Data by TV launched on this day in 1974 – Ceefax #history


Extract from The PC Pioneers

It did not take long for computing and television to be espoused.  These two high-value family purchases were initially located remotely; the television was the centrepiece of the lounge and the computer was often tucked away in a corner of the study or a bedroom.

The first services to connect the two were similar text-based, on-screen information sources, both originating in the UK.

Teletext was a service that utilised the spare lines on the UK’s 625-line television broadcast system.  These lines were usually tuned to be set off the edge of the screen’s viewing area and were therefore being wasted.

Teletext transmitted a sequential series of pages of text within these spare lines that at first were read using a plug-in adaptor.  Soon the electronics were built-in to larger-screen television sets as a standard feature.  The two UK television networks offered competing services.

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) had an enthusiastic director of engineering, James Redmond, who drove the launch of the teletext service in September 1974.  He was supported by an editor, Colin McIntyre, and a small team of nine.  It was called Ceefax, phonetically derived from see facts.

The IBA (Independent Broadcast Authority) responded with its own Oracle service later.  The name was rather inelegantly justified as standing for Optional Reception of Announcements by Coded Line Electronics.  I am not sure why IBA felt the need to come up with this definition as it was such a good name in its own right – as in ‘ask the oracle’ or as its own marketing suggested, ‘page the oracle’.

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