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ORACLE and CEEFAX have argued as to who was first. It seems that Oracle were the first to demonstrate their system to the public, whereas Ceefax were the first on-air.

From an IBA yearbook: "IBA and ITV engineers are proud of the fact that the very first 50-page computer-edited teletext magazines were demonstrated to an audience of distinguished guests over the IBA's Crystal Palace transmitter on the 9th April 1973. This was the first such demonstration anywhere in the world of the system that has since been further developed and is now often known as teletext.

"ORACLE was developed in 1972-1974 by IBA engineers and subsequently became part of the British teletext standard adopted throughout the world. From 1974 it was provided as a service by ITV with editorial teams at LWT and ITN."

The Birth of ORACLE

This picture shows that first public demonstration system. Note that it is text only, there was no evidence of colour, a clock, or in fact anything really!

Incidentally, the name ORACLE is derived from the acromym of Optional Reception of Announcements by Coded Line Electronics.

These photos probably date from slightly later. We see the same clunky-looking 'remote' control and also show what's on the screen quite clearly.

Click on the colour photo to see a more detailed image.

Mark McMillan's reconstruction of the page shown in the photo above.
oracle100ww1975.gif (4359 bytes) This 1975 ORACLE index page is recreated from a black-and-white photo found by Alan Pemberton in an old edition of Wireless World.
Andrew Wiseman and I recreated this 1976 index page from an old black and white photo.
oracle_itn.jpg (37143 bytes) And this early screen photo of the ITN News Headlines page (200) dates from 1977.
This Weather and Travel Guide page is reconstructed from a photo in IBA TELEVISION & RADIO 1981.

The date in the header row suggests this page is from 1979.

Again, these pages are reconstructed by Andrew Wiseman from the IBA Radio and TV Yearbooks and they date from 1980.

Andrew says:
Looks like there is a typo here. "Best redurns" should probably be "Best returns". But this mistake is in the original photograph, so I deliberately haven't corrected it!

Originally these pages were all broadcast sequentially, in the order 1xx, 2xx, 3xx, 4xx, 2xx, 7xx. This was done in order to favour the ITN news pages which were the most popular. Later, as more data lines were made available the magazines were given dedicated data lines and broadcast concurrently.

In those days the tv pages were not regionalised, so Oracle had to carry a page for TV, Weather and What's On for each of the ITV companies. (Although London What's On had its own section.)

This reonstruction, from 1981, is based on data from a photograph of an IBA Regional Operations Centre found in an IBA Engineering Information Service leaflet.

Note the ORACLE graphic has now shrunk vertically by one row!

These reconstructed pages date from 1982.

Andrew Wiseman recalls:
"ORACLE moved Leisure from p700 to p300 and ORACLE KIDS moved from p777 to p303. You may remember the Blockheads on p316 which was ORACLE's attempt to include a cartoon. The Blockheads was blue graphics on a white background and was a single frame (not a strip), but unlike a newspaper, there was no topicality. P351 Pictures was one of my favourites - ORACLE's attempts at creating meaningful images from the restrictive teletext standards. P202 was taken on the same day, and with ITN's cyan letters, came ITV's yellow lettering."

Early Oracle Level 2 Test Very early experiments in hi-res (well higher res!) teletext from 1980. Level 2 Teletext finally made it into spec by the early 1990's, but apart from experiments, it wasn't adopted by UK teletext providers.

Some other ORACLE milestones:

2-Jul-75 ORACLE teletext service starts. It was experimental at this stage
29-Jul-81 Live subtitles carried for the first time on ORACLE (for Royal Wedding)
1-Sep-81 Start of paid-for advertising on ORACLE
7-Oct-81 ORACLE begins transmitting on four lines
12-Oct-81 ORACLE begins the world's first regional teletext service
26-Oct-81 ORACLE's a.m. service begins
Oracle Channel 4 Share prices, From 1982 onwards with the birth of Channel 4, Oracle moved the City pages to Channel 4.

This particular example is from 1989. This tradition was carried on by Teletext when it took over in 1993.

These examples date from 1987.

The fact that the ORACLE service is now spread across two channels is now reflected in the revised index page.

The traditional Saturday night dross is on offer from ITV and it is noticeable that throughout the evening only two programmes were subtitled.

Tech page from the "Buzz" magazine The Tech page comes from Oracle's "BUZZ" magazine in 1989.

Andrew Wiseman suggests that Ceefax have stolen the name for their new Childrens / Entertainment pages.

ORACLEsnowman.jpg (23302 bytes) The ORACLE snowman invites viewers to send in their seasonal greetings in 1986
ORACLEdaybreak.jpg (17148 bytes) ORACLE's in-vision Daybreak service preceded TV-am in 1987
ORACLEdaybreak2.jpg (23455 bytes)

TTAN contributor Bryan Green says "This was a test for the first animated selection due to go out in-vision on Channel 4 from Mon 14 September 1987."

These two versions are from frames recorded in Feb 1989. The first is animated at one frame every 5 seconds, which is probably how it was transmitted, but the second version is somewhat faster!

And now for the weather!
ORACLEbuzz_index.jpg (32809 bytes) Taken from a test transmission in 1987 for a forthcoming new section
ORACLEsanta.jpg (26981 bytes) Taken from an ORACLE On View sequence on Channel 4.
ORACLEiba_eng1.jpg (29174 bytes) Greetings from IBA Engineering. Christmas 1987
ORACLElive_at_five.jpg (37258 bytes) Taken from a test transmission in 1988 for a forthcoming new section
In 1988 the regional service was broadcast on pages between 200-299, but for technical reasons the full regional service was not available while TV-am was on the air.
August 1988: and ORACLE are in bullish mood for the launch of their new regional services.
ORACLE's service on S4C in Wales.
 The TV Plus index page from September 1988.

Two versions, apparently from the same day. I think perhaps the second one was put together specially for a demonstration.

Perhaps this page gives a clue about the one above!
... and this is TOTETEL.

Can anyone tell us how this service worked?

February 1989


The end of ORACLE | Their last day: ITV | Channel 4 | Going, going, gone!

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