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TELETEXT TIMELINE
by Mark Cook and Mike Brown

 

This page attempts to construct a timeline showing the evolution of teletext from its early development and trials through to the new digital text services now starting to evolve.

Included are articles describing Teletext services, press releases, technical documents, advertisements and promotional material. Alongside these you can find copies of the printed indices issued by the teletext services from time to time, which are an excellent way of seeing how the services developed.

REAL VIDEO CLIPS:

Contributed by
Martin Fenton and Rory Clark

ORACLE commercial 1 (355kB)
ORACLE commercial 2
(141kB)
ORACLE commercial 3
(340kB)
ORACLE commercial 4 (132kB)
ORACLE commercial 5 (211kB)
ORACLE commercial 6 (355kB)


Download Real Player

 TIMELINE  FEATURES, INDICES and PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL
Charting the history and development of teletext services...
pre-1972 Experimentation takes place by the BBC and ITV Engineering teams after BBC Research comes up with the idea of sending digital information in a hitherto unused part of the television signal.
1972 The BBC announce CEEFAX and ITV announce ORACLE towards the end of 1972. Test transmissions were under way by the early part of 1973.
1973
1974 The first version of the teletext specification is agreed by the BBC, ITV and set makers. On 23-Sep-1974 CEEFAX begins a full 30 page public Teletext service. ORACLE starts full transmission.
1975 The first ever teletext subtitles are transmitted by Ceefax
1976 A second, enhanced version of the teletext specification is agreed, with extra features such as coloured backgrounds, double sized text and so on.
1977 With the new specification making displays more attractive, teletext promotion starts in earnest.
1978 Interest in teletext among the public begins to pick up, with early adopters buying external adaptors for their TV sets.
1979
1980 Teletext gains momentum, with teletext capable TV sets starting to become more widely available, but take-up is still very small. Subtitling expands, with experiments on live broadcasts. 

Tests of Level 2 teletext begin, a development intended to give hi-resolution colour displays but which never really caught on.

1981 A boost for the emerging services as the Government designates October 1981 as National Teletext Month. To mark the occasion, teletext transmissions were doubled in data rate, using four lines per frame instead of two - a significant speed improvement, making the service a lot more useable.
1982 Government promotion continues as teletext ownership crosses the magic million mark in the UK. Teletext makes its first appearance on broadcast TV in the early morning before programmes start. In a related development, the BBC Micro is launched as part of the Government computer literacy programme with promised teletext support. ORACLE expands on to the new Channel 4.
1983 Teletext ownership rises rapidly, with 1.5 million sets now in use. CEEFAX reaches 600 pages in total and the Telesoftware service is officially launched in September, initially supporting the BBC Micro. 

BBC Research and IBA Engineering are jointly given the Queen's Award to Industry for Technology in recognition of their work to pioneer teletext.

1984 By 1985 teletext ownership reaches 2 million sets and services expand subtitling and events coverage.
1985
1986
1987 With several competing teletext add-ons available for the BBC (and other) Micros, Telesoftware use increases.
1988
1989 In 1989 CEEFAX Telesoftware closes down.
1990
1991
1992 The end of an era - the date 31-Dec-1992 is ingrained on in the memory of all teletext enthusiasts as ORACLE closes and the ITV/Channel 4 Teletext franchise is awarded to Teletext Ltd. The teletext news service provided to ORACLE by ITN are a major casualty.
1993 On 1-Jan-1993, at the stroke of midnight (give or take a few seconds) ORACLE disappears to be replaced by the new service
1994 During the mid-1990s "traditional" teletext settled into comfortable maturity, with the introduction (for CEEFAX) and development (for both services) of regional Teletext services being the most significant change during this time. Telesoftware may have gone, but PCs and add-on teletext cards brought new ways to manipulate data, and the introduction of data broadcasting to teletext introduced new applications.
1995 VCRs began to develop "intelligence", able to read Teletext programme listings and then to automatically set themselves up and start and stop under the control of PDC (which started on Channel 4 in 1991, spread to BBC2 in late 1995 and thence to most other terrestrial channels during the following few years).
1996

In November 1996 Ceefax reacted to the popularity of the ITV Teletext service with a major relaunch. At first the relaunch meets with a mixed reaction

1997

Meanwhile, teletext's life was beginning anew as the huge number of new satellite channels brought their own Teletext services with them and other countries continued to adopt the technology.

1998
1999 With its 25th birthday behind it, and still going strong, teletext began its evolution into a new form - digital teletext (teletext has always been digital - this refers to new information text carried as part of freshly introduced digital TV services).
2000

The first live "digital teletext" services begin, cable company ntl launch the interactive text service on their DigitalPlus service and Sky TV launch their first "active text" service on Sky News and launch their full SkyText service in December 2000. Meanwhile, Ceefax and "traditional" teletext is still with us, and still part of millions of daily lives. 

On 31-Dec-2001 the main 5-text service on Channel 5 closes, three months early. The ITC will re-advertise the franchise.

BBC World text ceased to ceased to carry news, finance and sports news, and would now carry only programme support information. See The Beginning of the End in The Gallery.

2001
2002-2011 Following the closure of the main 5-text service the 5-text ancillary teletext service is revamped, and in May the BBC appears to have a bit of a rethink

During the remainder of the decade teletext in the UK began to fall into a decline. Editorially the BBC's online staff took over the day to day updating of the CEEFAX service and ultimately the CEEFAX content was largely derived automatically from stories prepared for the BBC web site and the 'Red Button text service. From 2009 the Digital Switchover process saw analogue tv gradually switched region-by region with the NW and SW of England being the first two regions to complete the process. ITV and Channel 5 teletext services become shadows of their former selves.

2012

By April 2012 the Digital Switchover process finally reaced London and on 18-Apr-2012 London completed DSO and around 1.3m people are deprived of the efficient and once excellent teletext service. Its loss is noted and reported by the BBC themselves.

22-Oct-2012 saw BBC2 broadcast their final Pages from Ceefax sequence.

23-Oct-2012 saw the end of 625-line analogue television broadcasts in the UK

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