Also..: I'm really surprised to learn old VHS tapes can contain embedded teletext signals! Very cool article.
Holy cow that’s awesome, and really goes to show why archivists must be so diligent in their preservation efforts.
To think teletext is still around today, a fossilized technology using a standard that has been almost unchanged for 40 years! Although nowadays I mostly read it using a smartphone app - the bite-size pages are perfect for a quick and (almost) ad-free news update.
I read it with a python script I wrote myself that parses images into ANSI sequences and outputs them to a terminal. If I manage to put the code in a presentable state it could be a cool "show HN".
And usenet confirms
That it was 1996 was the year
Says it was first broadcast in the US on 21st October 1996
Was B5 really broadcast in the UK ahead of the US?!
Star Trek in that era was months to years behind -- evidence in November 1997
BBC (free to air) were broadcasting episodes first shown in the US in June 1996, and Sky (Pay TV) were on October 1996.
Now, seeing that it's actually possible to recover that data... I find it's too bad that we threw away all those tapes because nobody was watching them any more.
Recently-ish (2016 I think) I logged back in out of curiosity.
Some of the same names were still there, chatting away.
This is a wonderful trip down memory lane <3
I have vague memories of my dad managing to "hack" this system and get software for free as he worked out they used a simple XOR cipher on the BASIC source code sent over the air and most programs started with "10"!
I did some Googling and it may not have been Prestel (which he did also use) but something called "Telesoftware" – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telesoftware – which involved software being distributed over Ceefax.
- If you used Micronet (a part within the broader Prestel system) between midnight and 8am, you weren't charged for the phone call [I guess this was easy to implement because BT ran both Prestel/Micronet and the phone system)
- The phone number for 'The Gnome at Home' BBS was 888-8894
- A kind person I met on a BBS sent me a cassette in the mail that had software to upload data at 1200 baud (half duplex, as the modem couldn't do 1200/1200).
I got addicted to that too, and Beehive Bedlam in 2001.
I love TV tech. The old Teletext / Ceefax product was pretty impressive for its time and some insane engineering. I spent a number of years writing software for the TV industry (both backend and STB software) as a result of playing about with this when I was younger.
I've never tried ccextractor for pulling teletext but I use it for pulling almost any kind of closed captions.
English news: https://yle.fi/aihe/tekstitv?P=190
Seasonal calendar: https://yle.fi/aihe/tekstitv?P=830
Museum of Teletex Art: https://yle.fi/aihe/tekstitv?P=805
Edit: but I think that the true winner of this era is the French, they have both (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minitel, IEEE has a nice, although a bit opinionated, summary: https://web.archive.org/web/20171004160220/https://spectrum....)
Unrelatedly, Canada had a late launch of Minitel-like services in the mid-1990s: https://techmonitor.ai/technology/bell_canada_launches_inter...
Unrelated, but imagine if smartphones today were instead called screenphones. Fun!
I think that the reason teletext never went live in NA (although to be fair CBC had some serious trials) is because of different broadcast standards. Not in "NTSC versus PAL" mind you, but in "nationally-run versus autonomous affiliates of networks" sense. Convincing many independent stations to install equipment and to update the information for a nebulous service that you aren't sure that the viewers who bought their sets would appreciate, while across the pond the cost of switching to televisions with teletext is (for most people) call your renter if they have one available for you to swap to while we BBC/IBA (the Independent Broadcasting Authority) will take care of our side, even if you're in the Channel Islands.