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Goodbye, Ceefax

October 23, 2012

Ceefax has been an institution in the UK ever since I’ve been old enough to watch TV. I remember my parents reading ‘Teletext’ on old, slow TVs in the 90s. When the National Lottery started in 1994, this became a weekly occurrence as it was always our first stop to check the Lottery numbers.

Too young to use it when it was really needed, I have never paid it much attention. When the Internet came into our lives in 1997 and the National Lottery got itself a website, I soon started secretly wondering why we couldn’t just check the numbers online.

As the World Wide Web got wider and more relevant to the modern world, I started secretly wondering why Ceefax still existed. No doubt, it had been very useful once. However, in today’s digital world of Ipods, Itunes and Internet-based everything, Pages From Ceefax soon became nothing more to me than that programme on BBC2 between 2 and 6 am.

I can’t help wondering what will fill that slot now. Tonight at 11.30pm, after 38 years on air, Ceefax will come to its natural end. In a farewell fitting for a national institution, it will be switched off by an Olympic champion, Dame Mary Peters.

It is the start of Ceefax that most interests me, though. That may seem like a strange thing to say about something which is about to end, but the reason I’m saying it may surprise some of you even more.

Ceefax was originally invented when BBC engineers were exploring ways to provide subtitles for viewers with hearing impairments. So the service may never have existed without deafness.

As Ceefax is laid to rest, I thank it- for years of Lottery results and for proving a point I’ve been trying to make for a few years now: If you look hard enough, you will find that in one form or another, disability is everywhere and in everything!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2012 10:55 pm

    Sad to see Ceefax ending, especially for the likes of my grandma who is now 93 and very hearing-impaired. For those of us more fortunate, teletext was still a great way to find out information like news, weather, tv listings, football scores, etc, before we had the internet!

  2. October 24, 2012 12:47 pm

    Nice post 🙂 I will be sharing my (similar) thoughts on my blog shortly.

  3. tony coffey permalink
    October 24, 2012 2:45 pm

    I had (and still have) a few sure fire ways of finding out if I can be friends with a new acquaintance. ‘Coe or Ovett’, ‘Red or Brown Sauce?’ and ‘Ceefax or Teletext?’

    Answer correctly (Ovett, Brown, Ceefax) and welcome to my world, get one wrong and we have nothing more to talk about.

    Even in the internet age I was still a fan of Ceefax and still used it as recently as last Saturday at my mother-in-laws to check the football scores. Even in this modern era it was still, clearer and more user friendly than the current digital format.

    I remember it first coming out and the amazment of being able to read stuff on your own telly. My friend’s sister was the first person I knew to have a ‘TELETEXT READY’ TV and we used to spend hours reading ‘Julie jokes (later Glug’s Jokes), the daily updated soap opera and generally having hours of fun making the word ‘P00’ come up in the top left corner and pressing ‘REVEAL’

    It wasn’t ALL Swallows and Amazons you know – some of us had to make our own fun.

    Ceefax was the cutting edge in news (pages 101-199), 200-299 Finance (BBC2 200-299), SPORT (300-400), WEATHER (400-500), ENTERTAINMENT (500-599), TV and RADIO (600-699)

    With information about transmitter regions and crazy letters pages it was a real godsend to guys like me who lived on their own and I could find everything I needed without the chance of clicking on a virus or risking spam from viagra companies.

    Great innovations came along allowing you to press RED for ‘next story’ or BLUE to jump to a different section but I knew all my favourite pages off by heart. 101, 102, 111, 150, 201, 302, 312, 316, 326, 606.

    Teletext page 120 (TV Now and Next) was ok and Channel4’s woeful 4-tel used to carry local listings for nights out and early form swingers contacts but like I say.

    Ceefax or Teletext?

  4. February 22, 2013 10:39 am

    This is a great post! I’ve always been fascinated with how children adapt to whatever circumstances they have. Last week I was in an airport and noticed a young boy (probably three-years-old) who was signing quickly to his Mom. I could see by his body language that he was very upset about something. His Mom calmly kept signing to him and I could see him slowly begin to settle. This was all happening with the two of them sitting somewhat far apart and not many people caught their interaction.
    I enjoyed reading your post and wish you well in your care of the 11 month-old-girl. I’m sure you will learn many things from each other!

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