I remember when... we all adored teletext (February 1980)
Comedian Jack Dee once aptly compared it to asking your gran to look up something in the Radio Times – 'Hold on, dear, I'm just trying to find the page...' – but the demise of teletext will strike a chord with anyone who grew up with the cumbersome TV info service.
Finally put out of its misery on ITV, Channel 4 and Five over Christmas, teletext was to become a uniquely British institution during the 1980s and '90s, attracting weekly audiences of up to 20 million.
Its 1976 roll out, however, was far from auspicious – understandable seeing as it required a separate decoder and few TVs came with a remote control.
But TV tech soon caught up, with Ferguson and Philips leading the way with teletext at the turn of the decade. At £799, the 26in Ferguson 3789 was almost two months' salary for the average Brit, but thanks to Radio Rentals, the nation embraced 'the ultimate newspaper' for just a few pounds a month.
- An early teletext model from Bang & Olufsen. The data is broadcast during a TV signal's 'blanking interval' – the gap between individual frames when the electron beam returns to the top-left of the screen. This interval is just long enough to decode the 24 lines of text needed for a 1kB teletext page.
Although we developed an affection for the garish cyan blocks displayed by BBC's Ceefax and Oracle's commercial service (later taken over by Teletext Ltd), the endless page carousel only ever exasperated.
But being a broadcast, it never faltered in busy periods and became invaluable to many during the Falklands War – and indeed in more recent times such as when 9/11 caused the internet to buckle.
But eventually everybody – even dear old gran – joined the digital age. Despite being easier to use, digital text lacked the charm of its analogue forebear and was swallowed up within the flood of new channels.
Although Ceefax remains in a mirrored form of the BBC website, teletext's time in the sun is surely over. Yes, it looked rubbish, but we'll miss Bamboozle, we'll miss Planet Sound, and we'll miss the torture of 'watching' a football match on page 402 through a shop window.
Teletext, may you rest in pixels.
- Pleasingly, you don't see magazine covers like this anymore. With the £1 coin not yet in circulation, we resort to stacking 50 pence pieces to illustrate the price-points for our turntable cartridge test. The price of the magazine itself is the princely sum of 55p.
- Aiwa has seen the future – sitting on the moon listening to a micro system. This 'sci-fi hi-fi' advert promotes its revolutionary four-tier set-up, measuring just 11 1/4in high, 9 1/2in wide and 9in deep.