BBC Ceefax Service – A memorial

I have some very vivid memories of sitting in front of one of those old school CRT TV’s in my childhood home, flickering through a text-based array of very limited coloured pages, each with their own respective numbers. I remember on numerous occasions, being told to check the lottery numbers on page 555 or even just to check the time and date.
This graphics nightmare was of course, Teletext, or what the BBC called Ceefax. The name Ceefax came from the original purpose of the service, to ‘See Facts’. It was introduced in 1974 to provide a subtitle service (Page 888 (which I remember due to it being flashed up on the top of the screen before most programmes)) and was optional when you got your TV set. In the 1980’s the services was so popular, all TV’s which were sold, had the feature.
Each page was given its own three number code which was used for easy access. The National Lottery was obviously page 555. Because I used it so often when I was little, very autisticly, learned off by heart many of the numbers, some (very few) I even still remember today. 199 was the Index (which can be accessed here: Ceefax TV – Page 199 – Index
We look at it now in 2012 and wonder how in 1974, the concept was seen as ‘Looking Towards the Future’. Most people will find this hard believe, but teletext was a forerunner for the internet. Now you mind think I’m mad with saying this, but it’s true. 100%. The founder of the internet, Bernard-lee, was after all English, so it must of had some affect on his thinking, at least to some degree. Mind you, Teletext is more like a Bulletin Board System, than an actual web browser, but I’m sure you ‘catch my drift’. (Early teletext was so slow, it was sometimes quicker to go walk the Newsagents, pick up the Radio Times and go home than to load the TV Guide Page, much alike to very early BBS’s, which took forever I am told. I remember it being like slow 56k Dial-Up, except more reliable and someone could use the phone).
Other than BBS’s the Teletext was much akin to the Web due to being the best way to present breaking news. This concept meant that the normal services of TV & radio would not need to be interrupted if revelations become known. It was also useful, as former Prime Minister, as well as countless other bloggers and journalists have mentioned, for its use at checking Sports results. Football, cricket and horse racing (page 660) are the main ones I remember, the latter being used heavily in betting shops as late as just before the Digital Switchover.Before the current Conservative-majority Coalition, I undertook a 2 week stretch of work experience, and while there I helped out with a quiz to get all the old people to try and remember stuff. One of the questions regarded the text based system the BBC brought in, et cetera. I was quite amazed how I was the only person in the room of 30 people that knew the answer. This kind of eradicates the stereotype of the elderly staying inside watching TV all day and being backward as crazy. Mind you, while I was there I met some very nice and interesting people. One being a former (partially deaf) physicist who became fluent in Swahili while a Lieutenant in the Army and had a very interesting life by the sound of it.

RIP Ceefax - You Did Good Buddy :D

RIP Ceefax – You Did Good Buddy 😀

With this all said, it’s clear that Teletext will be sadly missed, and that the world will never be the same without it. Those Nostalgic memories of having it as growing up will continue to remain. Only until last week was the service finally. When the BBC started the Digital switchover, it still remained in their minds the usefulness of Ceefax and the amount of people that still used the service that they decided to continue with its use and to broadcast it on BBC1 during the early hours of the morning, appropriately naming the programme, Pages from Ceefax. When I got the occasional insomnia, I used to turn my TV on, put on an hour timer and lay there reading the top news and lulling myself to sleep with the crazy, yet beautiful music they used to play.
Like millions up and won the country who used it or remember it still, I shall mourn it passing and I hope you do the same. This is the reason for this memorial Blog post.
The BBC has (weirdly) kept the page concerning Analogue TV on their website, but has sadly stopped listing the links for it. I have therefore posted the link below to show the last Web Archive snapshot of the page with all the respective links and everything. Very Interesting indeedy.
BBC – Help receiving TV and radio – Analogue TV
RIP Ceefax, you did good Buddy! 😀
That is all really. Apart from a slow as hell computer, I have nothing much else to say apart from good night (morning) and:
Be Good, and if You Can’t Be Good, Stay Out of Trouble 🙂

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