As the digital switchover here in the UK draws to a close, Ceefax, the first and best analogue teletext service is about to say goodbye. Ceefax has given us sub Vic20 graphics over the last 38 years, informing us about news, sports and TV listings without a hint of attribute clash.
When I was younger, before the days of mobile phones or the world wide web, I’d often watch football matches on Ceefax. Page 302 was the index page for the footy and when the old 1st division matches kicked off, the scores would be dynamically updated over 5 pages. The resolution wasn’t high enough to fit more than a handful of results on each page you see. I’d sit there holding my breath as I waited for page 5 to flick back over to page 1, so I could see if Arsenal had managed to score against Sheffield Utd or whoever it was that was due to lose 1-0 that week. It was nerve wracking in a way that listening to commentary or hitting F5 repeatedly on a website simply isn’t. And after it had flicked over to page 1, I’d have a five minute wait whilst it scrolled it’s way inextricably through the other four pages again.
Again though, like watching TV programmes when they’re broadcast, something like Ceefax will forever remain a complete mystery to my kids. They’re part of the generation that will grow up with immediate and on demand information at their fingertips. The oldest is five and already navigates himself round various websites in a competent manner. Needless to say he and his little sister are already proficient with touch screen devices too, so the idea of having to wait for a blocky wall of text to change must seem strange and terrifying.
Last night I spent twenty minutes watching the boy play around on this website dedicated to teaching kids about Mary Seacole*. I didn’t have to help him at all and he’s only 5. I feel, much like Ceefax, like a dinosaur.
*Mary Seacole is like a politically correct version of Florence Nightingale. She’s not white or middle class, so she’s dead popular in schools at the moment.