Teletext is Videotext is Text TV???

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”)

24 Responses to “Teletext is Videotext is Text TV???”

  1. ftc Says:

    Damn nice news!

  2. brytburken Says:

    yeah that keyboard was pimped. dont think i ever used it, though.

    i love textTV. only reason id like to own a TV again.

    its still the FASTEST way to get the news… booting up ur TV is superQUICK. computers not so much… not mine atleast.

    • chipflip Says:

      yeah, and its broadcast, so it is not affected when 9999999999999999999999 ppl wants to access the same news site at the same time, etc.

    • boomlinde Says:

      I’m still thinking about making number stations my primary mode of communication.

      • chipflip Says:

        Chipflip has been a number station since 1997, but was shut down by the fundamentalists in 2001.

  3. chipflip Says:

    Teletext Printer!! —>

  4. peter Says:

    In the us teletext has been perverted by the cnn’s and fox news of the worlds where you can’t even gleam any information from them and are forced to watched to the story comes around again to get any clarity.

  5. peter Says:

    Also it stillexists, in airports and hotel lobbies here in the us. We had one in Chicago growing u but its probably hbo3 now.

  6. jandht Says:

    I think the only place I still see Teletext being used in the UK is bookmakers for the horse racing. I used to use it quite a lot a few years ago but the BBC and other television networks started to slowly get rid of pages that they deemed obsolete until essentially you were left with bare minimum news on current affairs and sports, with a few pages that were entirely dedicated to adverts also.

    There is an ongoing digital switch-over here in the UK so eventually all analogue signals will cease broadcasting and Teletext will be no more. Sucks!

    • chipflip Says:

      We’ve already switched to digital pretty much all over the country here, but teletext is still alive and kicking. Maybe it’s some kind of viking thing.

  7. Blackcolt Says:

    It was fun to read this post. I live in Hungary and we still have teletext for every channel. Yes, we call it teletext too. Even the hungarian MTV has a teletext site.

    There are news, tv programs on it and a lot of mobile ringtone advertisement :)

  8. tony Says:

    I don’t think I have ever seen this in the US. I think if it would be anywhere here it would be in places like airports, hotel lobbies, laundromats, etc, like Peter said.

  9. ilesj Says:

    In Finland teletext is called “Teksti-TV”. It is still widely in use and is a supportive medium for frequently updated information such as news, sports results, weather forecasts etc. Interestingly all major Finnish TV broadcasters offer online browsing for their teletext pages. For example YLE, the Finnish national broadcasting company:

    I remember when I was a kid we didn’t have a TV with teletext support at home but my grandpa had. At the the time there was even pages dedicated to children complete with those blocky “ASCII” pictures and I thought it was good fun to browse them especially for the pictures. Years later with commercial TV channels’ teletext services came also adult hot line commercials with some embarrasing graphics, which I think is amusing curiocity.

    Also, when the broadcasting was still analog, sometimes the content could corrupt if the signal was bad. The corruptions could be anything from random wrong letters or colours to complete gibberish.

    • chipflip Says:

      Teksti-TV is nice, it would mean text-in-television in Swedish. Childrens’ pages sounds like a great concept! I wonder if anyone ever made any ‘games’ – where you can choose which way to go and that kind of stuff.

  10. µB Says:

    It’s odd that Videotext has remained its old, 7-bit self for so long. With the advent of digital TV you would have thought that there would be a few bytes left in the stream for something more HD. It kinda invokes the same feeling like picking up morse with a SW radio, like a message from the past. I don’t have a TV anymore, so I can’t check it, but the Videotext of the public channels here in germany used to have a few crude games (find a path through the labyrinth, quizzes, and I remember a pick-your-own-adventure type one where you went to different pages depending on your choice of action).

  11. brytburken Says:

    well now i know that it is a texttv-printer that i really want for christmas.

    one thing i love with txt-tv is the platform-in-another-platform paradoxes.
    like how you still get txt-tv-pages through www in sweden.
    or how u in 1996 could access internet through text-tv – without a computer! u could smoothly surf www by entering numbers for different letters and symbols… or just get ur own keyboard. heres a fan site:

  12. brytburken Says:

    classic screenshot:

    “doctor tricked his patients ito drink sperm”

  13. brytburken Says:

    one mo’:

    “Meat, meat, meat”

  14. Exotic Escapes & Learning in Text Mode « CHIPFLIP Says:

    […] Escapes & Learning in Text Mode By chipflip After the previous teletext post, I found Teletext Holidays where you can browse current teletext travel ads online! […]

  15. ant1 Says:

    It’s very interesting (and reminiscent of childhood, heheh). Sadly it’s very close to being dead in the UK, and will be completely gone in the next 5 years or so (I can still receive it for now) More impressive still is the Minitel network which was used in France from the early 1980s even right into the 21st century for online banking, checking transport timetables, etc! :D

  16. Hacknight ikväll, men först parkbrus « B R ¥ T B U R K Σ N Says:

    […] Vilsna Själar (textanalys)brytburken on Kartellen – Vilsna Själar (textanalys)Teletext is Videotext is Text TV??? « CHIPFLIP on A marriage in dubsptep between 8-bit and IDMRoger on Kartellen – Vilsna […]

  17. Hacknight #2 ikväll, men först parkbrus « B R ¥ T B U R K Σ N Says:

    […] Vilsna Själar (textanalys)brytburken on Kartellen – Vilsna Själar (textanalys)Teletext is Videotext is Text TV??? « CHIPFLIP on A marriage in dubsptep between 8-bit and IDMRoger on Kartellen – Vilsna […]

  18. Frederic Cambus Says:

    In France it is called “Teletexte”, and is actually being phased out, only one channel still broadcast emulated teletext on digital TV. It used to be very popular in the 80’s and in the beginning of the 90’s as well, during Minitel times (

    Some pictures :

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: