Tuesday, 23 October 2012

They think it's all over... it is now, Ceefax

You couldn't run Teletext off an internal aerial
We've not used it for years - the technology has been totally superseded by Twitter, social media and apps.

What was black, white and read all over? Page 101, of course!

BBC Ceefax drew its very, very last breath in October 2012. Digital Switchover is complete leaving football fans with happy memories of sedentary indoor fun with occasional bouts of very sudden jumping up in celebration.

38 years of news, weather plus a selection of pages and elevator music on BBC1 overnight, has met its Waterloo. 

But the fan experience is just incomplete without having "watched" at least one of your team's games via the scrolling pages.

That's better! Look, a hat-trick from Matty Fryatt!
Ten games spread across three pages, all lasting twenty seconds each, how many of us hung onto every turn of the page, especially as it got closer to full time?

Would Platty get that late goal to break the Villa stalemate at home to Palace? Could Thorstvedt hold on against the mighty Anfield onslaught of Rush and Aldridge?

Oh, the agony of conceding a late goal - oh, the thrill of seeing a late winner flash up! Like the turning of a blackjack card in the casino: it's in, we've won! How many of you freely admit jumping round your front room at a Teletext update?

Almost as good as being there - and no queue to get out the ground in the cold either.

No, Teletext was the perfect media to exacerbate the pain of the football fan's lot and the Soccermongery flag is at half-mast in honour of our ever-dependable BBC pal, Ceefax!

1 comment:

  1. It’s worth pointing out that ‘teletext’ was really three separate services: The BBC’s ‘Ceefax’, which started in 1974 and which we’re saying goodbye to today, ‘Oracle’ which ran on ITV and Channel 4 from 1974 until the end of 1992, and its replacement, ‘Teletext’ which ran on ITV and Channel 4 until 2009 (as well as Channel 5 from 1997).

    During the 1990s, reading the sports headlines on Ceefax page 301, and football headlines on page 302, were very much part of my daily life.

    Pressing the ‘text’ button at interludes in play during whatever Grandstand was showing, to catch up on Cardiff City’s progress, was also a weekly routine. Towards the end of the decade, the BBC launched a Ceefax page that was a bit like a mini vidiprinter – most of the page would stay with BBC One, but a large, black rectangle would keep you up to date with the latest scores. However, I often found that a bit too intrusive and it blocked too much of the live action for my liking.

    Over on ITV, ‘Teletext’ was a poor imitation of the original, more comprehensive ‘Oracle’ service, but it still had its strong points. I fondly remember Lee Wellings (later of Channel 5) and later on John Evans writing a weekly column where they gave their forthright views on the performance and production of sports programmes on TV. There was also a page for fans to write in with their fantasy football teams, which includes everything from ‘Ginger XI’ to ‘Most Overrated XI’. You get the idea.

    Both Ceefax and Teletext had a page for fans to write in and express their views. I remember the same names used to pop up time and time again. A guy called Marcus Hart from Wigan was always moaning on Ceefax, usually criticising the grammar of other writers and berating the editor for not correcting them. This went on for quite a few years. His letters usually went something like: “To Mr Jones of Kidderminster – I concede that Manchester Utd may ‘be beaten’ by Barcelona next week, but to say ‘get beat’ shows a lack of intellect and scant regard for the English language on your part’.

    During the summer months, Ceefax was by FAR the best way of finding out how things were going in the county cricket. The local paper’s deadline was well before the close of play. HTV Wales used to send a single camera with videotape to cover Glamorgan if they were playing at home, but he’d have to leave by about 4:30pm, and play was quite often still ongoing by the time the programme went on air, so Ceefax and Teletext were the only ways I could read the real close of play score along with a complete scorecard.

    Every now and again, a poor signal would result in letters and numbers appearing in the wrong place, and very occasionally, an extremely rude word would appear as a result of it. I remember on one occasion, when Glamorgan’s Steve James was the best batsman in the country, his scorecard read something like ‘1142’. Incredible, even by his standards. A quick look in the ‘total’ column soon brought me back down to earth!

    Ceefax was also vital in following sports like snooker. In those days, there was no red button coverage, and late-night highlights were on far too late on school nights. BBC Two would sometimes come on air from the start of the evening session until around 7:30pm, but then you needed to rely on Ceefax to find out how the matches were going for the rest of the evening.

    Other non-sport related memories included Sam Brady’s scathing TV reviews and answers to TV-related letters on Oracle and Teletext, Bamboozle (Teletext), checking the Irish lottery results on Channel 4’s Teletext.

    So farewell to Ceefax. Apart from occasionally stumbling across it in the wee small hours on BBC Two, I was forced to say goodbye to it as an ‘on demand’ service more than two years ago when digital switchover happened in my area. It just became obsolete as a result of technological advances, just like the VHS tape, the old ‘Saturday Pink’ newspapers, and, for that matter, the UK Top 40 chart.


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