One of the coolest things on your TV before digital set-top boxes, on-demand movies and Freeview.
Teletext is basically a continuously updated news feed transmitted through your TV (in gaps in the signal), developed in the United Kingdom in the 1970s and being used worldwide.
Most notable for its limited number of characters, the general BBC Micro
-ish look of the thing note
and the fact that you'd at times have to wait for several pages to load, Teletext doesn't crash under heavy user demandnote
. Before the Internet, this was the way you got the footy scores note
. Memorably described as a pound-shop version of the Internet
Pages have individual numbers, which can get memorable. 888 is the UK code to get Closed Captioning
. Interactivity however, was limited to a minimum. Due to teletext's broadcast-only nature, interactivity involves a "Show" button (essentially technology similar to the spoilers tag used here on TVTropes, except that it's triggered through a button on your TV remote), "Choose-your-adventure" style page-flipping, or on more advanced systems used in some European countries, calling a number on your phone (although the outcome of your choice is visible to everyone using the service).
Teletext Limited, the company responsible for the ITV and Channel Four services, had a handful of other businesses, including a holiday shop TV channel, which will remain open—and oddly, continue to use the Teletext brand.
Teletext never really took off in the US- TBS, CBS and NBC made attempts, but failed. TBS
had a service called Electra
for a while in the 80s, but it was shut down due to lack of interest and funding (the other partners in the venture, Zenith Electronics and Taft Broadcasting had stopped making Teletext-capable TV sets and undergone corporate buyouts, respectively). Complicating matters was that a competing, incompatible Teletext system backed by CBS and NBC called NABTS (North American Broadcast Teletext System) was also pushed to the market (TBS used modified-for-NTSC versions of the World Standard Teletext system, which is what the Ceefax system is known as outside of the UK). NABTS was superior to WST in that it could display advanced graphics, but that only drove the cost of receivers and TV sets up as it required a far more powerful CPU for decoding the graphics and text. Adding to that, the fact that TV sets only supported one or the other but not both made choosing a Teletext-capable TV even harder and contributed to the waning of interests in the feature.
There was also an attempt to launch Teletext in Japan, with the service called Moji2 (pronounced Moji-moji). However, the system was unique to Japan itself as it provided Japanese characters support and a graphics mode that is noticeably absent from the systems used elsewhere in the world. The fact that the west hears so little about it meant that the service most likely flopped, in a strange case where useful technology actually failed to take off
in the country.
In the late 90s, an updated version of Teletext was introduced. Called Hi-Text, it finally caught up with the NABTS and Moji2 systems in that it offered a higher resolution display and vector graphics support. However, the system faced stiff competition from the Internet and waning interests in teletext technology, and thus was only adopted by several North European countries.
Side note: Teletext never really died, it just evolved. The successor to Teletext is made out of several digital text standards (mostly DVB-TXT, DVB being the digital standard that replaced PAL and SECAM which were used in countries where Teletext was popular, and MHEG-5, the markup language used to design a digital teletext page). As TV becomes increasingly digital, these services moved to a richer-experience albeit less enjoyable digital format, if not discontinued outright. ITV
, Channel 4
and Channel Five
ended their service on December 15, 2009, more than two years before the analogue cutoff. However, the digital format is still in use in several Northern European countries as well as in Australia and Hong Kong.
- Ceefax (pronounced "See Facts") for The BBC, which ran from 1974 to 2012 - surviving until the last analogue transmitter was switched over to digital broadcasting.
- ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five's Teletext, which ran from 1993 to (essentially) 2009.
- Which replaced the older ORACLE system, which ran from 1978 to 1992.
- And was home to Digitiser.
- Ireland's main teletext service is Aertel, which has survived the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting—just.
- Major Polish television stations still use this, but this gets little love from the production team.note
- At least it survived the switch to digital and is still active as of June 2018!
- Singapore has the SBC (later TCS, then MediaCorp) Teletext service, which was revered by stock market players as it provided extremely up-to-date information about the Straits Times Index(the stock exchange of Singapore), even faster than the Internet could. This alone ensured the service stayed up long after neighboring Malaysia had shut off their Teletext transmission and was only discontinued after the first phase of analog shut down, in mid-2014.
- As mentioned above, Neighboring Malaysia also had it's own Teletext service under the name of Beriteks (a combination of the Malay word for news and text). The service started in 1985, but was eventually shut down due to the Mahathir government's emphasis on the Internet in the late 90s and early 2000s. The government-owned RTM channels stopped transmitting Teletext in the early 2000s, and Media Prima shut theirs off in 2008.