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Television The Internet Science

BBC Turns Off CEEFAX Service After 38 Years 160

Kittenman writes "After 38 years (1974 - 2012) the BBC's CEEFAX service has ceased transmission. The service gave on-line up-to-date textual information (albeit in condensed form) to TV viewers in the pre-Internet era and afterwards. Its final broadcast signed off with, 'Goodbye, cruel world.' '... the real impetus for viewers came when BBC Television decided to use a selection of Ceefax pages, accompanied by music, before the start of programming each day. Initially called Ceefax AM and Ceefax In Vision, the Pages From Ceefax "programme" continued for 30 years, being broadcast overnight on BBC Two until this week. As viewers got a small taste of what Ceefax had to offer, millions of Britons during the 1980s invested in new teletext-enabled TV sets which gave them access to the full Ceefax service, which by now included recipe details for dishes prepared on BBC cookery shows, share prices, music reviews and an annual advent calendar.' An British ex-PM (John Major) said, 'From breaking global news to domestic sports news, Ceefax was speedy, accurate and indispensable. It can be proud of its record.'"
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BBC Turns Off CEEFAX Service After 38 Years

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  • good side of the BBC (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jerry Smith ( 806480 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @03:08AM (#41749209) Homepage Journal

    An example to many broadcasters around the world, very advanced in its views. Still one of my favourites.

  • by MonoSynth ( 323007 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @03:25AM (#41749289) Homepage

    It's still alive and kicking here in the Netherlands, known as Teletekst. Every journalist wants to be on page 101.

    There's even a web-interface and an iPhone app for it, which is a no-nonsense, clutter-free, low-bandwidth source of news, weather, stocks and sport results. I can't live without it :) []

    I must say that I rarely use it on my tv anymore. Which is kind of funny, because nowadays it's still trapped inside the low-tech interface of the 70s although it's mostly used on devices so advanced that even the big visionaries of that age couldn't even dream about it.

    Is it nostalgia? Or more like the Stockholm Syndrome? Or does it just hit a sweet spot of usability and simplicity?

  • by Grindalf ( 1089511 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @03:26AM (#41749295) Journal
    Q. Who was REALLY asked over analogue TV broadcasting and CEEFAX in the UK? A. Nobody
  • Re:I'm not British (Score:5, Informative)

    by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @03:44AM (#41749367)

    One of the best parts of the BBC CeeFax was the subtitles. It was provided as service for the deaf (so you would get extra notes like "doorbell ringing"), it was also great for people who could not understand English so fluently as it was usually a literal transcription of what was being said. Fantastic help for learning to understand spoken English.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @05:48AM (#41749947)
    It is Teletext. There's the technology (Teletext) and then the individual services. The BBC had CEEFAX, and ITV & Channel 4 (the independent stations) had Oracle. They were both Teletext services, though.
  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @05:49AM (#41749949)
    The BBC has moved to digital "teletext" which is basically the same service sitting over MHEG-5. So instead of news headlines as pure text you get news headlines as text and a thumbnail graphic. Instead of a weather forecast rendered in blocks, asterisks and slashes in garish mode 7 colours you get a nice picture. Theoretically it's more powerful since it can embed graphics and text, is interactive and can even use picture-in-picture and switch video streams. But it's still primitive compared to HTML + JS markup and I can't see this service lasting 38 years.

    The issue is compounded because it's quite slow. Most boxes I've used are not caching the content so feeling reminds me of teletext circa 1980. You have to sit there for ages waiting for the carousel to deliver the content the box is waiting on. To improve responsiveness the data stream has to keep repeating the indexes and main content more frequently. It also doesn't work with recorded content since most PVRs strip out the data stream unlike Ceefax which would survive. I assume some boxes would cache content so the responsiveness could be improved.

    The main other use of Ceefax was subtitles, and subtitles are handled through a different mechanism. Transport streams from the BBC contain a subtitle track and often also a separate narration audio track too for blind people.

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