This Wednesday sees the end of analogue television in the British Isles, both in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland when all the remaining transmitters in both NI and Ireland are switched to digital. One of the casualties of this is the Ceefax service, which began on 23 September 1974. And although some European countries still broadcast World System Teletext services on their DVB-T transmissions, the UK and Ireland do not, choosing to use the MHEG-5 based digital text services instead. Although the Ceefax service will be continuing to work up until pretty much the end of analogue transmissions at around midnight on Tuesday 23 October, another British institution is ceasing its broadcasts tonight, and that is ‘Pages from Ceefax’, which was basically a rolling broadcast of what was orignally P198 or 298 depending on channel, but is now I think P152. This page is a special magazine page consisting of various pages from the main teletext service, and can actually be viewed on a real teletext set as well as it being “in vision”.
The BBC has been broadcasting Pages from Ceefax ever since I can remember, presumably because the BBC thought that it was a good way of showcasing the teletext service to viewers who did not have a teletext set. Various teletext decoders were used along the way, from the original ones which used a Texas Instruments TIFAX (74S262) character generator (which were easy to spot because of the curious designs of the 6 and 9 characters), all the way up to the Mullard/Philips SAA5050 chips, with the ‘BBC Mode 7’ character designs in the 80s and the new SAA5243 character set with thicker horizontal lines on the numbers introduced at roughly the same time as Fastext sets were coming on the market. These days, it’s very hard to find an analogue TV in existence which doesn’t have some kind of World System Teletext decoder in it, but when PfC was first introduced, not many people had them and they were expensive.
Although most of England, Wales and Scotland lost their Ceefax service some time ago, Northern Ireland still has it on analogue BBC2 until the end of Tuesday 23 October, and so the early hours of Monday 22 October sees the last broadcast of PfC, which is on BBC2 between 04.45 and 06.00. (For some reason, there is no PfC on Tuesday 23 October which probably should have been the last one.) The end of an era, and I somehow don’t think ‘Pages from the BBC Red Button’ is going to replace it, since there’s no need – or at least I can’t think of any DVB-T TVs or set-top boxes which don’t have the feature built in.
Goodbye Pages from Ceefax, and all that (some might say “cheesy”) library music that was played alongside it.