Goodbye Ceefax, sorry I won’t miss you
With this weeks switching off of the Crystal Palace analogue TV transmitter, London was one of the last places in the country to lose the Ceefax service. Now only Tyne Tees and Northern Ireland have access to analogue TV along with Ceefax and Teletext.
Ceefax was named phonetically for “See Facts”, the name has nothing to do with Fax machines which have also almost disappeared from modern life.
I’m not alone in being one of those who booked their first holiday abroad using Ceefax but I for one won’t be lamenting the loss. Along with the telephone directory, yellow pages and train timetables I carry everything I need in my pocket in the form of a smart phone. If I need a bigger screen I have a laptop for more rigorous research. I can even get the Internet on my TV so why would I forsake a rich media experience in favour of some white yellow and blue text on a black background?
Turning off Ceefax shouldn’t pass unnoticed though, it was a part of our information technology for so many years for so many people. The result of the Grand National, the latest news, the football results and even the TV program listings, we took it for granted and deserted it as a long forgotten tool we no longer needed.
The Internet and smart phones has changed our lives Ceefax belongs well and truly in the past. I feel like I should feel some sorrow at the passing of Ceefax, but the truth is I just don’t care. I no longer need Ceefax and I haven’t used it for years, although it still lives on – the team that produced the Ceefax feeds also stream the information for the “red button” services for the BBC.
What do you use the Internet for today that a few years ago you’d have used Ceefax or similar outdated services?
My first “new media” job was selling local advertising pages on teletext. I remember designing the pages on a piece of graph paper and faxing it down to London (it was like doing graphic design for the ZX81). Cannot remember the last time I looked at a teletext/ceefax page – but at the time (pre-web) it was pretty amazing. Not missed but fondly remembered.
Most progress consists of taking what we have at present and developing it into somethingh else. Ceefax was an important stepping stone towards what we have today.
You will often hear Designers state that they started with a blank piece of paper. It is rarely true(in the way that they intend it). They may have a blank piece of paper but they have in their mind other developments that they have worked on. They include a bit of this and a bit of that and lessons learnt somewhere else and eventually they come up with something new and exciting. So Ceefax should be remembered because without it there would be gaps in what we have today.
So what are you going to do when your beloved internet service goes down or gets overwhelmed? Teletext had an advantage that it was broadcast so it didn’t matter how many people were reading it at the same time. Same can’t be said about Internet. While I own a smartphone myself and make intense use of it, I can’t find myself supporting sacrificing other technologies just because we have Internet. And don’t get me started on the “Interactive” services you have there in U.K. I would rather prefer a service that works with virtually every receiver out there rather than what would work with one in a five billion(OK, that was an artistic exaggeration, but point remains). Not all change is good.