Cee you later…

An ode to the Teletext generation.

I was an avid fan of ceefax and teletext growing up.
Last night both services came to an end as the last phase of the digital switch over kicked in.

I was more a Ceefax girl. I would use it to do things such as check the news headlines (page 101), weather (page 152), sometimes the sport (on page 300 if I was bored).

I would religiously check out page 600 for the TV guide nightly on my little Grundig combi TV (with built in VHS).

I am filled with fond memories of desperately trying to speed read the Ceefax entertainment news section – ‘The Biz’ as fast as I could before it would automatically flick to the next page. I would also normally be inches from the screen as the font was so small on my tiny television. And how I rejoiced when we got a cutting edge tv with a remote that had a ‘next page’ button.

The weather map was a thing of beauty – limited to using only little coloured dots to make a slightly distorted image of the UK would fill me with joy every time I saw it.

It seems I was not alone in my passion, it is estimated that at it’s peak in the 1990s, a third of the population would check Ceefax at least once a week.

It was also occasionally fun to press 888 and use the subtitles during TOTP to do DIY karaoke. During Eurovision the subtitles would translate the lyrics from foreign entries which provided extra amusement.

If you think Twitter is a recent invention, being able to follow live comments from viewers during question time on ceefax was like an early version of social networking. You could send your thoughts into the beeb via your pager.

I also remember faxing page after page to the ceefax teen section entitled ‘Backchat’ in the hope one of my messages would be published and I’d see my name in pixelated glory. I also remember an ongoing rivalry with readers of teletext’s equivalent ‘Zine.

And how can I not mention teletext’s Bamboozle! What a game. The days when the ‘red button’ was just one of four options to answer multiple questions. I spent hours trying to get a perfect 10 score.

As the years have passed, Ceefax and Teletext have become a novelty features, slowly replaced by the internet. The brilliant thing is in recent times, they had a very creative and humourus way of letting us know they are aware of their dwindling purpose:

Oh how times have changed. And so they should. But its still sad to let go of such an institution for the pre-internet generation. Soon ceefax will be just a distant nostalgic memory and just a mere concept that younger generations will never quite understand.

As a final thought – what I will miss most is when you were up so late that the ceefax service would kick in on BBC 2 when programming finished. The music was particularly special.

So farewell Ceefax.

It’s been emotional.

And for anyone who feels as bereft as me – I have found something that will comfort us in the wee hours, when we will really feel the void Ceefax has left.


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