It has been announced that ITV’s Teletext will close today (Tue 15th Dec), and not in January as expected.

When I was somewhat younger, many an hour would be spent scouring the pages of Ceefax and Teletext for the latest news from around the world.

An end of an era that doesn’t really have a replacement.

716-teletext

Yes, the “red button” has largely replaced the old Teletext and Ceefax services, but I often find it more hassle than the old service to use. I used to know the key pages on Ceefax off the top of my head, although the addition of Channel 5 caused a shuffling around of some page numbers that confused me for ages.

None of the modern typing in of memorable names into a web browser, this was the age of the three digit page number. It may have been more restrictive in use, but somehow that made it more interesting to use as each news item or section could have more resources devoted to it.

BBC_Ceefax_10_Sep_1999_page_100

The loading of the pages actually encouraged a moment of reflection as you read each page in turn, sometimes several times while waiting for the next page to appear. Today I scan a page of headlines and quickly jump down the news content before flitting away to another website for another opinion on what is going on in the world.

I may now have a million web pages to play with, but I still miss the smaller, simpler world that we once relied upon.

Although Ceefax/Teletext were very much tools I used at home, at the time I worked in Curry’s in Slough High Street, and one one specific day, that simple text based service came alive in a way that I doubt would be possible today for any website or news service.

In our shop windows, we used to have televisions switched on, and as the display person, I tended to ensure some of them had subtitles switched on, as people would actually stop to watch the TV shows. However, one of my favourite Ceefax pages was page 150, which like subtitles, only took over a small part of the page – but it displayed the two top news story headlines.

It was a scrolling news headline long before the BBC website has such a tool.

ceefax-150-19780717

On February 23rd 1991, the allied forces began the ground invasion to expel the Iraqi army from Kuwait.

When I got into the shop that morning, I switched almost all the TV’s in the shop window over to Ceefax, with each TV showing a different news page focusing on specific aspects of the conflict. The remaining TV’s had subtitles switched on and left at the satellite news channels.

Come lunchtime, and something you will never see again happened – the shop was packed with people coming in to watch the One O’Clock news. Obviously, we turned on the speakers on several TV’s dotted around the shop, and for about a quarter of an hour work ground to a halt until the crowd slowly, and very quietly dissipated back to their offices.

That communal expression of interest in the news is something we will probably never see again as people sit at their computers at work and have websites and video streaming available. We sit alone and watch the news and maybe chat about it with the people in the room.

However, the silent crowds coming together in a public and impromptu declaration of interest in the news. I doubt that will ever happen again.

Which is a pity.

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5 Comments

  1. Petra

    I’m glad we still have Teletext in the Netherlands and use it every day on several channels. To bad Ceefax on the BBC is gone cause the subtitles are very usefull when watching English speakers with hard to understand accents/dialects.

  2. I’m even more nostalgic for that level of customer service in Curry’s.

  3. Big D

    I experienced something similar on September 11th 2001, the Dixons at Holborn Circus was full of people watching the news. Again I guess this is just before people on mass had access to the internet.

    • IanVisits

      I was working from home on the 11th Sept., and the websites around all crashed under the flood of traffic.

      Along with others, I spent much of the afternoon relaying what the TV was saying to an online community I used to chat on as they were all at work and unable to access the then crashed news websites.

      Your comment though reminded me of this cartoon from the South African Madam and Eve series.

      http://www.madamandeve.co.za/cartoons/me000481.JPG

  4. I’m with Big D – I’m not sure those days are gone entirely. I watched news of the September 11th attacks on News 24, displayed above the entrance to a sports bar at Piccadilly Circus, along with a crowd big enough to spill onto Glasshouse Street.
    (Then, laterally, in a pub somewhere in Covent Garden)

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