Ceefax & Teletext: GCO retro campaign post
Oh Teletext! Those of us over a certain age will remember using Teletext and Ceefax. They were push-button services that enabled viewers to bring up basic textual information on their TV screens, and was the first experience many of us had of getting information on demand instead of as it was broadcast.
The invention of teletext back in the early 1970s was a bit of an accident. The BBC were trying to find a way to provide programme subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, using an otherwise unused part of the television signal. They succeeded, and it quickly became apparent that the same principle could be used to send all kinds of information – news, sports results etc – and Ceefax, the BBC’s version of the service, was born and launched in 1974.
Yes, it was slow! Yes, it was basic! And yes, it looked funny! BUT the service played a vital role in paving the way for the internet to enter our homes. This was the first time we were able to request specific information – be it news, TV schedules, the weather, or to access subtitles. These were some Ceefax/Teletext’s key services, but there weren’t the only offerings. Many of us will remember Bamboozle fondly, a legendary Teletext quiz hosted by Bamber Boozler (and his family, as I recall!)
Also legend was the Teletext Holiday shop. Again, a pioneering service that foreshadowed current developments where so many of us now book our hols online. A hint of the success and popularity of this services is to be found in the fact that though the Teletext service is now dead and buried, Teletext Holidays is still going strong.
It was the place to check if you’d missed an important event or broadcast, such as the Top 40 pop charts – every teen’s obsession back in the 80s and early 90s! Maybe pop wasn’t your bag? It was the destination to check sporting results back in the day. And Princess Diana’s death was confirmed to me by Ceefax.
Ceefax, the first ‘programme without a presenter’ ceased to be in 2012 – sadly undeniably obsolete thanks to the internet – here’s a lovely video tribute to the pironeering service from the BBC:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19996372 The service’s fans were legion, and they have been busy ensuring that we do not forget! There’s a Teletext Museum, and elsewhere online teletext graphics and art have a cult life all of their own – see Teletext Art to see modern graphics made in the style of Ceefax. There’s even an International Festival of Teletext Art!
For interest’s sake, here’s some news from Ceefax’s launch year:
- 11 October: Harold Wilson re-elected PM after Labour wins year’s second general election
- 30 October: Mohammed Ali beats George Foreman to world heavyweight title in Zaire
- 28 November: John Lennon joins Elton John on stage at Madison Square Garden in New York