub-pages) so it would feel near-instant, but even ones without a cache were quite fast and you could see the page cycling counter progress so you knew roughly when it would turn up.

One neat trick analogue teletext pages had was a "overlay page number on top-right of live TV screen if the page changes", so you could put it on the main news or sports pages, go back to your live TV feed and if a new article broke, you'd be flagged of a page update and one button press got you straight to the index page you'd left it on. Sadly, it was ruined by sub-pages which changed every 30 secs, so I had to give up on that :-(

Having had 2 digital teletext sets with equally slow navigation/display of pages, I was despairing at how rotten the new "replacement" service for analogue teletext was. However, I picked up a Technika Smartbox 8320HD from Tesco (company who make it are in administration - shows you how popular it was!) and it *flies* through every single page - literally instant navigation, which is presumably with a clever cache system. It now actually makes digital teletext a bit more bearable, but there's still snags with BBC's digital teletext:

* It seems to only be on selected digital BBC SD channels. It's not on channel 301 ("red button") and not on their two HD channels either! Not sure why.

* It seems to have far less content than the old Ceefax system.

* It's often slower to update live sports scores than the old Ceefax system.

* There's no option to go fullscreen teletext (and back to a right-hand column overlay with picture-in-picture in the top-left or if it's an article, the fullscreen live TV feed underneath), so news articles are squashed in a narrow column and needlessly go over 2 or more sub-pages.

* Some pages go fullscreen and cut the picture-in-picture out completely, whilst others stick to the narrow column version - it seems quite inconsistent and should really be up to the viewer to pick their display layout.

* It still only transmits plain text (with the occasional, but rare, coloured text) and is actually less "graphical" than the old analogue teletext!

I originally thought it was a downgrade myself and still do.

Re:Unfortunately the replacement service is far wo (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732301)

The old system may have been text only (except for some block colour "graphics")

It was pure text only: the "graphics" were just character cell graphics. The control codes also took up an entire character cell and rendered as blank, so unlike VTxx codes, the screen took exactly the same amount of memory (about 1k) regardless of the content. It also made the ciruitry simple since the RAM scan speed was constant.

I haven't written for teletext in years (the BBC micro had a teletext mode), but I still remember that 141 is the code for double height text. Not sure how that's ever going to come in use ever again...

The new system which replaces it take an age to start up (up to a minute) as opposed to the almost instant teletext system and because it only uses the right-hand third of the screen to display in (most of the time) has less space for information. If you add to this the fact that the only reasonable way to navigate to pages is via a deep menu system of pages (each page taking up to 30 seconds to load), rather than being able to memorise a three digit number for the page, it becomes too painful to actually use at all.

It's amazing how newer faster technology is abused to the point where it becomes a regression. The original teletext sets could be quite slow, as you had to wait for your page to be broadcast as it could only send 50 pages per second (out of 1000), and would send some common pages much more frequently than rare ones. That said at the time in the distant past when 1M of memory became cheap, sets started caching the entire thing in memory making it essentially instant.

Character-based art (3, Insightful)

TwentyCharsIsNotEnou (1255582) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731699)

What I'll really miss is the character-based graphics - it was a nostalgic reminder of when drawing something on a computer required serious planning and optimisations!

Don't worry - with Win 8 tiles... (2)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732213)

... you'll be able to recreate your favourite graphics on your PC desktop soon!

Cheap holidays (5, Funny)

pilybaby (638883) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731719)

Where am I supposed to go now if I want to find cheap flights abroard!?!?

Re:Cheap holidays (3, Interesting)

dredwerker (757816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731751)

Where am I supposed to go now if I want to find cheap flights abroard!?!?

:)

I am still amazed that people look at this nonsense waiting for it to change page. Its like Luddite heaven.

Re:Cheap holidays (1)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732197)

Where am I supposed to go now if I want to find cheap flights abroard!?!?

My parents actually used to get some genuinely good deals on channel tunnel crossings from those pages.

digital teletext is possible (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39731731)

Seems to be a normal teletext system like vidoetext in Germany which as opposed to ceefax survived the switch to digital.

Re:digital teletext is possible (1)

pe1chl (90186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731837)

Yes, the cutoff of Ceefax appears to be politically or financially motivated, certainly not technically.
The DVB system for digital TV transmission supports Teletext (Ceefax) just fine.

Re:digital teletext is possible (1)

Big Nemo '60 (749108) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732049)

Were I live (Italy) we switched to DGTV some time ago, and last time I checked, Teletext was working just fine (for the few channels still running it, mostly the three main public channels). I agree, must be a political decision.

On the other side, I tried MHP (which should replace Teletext among other things) some time ago and IMHO it was terrible. The decoders I have now do not support MHP - MHP-enabled models are more expensive - maybe the service improved in the meantime, at least I hope so.

Alive in Finland (1)

MacroRodent (1478749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732181)

Were I live (Italy) we switched to DGTV some time ago, and last time I checked, Teletext was working just fine

Same thing in Finland. It is actually still quite popular, many years after the digital switch-over. If you have your TV already on, it is the fastest way to peek at the latest headlines or weather report. Another popular application seems to be horse racing scores. Kiosks selling bets almost always have a TV constantly showing Teletext at the relevant page. Works without any net connection.

A nice result of the Teletext limitations is that the pages show just the data without fancy formatting, and whoever creates the content must make the best of the limited space, choosing words carefully. This means the system is really very efficient for the reader, you don't have to wade over fluff... (unfortunately because of the way the pages are rotated in the transmission, you may have to wait a bit until your page comes up, unless your receiver implements good caching. Old implementations did not, and that made reading slow.).

Re:digital teletext is possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732051)

I thought I used Teletext when I was in Scotland (using SkyTV). Am I mistaken?

Re:digital teletext is possible (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732237)

It's just old and superseded. "Time" is the only motivation. We have better technology that more people use, which is a better use of money.

More Nostalgia (2)

csrster (861411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731741)

Joke all you like, but when ceefax started up it was the first time in our lives we had had access to up-to-the-minute news and other information on demand. We still have it here in Denmark although it's been a long while since I used it for anything other than subtitles.

Re:More Nostalgia (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731777)

It's worth it just for the subtitles - I often switch on the beeb and immediately turn Ceefax/teletext to page 888 for those in the living room that aren't comfortable enough with native English to be able follow the shows by audio only.

Jealous Canadian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39731761)

When I first saw the ceefax system when visiting Britain I was very jealous. I was glad to use it to book a flight back for 107 pounds though!

Online shopping, weather, sports scores, flight/hotel sales, ski conditions around the world and best of all... you put all that small type from the tv ads on ceefax pages (whereas in North America we had useless small text scrolling by at incredible speeds ).

You had that all since the '70's .. and here in North America we still can't read the small print... although in some cases they can refer to magazine ads or the internet.

Funny (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731785)

Mine is still on, the news is updated in real time, not like the stupid html one that does not work properly. :0)

This is the absolute non-story of the week (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731825)

Real headline:

Millions of "Brits" have already had the old-fashioned Cefax replaced by the newer freeview information services [freeview.co.uk] . Journalists only just notice because it's London's turn now.

Here is a better link (2)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731835)

FAQ Teletext [switchhelp.co.uk] has some good pictures showing the replacement.

Re:This is the absolute non-story of the week (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732047)

Newer and less useful - it actually has less information than the "old-fashioned" Ceefax and worse information density - they can fit about 1 paragraph of a news story or 5 headlines of the index on screen at a time, compared to 4 paragraphs or the whole index with Ceefax, and most of the pages didn't make it in the switchover.

Re:This is the absolute non-story of the week (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732189)

Newer and less useful - it actually has less information than the "old-fashioned" Ceefax and worse information density - they can fit about 1 paragraph of a news story or 5 headlines of the index on screen at a time, compared to 4 paragraphs or the whole index with Ceefax, and most of the pages didn't make it in the switchover.

I would put that down to style rather than capabilities, they seem to have gone with sparse screens with a lot of sub-pages.

'millions' - 'lost'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39731851)

u you mean potentially, theoretically, - maybe. seriously though, who cares? who was using that service? arguably a waste of money...
as the writer says 'since the 70s' exactly...

Why let it die.. (1)

hantms (2527172) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731879)

Interestingly, in other countries the intention seems to be to keep this text service around. And the design, with bright colors and blocky graphics is almost cool again..

See this article on the Dutch version, that's been in operation 32 years now. (30 at the time of writing the article). It's Google translated, but it turned out reasonably well: http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.volkskrant.nl%2Fvk%2Fnl%2F2694%2FMedia%2Farticle%2Fdetail%2F986259%2F2010%2F04%2F01%2FTeletekst-is-30-jaar-en-springlevend.dhtml&act=url [google.com]

They haven't lost it (4, Informative)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#39731963)

DVB-T / DVB-S boxes support MHEG-5 multimedia content and both the BBC and ITV have digital equivalents to Ceefax / Teletext. MHEG-5 is a declarative layout language that can combine video, graphics, text and other elements. It's interactive enough for simple games and for navigation. It can also host program streams as part of the page and even tune to different program streams within a transport. The BBC usually puts this to good effect e.g. for Wimbledon they set up different live streams for different matches and you could switch between them interactively. I expect that London 2012 Olympics will see them build out something even bigger so you can flip between events, see scores etc.

The disadvantage of MHEG-5 is it's still a bit shit as a language and many DVB-T / DVB-S boxes are so underpowered that it takes ages for the page to render properly. Additionally pages are also delivered up carousel style so you might have to wait a while for the page you're after to be sent over the signal. Ceefax was carousel style too (cycling through numbers from 100 to 999) but the content was so small that most modern TVs were able to cache everything as it passed through making it quite fast.

Re:They haven't lost it (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732245)

Not only that but DVB-T/DVB-S can and do receive/insert real teletext into their video output - page 888, for example, still plays host to a teletext subtitle feed.

We "lost" Ceefax in December 2009 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39731965)

And there wasn't a single comment on the passing of a useful service. The "Red Button" service is crap in comparison, and the area given up to the current channel picture is far too large and restricts the amount of information that can be displayed in the third of the screen allocated to the "digital teletext". Its also slow and the content is limited. Yes, there's all sorts of wonderful interactive services online, some of which can be easily monetised, but if I'm watching the TV, then I'm not going to bugger about with a PC to get something I used to be able to get from the comfort of my armchair.

But now LONDON has had its analogue service switched off, we get the sad goodbye to Ceefax.

Self-centered morons.

Bamboozle (1)

Necroloth (1512791) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732013)

Goodbye Bamboozle [wikipedia.org] ... I used to love the special themes and as a kid, this was a great game to play with my siblings.

Re:Bamboozle (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732045)

There's an app for that. At least, on Android.

Not quite the same, though.

Re:Bamboozle (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732305)

Bamboozle was interesting in that it made use of hexadecimal page numbers to store the quiz pages, so you couldn't just navigate around with the remote (you could, however, with a BBC Micro and a Teletext receiver :) )

Attention all Slashdot Britons. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732015)

English muthafuckas! DO YOU SPEAK IT?!?

I can't understand this jibber jabber.

We may have lost Ceefax... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39732067)

...but at least our country isn't run by a nigger!

Re:We may have lost Ceefax... (0)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39732193)

...but at least our country isn't run by a nigger!

Id rather a nigger than a toff.

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