End of Teletext on commercial television

It’s been a sad couple of days, as the commercial Teletext services on ITV and Channel 4 have come to a close.  To be honest, I never really used the fancy pants new ‘digital’ text services, but for many years, before the advent of Compuserve, AOL and even the Internet, Oracle and Teletext were the only providers of text on demand for most households, including myself.

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I remember watching the ‘death’ of the Oracle service approaching midnight on new years eve 1992, they did some clever sort of ‘folding’ thing with the limited graphics so that it appeared to be vanishing into a black hole.  It was also sad for me as Oracle had published my first letter in an electronic form – I had written a sterling defence of Bonnie Langford as the Doctor’s companion when I was seventeen, and this had been published as a page on the “TV Voice” section of Oracle.

I fully realise that technology moves on, very few people must have used this service regularly, though at the weekend I did read figures (admittedly by Teletext ltd. themselves) that they had millions of weekly ‘hits’ (I guess this is difficult to tell with analogue Teletext, but easier with the digital service).

Of course, BBC’s Ceefax service, the Blue Peter to ITV’s Magpie service continues, and now that I have a conventional aerial for the first time in ten years I sometimes go back to the old analogue service… and think how slow and clunky it is.  But for a big part of my formative life this was ‘real’ computing to me.

My final bit of nostalgia?  I remember going round my great-aunts before Christmas, and she had the first Teletext TV – this must have been around 1980.  They had an Advent calendar page, where you pressed the ‘reveal’ button to show what was behind the ‘window’.  You can imagine with the blocky graphics half the fun was identifying exactly what was behind the window, but it fascinated me nonetheless.

Ah, nostalgia, it’s not what it used to be!

I know many (ok some) of you are waiting for my iPhone review and impressions.  Patience, I’ll soon be charting my first experiences, and some top tips for the three other people in the world who want an iPhone, but haven’t bought one yet.

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