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Digital television services began in the UK in November 1998 and at that time it was expected that it would be accompanied, from December of that year, by a new high-definition digital text service. In the event that expectation proved wildly optimistic. Both the BBC and ITV were transmitting a pilot service the following year, but it was only on 1-Oct-1999 that the decoding software was made available on a trial basis, and even then only to those with Philips STBs. Subscribers with Pace and Nokia boxes had to wait until March 2000 before they were able to download a software update. Ironically, those with integrated digital televisions had to wait even longer.
BBC Text came first to ONdigital but it was not until March 2001 that it finally arrived at the Astra Digital platform. It is nicely designed but one obvious difference between it and CEEFAX is that the new service has no page numbers - navigation being by menu and cursor controls.
As first seen, Digital Teletext was a very sparse but seems to offer more in the way of high-definition pictures. Digital Teletext also provides a means of navigating by page numbers.
In May 2000 Carlton Food and Carlton Cinema introduced Digital Teletext services but suddenly withdrew them two months later. Carlton announced that their two month trial was over, and the service was being withdrawn pending full launch later this year. This surprised everyone, as there was no indication that it was a trial service, and certainly ONdigital did not know, as they plugged it strongly in their magazine, including July's edition. Carlton hyped up the launch of the service in May, announcing it as having the first interactive adverts. The Carlton Cinema service was actually quite useful, including programme listings, features about each film, a quiz and a featured actor feature.
Meanwhile, in July 2000 the BBC temporarily augmented their Digital teletext service with a service devoted to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.
The new SkyText service is great, but all the terrestrial digital teletext services seem unacceptably slow to me. I wonder if the bandwidth will be made available so that they can be speeded up?
It's hard to see how the BBC will refer to program backup information on BBC Text without page numbers to refer to and it will be most interesting to see both of these new channels develop into fully grown services. In the meantime your comments and observations on the new service would be welcome on Teletext Chat.
The UK's major cable operator, ntl:, launched their DigitalPlus service in mid-2000 and was initially accompanied by a teletext service sourced from Teletext Ltd.
By the end of the year Teletext Ltd had rebranded their product and ntl had developed their interactive service to include content from other providers including InfoSpace, Weather Services International and the Manchester Evening News. This interactive service was rolled out to customers in their various franchise regions during 2001 with many customers having their set top boxes updated just in time for the Wimbledon tennis championships in June. At first the service was very buggy and attempts to use it would frequently cause the box to hang up, requiring disconnection from the mains to force a reboot but, to be fair, this situation rapidly improved.
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