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BBC Turns Off CEEFAX Service After 38 Years

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the retiring-after-years-of-service dept.

Television 160

Kittenman writes "After 38 years (1974 - 2012) the BBC's CEEFAX service has ceased transmission. The service gave on-line up-to-date textual information (albeit in condensed form) to TV viewers in the pre-Internet era and afterwards. Its final broadcast signed off with, 'Goodbye, cruel world.' '... the real impetus for viewers came when BBC Television decided to use a selection of Ceefax pages, accompanied by music, before the start of programming each day. Initially called Ceefax AM and Ceefax In Vision, the Pages From Ceefax "programme" continued for 30 years, being broadcast overnight on BBC Two until this week. As viewers got a small taste of what Ceefax had to offer, millions of Britons during the 1980s invested in new teletext-enabled TV sets which gave them access to the full Ceefax service, which by now included recipe details for dishes prepared on BBC cookery shows, share prices, music reviews and an annual advent calendar.' An British ex-PM (John Major) said, 'From breaking global news to domestic sports news, Ceefax was speedy, accurate and indispensable. It can be proud of its record.'"

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160 comments

good side of the BBC (5, Informative)

Jerry Smith (806480) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749209)

An example to many broadcasters around the world, very advanced in its views. Still one of my favourites.

*Used to be* good side of the BBC (4, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749381)

An example to many broadcasters around the world, very advanced in its views. Still one of my favourites.

Unfortunately, it's no more.

After Rutgers U turned off Usenet, BBC turned off Ceefax.

Looks like good stuffs just ain't made to last as long as their rotten counterparts.

Wonder what's next ... ?

Re:*Used to be* good side of the BBC (2)

BenJury (977929) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749837)

There is still a 'text' service on the digital platform. Although I confess to not using it that much as nowadays a device which can browse their news site is always just an arm reach away.

Re:*Used to be* good side of the BBC (4, Informative)

DrXym (126579) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749949)

The BBC has moved to digital "teletext" which is basically the same service sitting over MHEG-5. So instead of news headlines as pure text you get news headlines as text and a thumbnail graphic. Instead of a weather forecast rendered in blocks, asterisks and slashes in garish mode 7 colours you get a nice picture. Theoretically it's more powerful since it can embed graphics and text, is interactive and can even use picture-in-picture and switch video streams. But it's still primitive compared to HTML + JS markup and I can't see this service lasting 38 years.

The issue is compounded because it's quite slow. Most boxes I've used are not caching the content so feeling reminds me of teletext circa 1980. You have to sit there for ages waiting for the carousel to deliver the content the box is waiting on. To improve responsiveness the data stream has to keep repeating the indexes and main content more frequently. It also doesn't work with recorded content since most PVRs strip out the data stream unlike Ceefax which would survive. I assume some boxes would cache content so the responsiveness could be improved.

The main other use of Ceefax was subtitles, and subtitles are handled through a different mechanism. Transport streams from the BBC contain a subtitle track and often also a separate narration audio track too for blind people.

Re:*Used to be* good side of the BBC (1)

slim (1652) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750063)

[Digital teletext] also doesn't work with recorded content since most PVRs strip out the data stream unlike Ceefax which would survive.

If you recorded onto Series 1 Tivo, Ceefax didn't survive.

*Some* VCRs would preserve enough of the frame for Ceefax to work when you played back a recording. I think it was more through accident than design though. More usually, it would be recorded in distorted form, which meant amusingly garbled subtitles, and some education in how a digital system might handle corrupt input data.

Re:*Used to be* good side of the BBC (1)

DrXym (126579) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750239)

Ceefax / Oracle et all sent packers attached to scanlines which were usually hidden in the overscan area. It's possible that the TIVO reencoded the analogue signal and cropped all that stuff out. VCRs probably just blindly copied the overscan area but due to degradation and lack of error checking, it was hit or miss if it survived. Teletext could also be incredibly flakey with a poor reception.

On digital streams IIRC teletext was sent as packets in the stream and the SoC would reconsitute the packets into the output signal in the overscan area so the TV could see them. Some STBs might also be able to show teletext through their own software.

Re:*Used to be* good side of the BBC (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750257)

Agreed Ceefax and similar teletext services were extraordinary useful in their day. As far back as the 1970's you could browse for news and sports information as well as detailed broadcasting schedules and lots of other useful information. It remained useful right through the days of dial up internet because it was often quicker to turn on the telly than boot a computer for a quick news fix. It used to always annoy me when visiting the USA that teletext never caught on there.

Am I right in remembering that the BBC even offered software downloads via CEEFAX at one stage?

Re:*Used to be* good side of the BBC (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750399)

"Wonder what's next ... ?"

AM & FM Broadcast radio and Over the air television.

Re:good side of the BBC (4, Funny)

TheMathemagician (2515102) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749527)

It seems very appropriate for John Major to be commenting on the end of CeeFax. While other former leaders might be asked about the Middle East peace process, or the Euro crisis, or global warming, Major seems perfectly suited to topics like this, garden gnomes, the decline in the size of Wagon Wheels, the positioning of traffic cones etc etc.

Re:good side of the BBC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750271)

He is homely in that way. I always love the cruel world goodbyes, so in the English style.

Good Riddance (-1)

Hadlock (143607) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749215)

Now that CEEFAX is dead, modern services like Twitter and Tumblr can help enrich our lives with more up to date, if slightly editorialized, news.

Re:Good Riddance (1)

rvw (755107) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749705)

Now that CEEFAX is dead, modern services like Twitter and Tumblr can help enrich our lives with more up to date, if slightly editorialized, news.

They can enrich YOUR life. Many old people only know how to use CEEFAX or TELETEXT and for them it's as basic and essential as internet is for us. What does it cost to keep it alive? Is it worth the money to shut off people who will never use internet, and push them out of current society a little more?

Re:Good Riddance (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750001)

What does it cost to keep it alive? Is it worth the money to shut off people who will never use internet

You're not really paying attention are you? All working UK TVs** now have digital text, which is not really any more difficult to use that CEEFAX for non-internet users; the main index page numbers are even the same on digital text as they were on CEEFAX. Noboby has been 'shut off'.

**With a few exceptions in cheap hotels etc., can't be bothered to explain why.

Re:Good Riddance (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750183)

Since we don't have Ceefax here I only have experience with Teletext but from what I see old people only use it when they don't have a TV program guide at hand. Also it's so bloated with ads for dubious phone services these days that it's really worthless except as a way of getting subtitles. A newspaper is more detailed, comfier and more convenient (because portable) and often comes with a TV guide as well. And that TV guide covers all channels, not just the one you've called the Teletext up on.

Re:Good Riddance (2)

jonbryce (703250) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750519)

CEEFAX has been switched off because analogue TV has been switched off. Anyone with a digital TV can get a very similar service on BBC Red Button, and anyone without a digital TV doesn't have TV anymore.

Re:Good Riddance (2)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750303)

Now that CEEFAX is dead, modern services like Twitter and Tumblr can help enrich our lives with more up to date, if slightly editorialized, news.

Ceefax news came from the BBC and could be believed. The brainless mind wank that comprises most of twitter is just digital wallpaper.

NOT A REAL GERMAN ADVERT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749219)

The real Turner The Worm being sick.

I'm not British (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749231)

Until now, I didn't know CEEFAX even existed - it sounds like it was a good use of technology for its time. However despite what some movie and music moguls believe, you can't halt the march of technology, and eventually time renders every tech obsolete.

Re:I'm not British (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749261)

Really? Time doesn't seem to have obsoleted the wheel yet.

Re:I'm not British (3, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749293)

They don't have flying cars where you live?

Re:I'm not British (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749395)

Your flying car doesn't use rotor blades, jets or ducted fans? All of which are just fancy forms of wheels, just not ones that touch the ground.

Re:I'm not British (1)

scdeimos (632778) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749429)

No, I have a flying iCar. Whilst being revolutionary, it's magical and just works.

Re:I'm not British (1)

JosKarith (757063) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749565)

Of course you can't service it yourself. Or re-spray it. Or fly anywhere except toll-charged iRoutes. Or take your friends in it (you'll need another licence for that). Plus it'll be obsolete, unsupported and just not iCool in 2 years time. But till then, enjoy your iCar and laugh at all the peasants in their last gen ground cars without built-in Driving Rights Management...

Re:I'm not British (1)

isorox (205688) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750321)

They don't have flying cars where you live?

Yes, but I still have to steer it!

Re:I'm not British (2)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750371)

They don't have flying cars where you live?

Only on slashdot could this be modded as insightful rather than funny.

Re:I'm not British (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750121)

Time doesn't seem to have obsoleted the wheel yet.

That's because "the wheel" isn't a specific technology.

Almost every kind of wheel ever invented has been obsoleted. This is why cars roll around on radial tyres on steel or alloy wheels, rather than wooden wagon wheels with steel tyres or just roll on crudely cut logs.

You may as well say "computing devices" hve not been obsoleted yet, even though almost every specific instance has been.

Re:I'm not British (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750391)

But ceefax, which is essentially news in text format accessed from a distance, isn't obsolete at all. I would happily read teletext on my TV instead of via the internet on my phone/computer (especially if I lived somewhere with slow or no internet). I don't see any reason to get rid of it at all

Re:I'm not British (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750123)

Really? Time doesn't seem to have obsoleted the wheel yet.

Careful it could be covered by a patent. Its just a rectangle with very rounded corners

Re:I'm not British (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750221)

A triangular wheel has fewer bumps than a rectangular wheel, so its corners can be less rounded...

Re:I'm not British (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750287)

A triangular wheel has fewer bumps than a rectangular wheel, so its corners can be less rounded...

Race you to the patent office ... oh no prior art [metro.co.uk].

Re:I'm not British (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750413)

Yeah but a triangular wheel would just look evil. Three is most certainly not the magic number, it is a harbinger of the end times, the mark of Satan and probably the number of the beast (if you muliply it by 222). Once triangular wheels appear, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, the triple-breasted whore of Babylon will rule us all and Formula 1 and NASCAR will become even more boring than they are now.

Re:I'm not British (2, Interesting)

scsirob (246572) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749267)

Several countries still offer this service under various names. In The Netherlands it is called "Teletekst" and besides being available on the TV set, you can also find it online: http://teletekst.nos.nl/ [teletekst.nos.nl]

Re:I'm not British (4, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749367)

One of the best parts of the BBC CeeFax was the subtitles. It was provided as service for the deaf (so you would get extra notes like "doorbell ringing"), it was also great for people who could not understand English so fluently as it was usually a literal transcription of what was being said. Fantastic help for learning to understand spoken English.

Re:I'm not British (1)

wijnands (874114) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749751)

So true! It helped me a lot when learning English. Fond memories. Ceefax was glacially slow over here on Dutch cable though, like accessing a BBS with a 1200/75 modem

Re:I'm not British (1)

slim (1652) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750089)

Teletext is slow by its nature. It simply broadcasts every page, in a loop, over and over again.

With early receivers, you just had to wait.

Later on, when RAM got a bit cheaper, receivers would detect the four page numbers linked to the coloured buttons, and cache the content of those next time they were broadcast.

Eventually RAM got cheap enough that receivers would just cache the full set of pages.

Re:I'm not British (1)

DrXym (126579) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749987)

Subtitles are now included in the transport stream as bitmaps. Some programmes will also have a separate audio track for partial sighted / blind people.

Re:I'm not British (1)

gsslay (807818) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750499)

Subtitles are still freely and easily available on all BBC channels, just using different technology. So it's not as if anyone's going to miss Ceefax's ancient and quirky provision of them.

Re:I'm not British (4, Interesting)

TomC2 (755722) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749371)

I personally think it is not that the technology of Ceefax has finished, it is more the content. Digital Terrestrial TV services in the UK also offer various text-based services in a much more modern interface, however, there is just not the same quantity of content that Ceefax carried. Ceefax was a bit like a condensed newspaper, whereas the current "Red button" services are more like just the front page of a newspaper. But then again, if you are receiving BBC digital transmissions you also have access to far more channels than when Ceefax was launched, including a 24-hour news channel, so maybe it is not necessary. But for me what is more telling is the BBC have not thought it necessary to completely migrate the Ceefax levels of content onto the digital "red button" services. There was nothing on there that nowadays could not be found on the internet, after all.

Re:I'm not British (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749587)

lets not forget they now offer news.bbc.co.uk

Re:I'm not British (1)

havana9 (101033) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749589)

Teletext services could be transmitted with digital television signals, both satellite and terrestrial, and are a standard MPEG feature. A set top box will automatically decode the data and send them over the analogue outputs, or superimposes the decoded page on the video output. Satellite broadcasting for Italy, Germany and France are still sending Teletext pages. I've experience with the MHP services on terrestrial television in Italy. Simply put MHP services are totally and utterly slow, even if MHP decoders are more costrly due the bigger CPU they have to run Java ME, instead of use only the computer power equivalent to a Z80. Worst of all the user interface between various broadcaster is different, even if they're sending teletext-like news and it's too easy to put animated adverts everywhere.

Re:I'm not British (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750139)

nstead of use only the computer power equivalent to a Z80.

waaaaaaaay less computing power. It was a very simple state machine, and could be implemented on a simple chip. The BBC micro (6502 powered) had a teletext chip because it used 1k of memory and was cheaper than adding tons of extra RAM to store store a frame buffer. The BBC could also do frame buffer graphics, but the largest took a rather substantial fraction of the available memory.

Re:I'm not British (1)

dingen (958134) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749411)

I'm not British either and English is not my native language. When I watch the BBC, I almost always turn on real time subtitling through their Ceefax service in order to understand everything better.

Now that Ceefax is considered obsolete, those days are over. It sure makes it a lot harder for me to enjoy their broadcasts.

Re:I'm not British (1)

defnoz (1128875) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749521)

Now that Ceefax is considered obsolete, those days are over. It sure makes it a lot harder for me to enjoy their broadcasts.

If you were still watching analogue TV then it certainly will be a lot harder to enjoy any broadcasts. Subtitles are available on digital using the red button - I'm pretty sure the BBC and possibly other broadcasters are obliged to provide subtitles.

Re:I'm not British (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749595)

As a British citizen you may not know that "using the red button" activates a feature in your digital receiver that is only
available in receivers sold to UK customers. What we buy in the rest of the world does not have that function.
We can receive teletekst and DVB subtitling, but not "the red button" services.

Re:I'm not British (1)

dingen (958134) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749653)

The red button does something else entirely on my set top box. The BBC's digital services only work from within the UK.

Re:I'm not British (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749603)

Why don't you just turn on closed captioning?

Re:I'm not British (1)

dingen (958134) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749655)

How? Without Ceefax, I'm not sure if there is way to get subtitling on the BBC from abroad.

Re:I'm not British (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749703)

That would be up to your cable/satellite provider. Considering how many regular OTA stations provide this service, it's hard to believe that you don't have the option.

Re:I'm not British (1)

pe1chl (90186) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749709)

Fortunately the BBC also transmits DVB subtitling.
However, the typical cable company does not relay it to the clients yet.
Maybe this changes in the future?
Right now, I can enable subtitles on my satellite receiver, but not on Ziggo digital cable.
(on analogue cable you are probably out of luck - DVB subtitling cannot be converted to teletext)

Re:I'm not British (1)

91degrees (207121) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749733)

Pretty certain the subtitles are available on my (Belgian) cable box. Just uses the standard subtitle mechanism of the STB from the menu.

Those Days Are Indeed Over (1)

andersh (229403) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749769)

I'm quite happy those days are over myself, the teletext subtitles were hardly perfect. They performed their function well enough, however the rendering, timing and positioning was often a problem.

In my opinion that sort of feature ought to be taken care of automatically by your viewing apparatus (TV, PC, phone or tablet). The information should either be available as a hidden data stream or interpreted live (speech-to-text). Subtitles should naturally adapt to your display's size and resolution, perhaps even your environment, and the font choice should be user customizable.

On the one hand the BBC isn't made for you specifically, it's supposed to be public broadcasting in the UK. On the other hand the BBC is one of the UK's greatest sources of influence and cultural distribution. The world has realized the potential and value, just look at the Arab world, Russia, France and China's recently launched English and/or multi-lingual offerings!

Re:Those Days Are Indeed Over (1)

dingen (958134) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750523)

I would like things to be better as well. But the reality is that I used to have subtitles and now I don't. It's hard to see that as an improvement.

Re:I'm not British (1)

alex67500 (1609333) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749519)

I've lived close to the British culture and deep in the French one. It sounds a bit like when the French turned off the Minitel (http://tech.slashdot.org/story/12/06/28/1241252/france-ending-minitel-service). Both early interactive services which came over an old delivery method (TV sets for Ceefax, telephone lines for the Minitel).

It's sad to see them go, but it's probably also time to acknowledge that they are obsolete (and costly to maintain) compared to the Internet.

I remember our first Ceefax set (4, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749273)

I remember our first Ceefax set. It seemed magical having all that information at hand, waiting with anticipation as the page numbers rolled round to the one you selected. And there were the Ceefax subtitles - some of which added extra humour. I was tipped off on the subtitles on "Rab C Nesbit", which would translate Rab's colloquial Glaswegian into really pretentious English, including the odd "old chap", but would then translate a rather snobbish Englishman into Glaswegian. (Some English viewers actually needed the subtitles to understand the Glaswegian accent, so this was a joke on them).

Re:I remember our first Ceefax set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749283)

Same here. My mother loved Rab C but always watched it with the subtitles on. And she loved playing Bamboozle

Re:I remember our first Ceefax set (2)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749399)

Digital TV in the UK still has a text service, and still has subtitles it's just not called Ceefax anymore but "red button" ....

Re:I remember our first Ceefax set (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749641)

DTS (Digital Text Service) != Ceefax.

Never was, never intended to be. DTS is about so much more than a 70-word soundbite. It's also a gateway to parallel channels.

Re:I remember our first Ceefax set (1)

TheMathemagician (2515102) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749491)

Hey! I'm English and I found Rab C difficult to follow at first. Not just because of the accent but because of the dialect words used (eg. wain/wean = child).

If it ain't broken... (4, Informative)

MonoSynth (323007) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749289)

It's still alive and kicking here in the Netherlands, known as Teletekst. Every journalist wants to be on page 101.

There's even a web-interface and an iPhone app for it, which is a no-nonsense, clutter-free, low-bandwidth source of news, weather, stocks and sport results. I can't live without it :)

http://teletekst.nos.nl/ [teletekst.nos.nl]

I must say that I rarely use it on my tv anymore. Which is kind of funny, because nowadays it's still trapped inside the low-tech interface of the 70s although it's mostly used on devices so advanced that even the big visionaries of that age couldn't even dream about it.

Is it nostalgia? Or more like the Stockholm Syndrome? Or does it just hit a sweet spot of usability and simplicity?

Re:If it ain't broken... (1)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749529)

It is still alive in Norway (and I guess a lot of countries) as well. The message here is that as long as people use it, it will be there. However, the demographics of the user base (average age is pretty high) indicate that it has a limited future.
Personally, I have not used it since we got triple play fiber ten years ago. Even when I used it, it was a pain, as my TV at the time did not buffer the pages. Any page change involved watching the page counter going through all the pages I did not want until it reached the one I wanted. I also found out that the less popular pages were not included in every loop, so for some pages I had to wait quite a long time.
It is hard to miss something I do not use. Another obsolete technology I will not miss is the telefax...

Re:If it ain't broken... (1)

slim (1652) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750039)

It is still alive in Norway (and I guess a lot of countries) as well.

In what form? According to Wikipedia analogue TV was turned off in Norway in 2009.

Re:If it ain't broken... (1)

pe1chl (90186) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749633)

One of the alleged problems of teletekst is claimed to be that everything has to be in a 24x40 character frame,
of which in practice only 24x39 is usable, and of course all the standard headers and footers further subtract
from that to leave maybe 20x39 available for each news item.

But while that is limited space and the youngsters undoubtedly would want more space to express the content,
those youngsters invented twitter and use text messaging, with even shorter messages!

I think it actually is a strength of teletekst. The editors are forced to condense their items into very compact and
factual text. Of course this shows the capabilties of the editors, which makes the NOS Teletekst so much
better than the competition from RTL or worst: SBS.

Re:If it ain't broken... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749833)

Combination of Stockholm and simplicity I think.

Re:If it ain't broken... (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750115)

I use it a lot. Why should I connect my mobile to the internet if the TV is already on? If I only want to check the news / weather / train delays / the television programme, nothing beats teletekst.

Teletext by BBC (1)

andersh (229403) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750119)

Ceefax was Teletext.

Teletext (or "broadcast teletext") is a television information retrieval service developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s. It offers a range of text-based information, typically including national, international and sporting news, weather and TV schedules. Subtitle (or closed captioning) information is also transmitted in the teletext signal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teletext [wikipedia.org]

A bad precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749291)

While I don't care too much about the Teletext service of BBC, I still rely very much on the Teletext service of German stations. It's still easier than to start your browser, go to some specific site (in the hope that the URL didn't change — they do so much more often than the page numbers in Teletext, and if they do, it's usually much more work to find the new one) and try to gather the information there from an overloaded site (that Teletext has limited bandwidth is an advantage. It forces the provider to make the information compact).

Also, it has the advantage to also work if the computer is off (the TV starts much faster than the computer).

Re:A bad precedent (1)

slim (1652) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750037)

I still rely very much on the Teletext service of German stations

I'm confused. Wikipedia tells me that German analogue TV broadcasts were switched off in Germany in 2009.

Re:A bad precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750517)

The BBC decision was a financial one, there is no technical problem having teletext with DVB-T or DVB-C.
Germany and several other countries still have it.

A clue about foreign interests for you ... (3, Informative)

Grindalf (1089511) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749295)

Q. Who was REALLY asked over analogue TV broadcasting and CEEFAX in the UK? A. Nobody

Re:A clue about foreign interests for you ... (1)

slim (1652) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750103)

... and yet on another /. story, people are complaining about the price and availability of mobile internet.

There is only so much spectrum. Analogue TV was not an efficient use of it.

Prestel-Another British bygone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749357)

Prestel [wikipedia.org]

Text no more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749463)

Austext (The australian version) was stopped a few years ago too.

Teletext (1)

adolf (21054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749483)

As a USian, I'd like to remind folks that some of this tech once [wikipedia.org] leaked over to this side of the pond.

I remember, 20 or so years ago, being at a BBS-friend's house and being totally enthralled with his then-fancy Zenith TV: Just tune to one of Ted Turner's many cable channels, push the appropriate button, and news, weather, cheesy games, and random became individually accessible...without modem or a phone line.

I always thought it was very cool tech, and I'm still not sure if it is matched in any meaningful way today.

Unfortunately, it died a weird sort of catch-22 sort of death: There weren't enough TV sets that supported it at the time that it existed to drive interest, and by the time that sets did commonly support it the services were already gone.

Re:Teletext (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749763)

I used to enjoy the VBI enhanced shows, such as Homicide: Life on the Streets. With VBI, NBC used to push full web pages down with photos of evidence they "collected at the scene", including blood stained shirts and notes and stuff. It was such a fun experience, I was really sad to see that go.

It sounds like Teletext (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749547)

That sounds like Teletext which we had in New Zealand from about 1984

Re:It sounds like Teletext (1)

slickepott (733214) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749621)

I remember my parents tv when I was a child.
It even had a small printer at the front for those pages.

Sweden here btw. :)

Re:It sounds like Teletext (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749947)

It is Teletext. There's the technology (Teletext) and then the individual services. The BBC had CEEFAX, and ITV & Channel 4 (the independent stations) had Oracle. They were both Teletext services, though.

Re:It sounds like Teletext (1)

isorox (205688) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750335)

That sounds like Teletext which we had in New Zealand from about 1984

Yes, 10 years after the BBC invented it and gave it to you

Name source (1)

VlartBlart (948166) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749605)

According to the TV this morning (the delicious Susanna Reid), the Ceefax name came from "See facts".

TFS is not accurate. As usual! (2)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749627)

The Ceefax service to mainland UK shut off in February this year, leaving Northern Ireland as the only area left with coverage.

Oh, and the original ad for Ceefax claimed "it is made up of two words: Cee and Fax." But of a silly one, that.

Re:TFS is not accurate. As usual! (1)

isorox (205688) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750341)

The Ceefax service to mainland UK shut off in February this year, leaving Northern Ireland as the only area left with coverage.

Oh, and the original ad for Ceefax claimed "it is made up of two words: Cee and Fax." But of a silly one, that.

It was turned off in 2007 in Whitehaven. In Manchester it was 2009. It was only the stragglers in London, NI and the Channel Islands that hung on til this year.

A Great Hack (1)

chiark (36404) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749635)

This started life as a wonderful hack to allow limited broadcast of digital information, encoding data into the (supposedly!) non-visible parts of an analogue TV signal.

This lasted for nearly 3 decades, and was only really obsoleted in the days of DVB-T. That's pretty good going, and definitely served a purpose: subtitles, news, stock market information and cheap holiday adverts...

DataBlast, a small magazine that delivered pages of text at 5 per second (I think) during the titles of Bad Influence - a TV programme in the UK devoted to computer games - was probably inspired by Ceefax/Oracle. You needed to record the section on video (remember them?) and then use pause to read the content.

I had the dubious pleasure of writing a system that would genlock and be able to deliver the necessary frame rate live, from an Amiga 1200... Clunky to the extreme, it was canned after 2 seasons because it was so much work still. (My system replaced a system written in AMOS by one of the production crew which relied on hard coding the screens. A step in the right direction, but still a lot of work...)

So respect to the chaps and chapesses that came up with this and managed to fit so much information into essentially dead bandwitdh!

Re:A Great Hack (1)

jimicus (737525) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750069)

DataBlast, a small magazine that delivered pages of text at 5 per second (I think) during the titles of Bad Influence - a TV programme in the UK devoted to computer games - was probably inspired by Ceefax/Oracle. You needed to record the section on video (remember them?) and then use pause to read the content.

I remember that. Didn't work very well for a couple of reasons:

  - There were so many games out there on such a wide variety of platforms at the time that the likelihood of seeing anything particularly interesting was slim.
  - Our video didn't do a particularly good job of pausing. There was so much noise on the screen when paused that the Datablast was unreadable.

Data dropout fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749699)

One of the more amusing things about Ceefax and Oracle was that when the weather was bad and the signal was low, it would flip bits, for example, changing 'ORACLE' into 'CRECLE'. Sometimes it would drop the rest of the line completely.

Some of my favourites were:

(This was during Doom's popularity): The home secretary has announced new legislation to crack down on kerb-crawlers and imps.

(From a hijack attempt): gunmen surrounded the plane's ass (which eventually changed back into 'passengers')

888 (1)

Onymous Hero (910664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749745)

Page Triple Eight for subtitles :) - that was one I used pretty often.

Before we had the internet, ceefax (or teletext on other channels) was my main source of news. It was a great service, and one I'm slightly nostalgic about...

People forget how advanced teletxt was for the 70s (5, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749765)

A system of realtime transmission of embedded digital data with live updates and multicolour graphics on a TV before most home computers with the computer actually built into the TV (not a set top box!) was pretty much bleeding edge for the time. Its was truly a quantum leap in home technology when up until that point when most people in the UK still didn't even have colour TV sets.

Old meets new (1)

andyn (689342) | about a year and a half ago | (#41749803)

The Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE has adapted the well-aged teletext service for modern purposes by providing real-time Twitter commentary of ongoing muncipal election debates.

Earlier this year they allowed people to post their own pixel art.

was popular in Ireland too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749811)

I used it to see if there was anything worth watching on TV. I'm not sure if the Irish TV stations still have teletext - they might.
My Dad used it to check horse racing, my Brother, sports results... Everybody in our family used it for something.

GoodyBye Irish t'Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41749955)

What was the game you couple play on it? The Gorilla quiz thing?

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