The system was announced in October 1972 and following test transmissions in 1972–74, the Ceefax system went live on 23 September 1974 with thirty pages of information. Developed by BBC engineers who were working on ways of providing televisual subtitles for the deaf, it was the first teletext system in the world.
James Redmond, the BBC’s Director of Engineering at the time, was a particular enthusiast. Other broadcasters soon took up the idea, including the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), who had developed the incompatible ORACLE teletext system, at around the same time. Before the Internet and the World Wide Web become popular, Ceefax pages were often the first location to report a breaking story or headline.
After technical negotiations, the two broadcasters settled in 1976 on a single standard, different from both Ceefax and ORACLE, which ultimately developed into World System Teletext, and which in 2012 is still in use for analogue broadcasts. The display format of 24 rows by 40 columns of characters was also adopted for the Prestel system.
The technology became the standard European teletext system and replaced other standards, including the Antiope system formerly used in France.
In 1983, Ceefax started to broadcast computer programs, known as telesoftware, for the BBC Micro (a home computer available in the United Kingdom). The telesoftware broadcasts stopped in 1989.
The service finally ended on 23 October 2012 after 38 years of broadcasting.
Early 1970’s Teletext Set Top Boxes
You don’t see many of these Labgear units about. At the heart a TIFAX XM11 module. I’m Not sure as to the exact date for this box.
Thanks to a kind donation I’ve been sent a 23 page document detailing the TIFAX XM11 module that is employed in this ColourText 7026 decoder, this is included in the Technical Library.
Another Teletext Adaptor, made by Radofin Electronics (UK) Ltd. Radofin are better known for their early ‘Telly Tennis’ type domestic TV games units. The unit has a 4 channel RF tuner, so could also could act as a remote control unit for TVs that didn’t have that functionality. However, it is a wired remote still in the 70’s this would have been a great advancement.
What do we do now the analogue service has ceased?
Well using a truly wonderful device called an IMOGen you can still feed these boxes a teletext signal and have them display the data on your old vintage analogue television. Thank heavens for the designer who took the time to develop and produce the IMOGen.
To read more about the IMOGen then read here.
Some off screen shots of the Teletext service the IMOGen provides to my analogue TV network.
Some historic Ceefax videos
Ceefax lives on the web with live news feeds, to see click here
remember to click on the little play icon at the bottom of the page to enable music