Digital Tools celebrates 30 years of Videotext. Videotext? It is the German word for what the BBC had already termed Teletext in the early 1970s. In Sweden it’s usually called Text TV. Would be interesting to hear what it’s called where you live. But is it some kind of Televideotext-TV?
Yes! Since it seems like teletext is quite rare in e.g. North America, I will give a quick explanation. It is a 7-bit stream of coloured “ASCII” and graphics organized in pages, and you can browse these with your TV remote control. News and horoscopes, you know. Internet without cats and hi-res porn. It has a low-res pixel style that looks a bit like ANSI with the colours of ZX Spectrum. It’s a one-way communication (unlike Videotex or Telex) that sends a constant stream of pages in the non-visible areas of the PAL-signal. When you type a page number, you wait until the data stream reaches that page again. So it is possible to make animations – especially with modern TVs that buffer the data stream, or by using a blink command like in the clip below.
Though this seems like a remnant from a past of non-interactive media and large pixels, this is something that you can still see quite often around here. I’m not sure if it even exists in USA anymore though? In Sweden you can still see e.g. bank offices informing about the stock exchange by putting a TV on display with the stock market teletext page. New TV-technologies have hot features for buffering teletext pages – something that I recently heard a salesman boast about. My dad still uses teletext every day, as a complement to other media. And of course, subtitles are often sent as teletext packets. A friend even had something called a teletext-keyboard (1hit) in Sweden, which worked over the telephone line so you could send information to make personals, sell stuff, etc.
There’s been some art projects with teletext, and I mentioned some of them here. I have a vague memory that someone (Paul B Davis?) had some art running on a national teletext (in Holland?) quite recently aswell. Anyway: the purpose of this post was really just to ask what teletext is called where you live. Just got a bit carried away. Are there even more words than video, text, and tv involved in this? Is there a particular French term, or did this never hit the SECAM countries? Let’s hear it. See you on TV!
(Many people called the police on Saturday to report that they saw a gorilla. The police went there and found .. a German tourist. “He had a beard and a rucksack but he was not a gorilla”)