back to article Teletext toddles off as licence taken

UK regulator Ofcom has revoked the licence that allowed Teletext to broadcast text-based services alongside the TV signal - ending 17 years of independent interactive TV. The licence under which Teletext transmits its service requires the provision of local information as well as news of some sort, and Teletext pulled those …


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  1. Annihilator

    Crying shame

    The hours I used to waste playing Bamboozle in the mid-90's at school!

  2. Quentin North
    Thumb Up

    Teletext nee Oracle

    You might recall that the previous ITV Text licence holder was Oracle. Look what happened to them since they quit the TV Text business!

  3. TheOtherJola
    Thumb Up


    Anyone else used to watch the coloured shortcuts to see which colour wentn to the right answer and change the answer in the nick of time?

    That of course was then overshadowed by TVs that got too big for their boots and cached the "wrong answer" page, making this impossible... pah!

    Oh well. Thanks, teletext - I haven't used you for about six years, so never mind.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, well

      I was wondering that myself. Though now I see someone else did it, it does seem a little sad! You do mean the alphanumeric figure that came up when you pressed a button that were all the same except for the one corresponding to the correct answer, don't you?

      Meanwhile I've been using teletext again since throwing the Sky remote at the wall...

  4. Tom Kelsall

    Tele-WHAT now?

    Haven't even pressed the text button on my remote for ten years... fuss/nothing=undefined!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Dead Vulture

      RE: Tele-WHAT now?

      Well, I haven't touched mine for roughly two years, but that was because teletext has been off air here in Malaysia for that long. The last channel carrying Teletext transmission shut down their teletext services in 2008.

      It's a shame tho. The Teletext over here was a great service in that it offered real-time airline schedule checking and TV guide. KL International Airport's web-based airline schedule system is a total train wreck of a site to use, and I dislike having to visit 6 different websites to get the schedule for each channel. EPG? Unless you have a pay TV subscription, because generally the digital terrestrial system is stuck in limbo due to tons of delays.

  5. Lunatik

    Bye! Don't let the door hit you on the way out...

    Another anachronism bites the dust. The only decent thing on Teletext was Digitiser, and look at the respect they showed it.

    "The Real Turner the Worm being sick" will always be the mankind's best use of the VBI.

  6. jnewco81


    Haven't been interested since they dropped Digitiser

    1. Alex Walsh

      Stay away from Mr T's Bins

      You Crazy Fool

    2. Anonymous Coward



      I was going to ask if anyone remembered it.

      The man with a long chin anyone?

      And keep away from Mr. T's bins.

      1. jnewco81


        Morse and Lewis, Daddy Cool, Zombie Dave, Phoning Honey, and the Rapping Shoe. Damn, I need some surrealism back in my life

  7. CowardlyLion

    Page 888

    What about subtitles (i.e. page 888). Will they still work?

    1. GeorgeTuk

      Yes what is happening to subtitles?

      Being partially deaf myself subtitles make TV programes much easier to watch.

      I understand Freeview subtitles work in a separate way but not entirely sure?!

      And while I am on the subject why do More4 never have subtitles?

    2. Bill Ray (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Page 888

      Ofcom has assured us that the subtitling service will continue, though it may be the only part of Teletext that remains in operation.

  8. Alpha Tony


    'But if you're looking for interactive TV then soon you'll find yourself limited to the BBC, or that internet thing that's so popular with the kids these days'

    Don't knock it til you've tried it - That internet is really good!

    You can even get it on your computer now.

  9. Alan 6


    I remember visiting and being really disappointed that it didn't look like the web developer had used a ZX Spectrum to create the page...

    1. Jeremy 2


      Did you ever see the site Mr Biffo and friends launched after Digitiser was axed? It didn't last long but it was an outstanding rendition of Teletext mechanics in the browser (and without resorting to Java either)... Sadly it looks like they blocked the Wayback Machine though so it's consigned to memory now :(

      It was at in (late?) 2004 should anybody have the wherewithal to dig it up from somewhere

    2. Stoneshop

      ZX Spectrum?

      The Acorn Beeb would have made it so much easier; it has a Teletext-based screen mode (the only screen mode that left enough memory to play Colossal Cave adventure).

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        BEEB and Teletext

        It went much further. Acorn made the Teletext adapter for the BEEB that allowed you to open teletext pages as files on a file system from BBC Basic. One would open a page by specifying the page number as the filename, exactly as you would a file on disk, and then read a record that corresponded to the entire screen, and decode the information inside your program. I am sure that the adapter also cached some of the pages so you could get fast access.

        Was fun to play with, but I could not really see a real application for it. I guess it was really an early example of a "Screen Scraper".

        I could not get the hang of the locking graphics modes for Mode 7 which allowed you to specify disconnected and joined up graphics modes and colours. The person who thought this up (for Prestel and Ceefax, before the BEEB came along) must have had a seriously deranged way of looking at things. But it was a hardware mode, implemented by the display hardware (an SAA 5050), and allowed much clearer text than the all-points-addressable modes (the cell size was something like 15x10 compared to 8x8 in the graphics modes) meaning that the text was very clear even on cheap televisions, the screen only used 1K of memory, and allowed all 8 colours, plus flashing colours to be used.

        Was a clever way of maximising the usable memory in a machine that looked under-provisioned for memory even when it was launched. Ah, the memories.

  10. Seanmon
    Dead Vulture

    RIP Teletext.

    No flowers.

  11. joe90


    ... remember the Gnome @ Home BBS

    1. simon 43


      Now that was a blast from the past - 'modern' comms with my ex-GPO modems, happy days!!

  12. nowster


    888 subtitles are inserted by the broadcasters themselves (ie. ITV, C4 or five) and are independent of Teletext Ltd. The broadcaster has one VBI line exclusively for the use of subtitles. In other words, subtitles won't be affected by this.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    useful in its day

    but that was 15 years ago.

    i will have a beer now

  14. A J Stiles

    Injecting Text

    In a discussion on another board where I hang out, mention was made of a way to inject one's own Teletext information into the vertical retrace interval of a video signal. Can't be too hard, with a 1881 sync separator, a 4066 quad bilateral switch and some sort of micro ..... anyone know which lines and what bit rate to use?

    Such a device, if it produced a "clean" vertical retrace interval, might also have other beneficial side effects ;)

  15. Craig 12
    Dead Vulture


    I remember the good old days when 1000 page text memory was a big TV selling point :)

    If only they developed it a little more over the years, 'hyperlink' style page linking, low res pics (ascii art doesn't count), it could still be useful today as a quick resource. Digital text is rubbish in comparison... very slow, silly loading pages, and prone to crash/seem to lock up on slower hardware.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      totally agree

      The old 'analogue' [sic] teletext was fast to load.. If I was watching a program, I could press text type in a page number, then text again, to get back to the picture in a second.

      With the move to the digital platform, they had a great opportunity to increase the bandwidth, make page caching standard, improve the graphics slightly.

      But no, they went full out to create a 'web wannabe' which is so slow and clunky to load - teletext is great for reading tv guides, letters pages etc. but for the sort of stuff they attempt to now do with digital text, they fail, and you're better off using the web.

  16. mrlumpy

    Sometimes I don't wonder why us techies are despised

    My 71 year old mother was an avid user of teletext, she loved it.

    I got her a computer a while back as teletext was going with the digital switchover, she hasn't quite got the hang of it yet and at 71 she probably never will.

    She could use teletext when she wanted whereas she has to sit at the pc to use the internet and can't do anything else at the same time - she was able to multi-task well before the phrase was coined.

    A big part of her multi-media experience has been culled with the death of teletext, as someone in IT she has looked to me to help her fill the gap, what am I supposed to try next? An iPad?

    We might not miss the end of teletext but when the world starts and stops with us techies it will be a sad sad day.

  17. Mage Silver badge


    ZX Spectrum?

    Actually Teletext is Digital and over 30 years ago the BBC demonstrated (slowly) Colour photos + text prototype.

    Sadly there is no BBC ceefax on satellite any longer, even though it takes very little space (transmitted in it's own serial digital stream, not in VBI). The Interactive on Sky box is very slow and my non-Sky satellite receivers only do teletext (very fast as they store entire magazine).

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      <no title>

      Or, if you understand any Italian...

      They're also using a somewhat modified version of TeleSoftware to provide disability support.

  18. Badbob

    By god, my television has Teletext.... who knew?

    I just realised that my TV remote actually still has a Teletext button. It's a Samsung that I bought almost 12 months ago, and I can honestly say that I have never ever hit the button marked "Text".

    But then, i've never hit the "Interactive" button on the Sky remote either.

  19. Christian Berger

    It's still alive

    It's still alive in Germany and Austria. So if you set your dish to 19.2° East you can still get lots of teletext. Even analog and all. :)

  20. Jamie Jones Silver badge


    they said the teletext holidays etc. would remain - is it really true they'll lose all their TV presence? If so, why didn't they know this?

    When the brand goes off the TV, it won't be long before their website becomes 'just another' holiday website.

    Their original service may have been losing money, but it was an essential 'loss-leader' to keep the brand name well known.

    What about directgov and nhs choice? Aren't those 'published' by teletext ltd. ?

  21. Tom 7

    Bring back prestel!

    As for teletext - the pages were too long to read - anything over 140 chars now needs an iPad or other e-reader and £500 price tag to be cool.

  22. Paul Wells

    a TV in every room, a PC in only one

    Isn't that the arrangement most people have? So we go from quick access (turn on TV, press teletext button) in every room to slow access (boot PC, wait, wait longer, open browser, go to one of many pages) in one room?

    Why get rid of something that works and has a niche?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Some of us have a TV in one room. A lot of younger techies I know don't even own one.

      However, it's not unusual for people to have a "normal" desktop PC and a laptop too, even non-spods...

  23. Andus McCoatover

    Teletext came, went, then came again..

    Don't get it.

    In, oh, about the year 2000 or so, they discontinued it here in Finland on BBC World. Basically an uprising started - led by Yours Faithfully, natch.

    They put it back on.

    I'm too old and too tired to put the fuc*kers against the wall once again. Being on the dole, I can't afford the bullets anymore.

    History time, I VERA* (Actually, I went out with a lass called "Vera". Size about the same...about the same size twin 'reels' - snort!)


  24. Frostbite

    Goodbye old friend

    Sorry I haven't used you much in 10 years.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The soon to be vacated birthplace of teletext

    ..looking very pretty, in the recent snow.

    So long, Kingswood Warren.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Page 341

    Undoubtedly the best way to watch the cricket.

    Oh wait, that's Ceefax.

  27. Richard Lloyd

    Pictures? What pictures?

    "...(adding the ability to show pictures!)" - er, what pictures? The only ones I ever saw on commercial digital Teletext were for banner ads. You'd have thought at least one small pic with each article would have been nice, but nope - text only and often crammed into a column about 40% of the width of the screen (requiring more sub-page flips than analogue teletext!).

    I was permanently deeply unimpressed with commercial Teletext - no article pics as I said, quite slow to find a page to load, no page caching (if analogue teletext sets can do this, why can't digital, especially with no pics!) and, to be frank, not much useful content except perhaps to check a live sports score. The Web effectively killed digital teletext before it was born and it's still in a comatose state, even on the BBC.

    In my house, the red button has always meant "watch one of the BBC's alternative video feeds", but on Freeview, they've even scrapped much of those (still available as multi-feeds on Sky Digital though!) and often pick the "wrong" one when there's a video feed clash. The other day, Freeview channel 301 was showing a useless Hairy Bikers prog, whilst Sky Digital's equivalent had highlights of the Murray vs. Nadal match - what a clanger to not show the tennis!

  28. Anonymous Coward

    If Ofcom wanted local services

    then they should have put up the space for free to allow Teletext to survive - though the loss was in December when news serice shut

    And while the Internet may be better - it's a lot easier to check the TV using remote while eating breakfast for news, weather and travel (and much less chance of getting distracted

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    Back when I still had a telly teletext was one of the most used features. Much better content than all the loud and obnoxious moving picture stuff. It gave me news whenever I wanted it and could give me a detailed overview of the weather; the small aviation weather report was especially appreciated.

    Now you need an expensive terminal that bluescreens more often than not and an ever faster and more expensive connection just to keep up. But that's understandable, that's the times moving on. Still, don't be hating on teletext; it's a good idea and well-appreciated.

  30. LinkOfHyrule

    Possibly most user friendly tech ever?

    Teletext is probably the user friendly 'computer system' (to be a little loose with the phrasing) ever invented. Many people who can't or won't operate any type of computer use it without any problems or intimidation. It has a cool 'bookmarking' feature too based on remembering three digit numbers!

    Shame its going to be gone eventually, it has retro charm!

  31. Barrie Shepherd

    Teltext good for

    teletext good for:

    TV listings

    News reading at your own pace/interest


    Update program running times for VCRs

    Accurate time

    If no more TText on "ITV" then give the bandwidth to the BBC to repeat their CeeFax output.

  32. JMB

    Teletext toddles off as licence taken

    It is still running in the STV area but just about all adverts and many of the page links are dead.

    I hardly ever used ITV's teletext service because there always were too many adverts but always liked CEEFAX. I had first heard about many news stories from the CEEFAX Newsflash on Page 150. I don't think the digital service has any equivalent, you either watch a programme or the news. That is supposedly progress.

    Does anyone remember the early days of CEEFAX with row by row live coverage of the Henley Regatta - IN-OUT-IN-OUT-IN....

    And of course TeleKnitware that linked direct to your knitting machine.

    CEEFAX art with a black cat down a coal mine.

  33. Chika

    Here we go again

    I suppose it was to be expected. With the push toward digital TV and the continued degradation of standards and content, especially with the Independent Television network, the teletext service was always doomed.

    Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against the use of digital techniques to deliver television content. My biggest gripe is more along the lines that the people in charge seem to be using the viewing public more than the public is using the service. Teletext's behaviour in recent times has been a cynical marketing ploy that gave little in return to those that wanted or needed it, something that is increasing in occurrence in the digital broadcast market generally (push the button, push the button, coming up next, nag nag bloody nag). The news service closing down was the last straw. It seems that Ofcom have finally shown some backbone! If only they could apply the same thing to the companies that "run" ITV, particularly the shambles that is "ITV plc".

    Actually, I've not been a great fan of the ITV version of the service since Oracle were booted out, though they did at least go out with style!

  34. Charley 1

    New Zealand Teletext stills works

    So, if you're really missing it, you can always come down south.

    Of course, as it is used by the Totalisator Agency Board to display the odds and placings of the horse and dog races, it'll be with us for a bit till the TAB works out another way.

  35. This post has been deleted by its author

  36. Brennan Young

    Still the best tech...

    ...for finding out what's on tv right now and later tonight. (Amazing! It's the same device I am watching which tells me what's on in half an hour. Don't even need to open my laptop!).

    I had no idea that 'teletext' was a brand name. I though it was the generic name for the technology behind Ceefax, Oracle etc. (What IS the generic name for it, then?)

    I am dismayed that the BBC and others are starting to drop this ugly but information-efficient (1KB per screen!) technology.

    A web page is just not usable enough - not only do you have to fire up a different device (even a set-top box is another device!) but also, each channel has its own layout, and differing levels of detail etc. Maybe at one point all TVs will be able to go on the net and download programme listings. This no-brainer feature will certainly come... my guess is it will be in 10 years time.

    BTW I am rather fond of the open source Java-based app "TV-Browser", which aggregates dozens of channel programming feeds into a fairly simple GUI. Check it out. If only the RadioTimes would fix the problem that the BBC Entertainment feed is spitting out the BBC Prime feed by mistake. Grrr.

    Finally I would like to say that I was an avid user of the teletext mode on the BBC computer, and lusted after a 'teletext adaptor' - a device which could have impressed the pre-web internet users of the mid 1990s, even if it came out in the mid 1980s.

    Teletext rocks!

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge


      Yes, teletext is the generic term, but when Oracle lost the license, they lost it to a company that was stupidly allowed to be called "teletext ltd"

  37. Peter Stone


    Have I entered a timewarp? Teletext finished broadcasting around here (west Midlands) around the 12th Jan 2010, & had been announcing the fact since Oct/Nov last year.

    They blamed the reason they were going on the fact that they where never allowed enough bandwidth to display all the content they wanted & this was not viable.

    Someone mentioned Prestel. Anyone want a Tantel(?) adaptor? :)

    Oh well!

  38. Dave Bell

    Short life left

    The big problem with the digital TV equivalents is that they scare older users, who are used to the analogue text system.

    The Teletext service could be replaced by another company, but how long before it has to close down with the end of analogue broadcasting?

    And if Ofcom had ignored the breach off terms, because of the short remaining life and lack of value, they'd have lost the teeth they have to ankle-bite what they claim to regulate.

  39. Chris007

    in 10 years

    young adults will be watching a copy of "Peter Kay live at the blackpool tower" when he starts on his "booked it, packed it, f**cked off" sketch and wonder what the hell is this Teletext he keeps banging on about!

    Paris: Surely she's "booked it, packed it and f**cked it^H^Hoff"

  40. Deexan

    Do you see?

    One survivor of the cull is Game Central, which continues to update daily on It's no Digitiser but it is excellent in its own right, and refreshingly unbiased. The news stories on the website link to so they must now own the Teletext brand.

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