Teletext In Ireland, Another Broadcasting Leftover Bites The Dust

Over the years we’ve reported on the passing of a few of the broadcasting technologies of yesteryear, such as analogue TV in America, or AM radio in Europe. Now it’s the turn of an early digital contender, as one of the few remaining holdouts of old-style teletext is to shut down its service. The Irish broadcaster RTÉ is to turn off its teletext service Aertel, which has been live in some form continuously since 1986.

Like all European countries, Ireland has had only digital TV for quite a few years now. The linked RTÉ piece implies that the Aertel service has been carried as the old-style data in the frame blanking period even when part of a digital multiplex rather than the newer digital teletext system, so we’d be really grateful if some of our Irish readers could flick on their TVs and confirm that.

In an internet-connected world it seems quaint that a limited set of curated pages could once have been such a big deal, but it’s easy to forget that for many the teletext system provided their first ever taste of online information. As it shuffles away almost unnoticed we won’t miss counting through the page numbers cycling by in the top corner as we waited for our page to load, but it’s worth marking its final passing from one of the few places it could still be found.

Teletext does pop up in a few projects here, most recently as the display engine for a game of DOOM.

14 thoughts on “Teletext In Ireland, Another Broadcasting Leftover Bites The Dust

  1. I find it highly depressing and scary that so many technologies bite the dust “because of internet”. It’s really a shame. Being dependent on a single technology, the internet, which is easily being manipulated and very fragile. I hope that at least broadcast radio will survive, even if it’s the non-commercial type (you know what I mean). In case of catastrophe, an unidirectional broadcast-style medium has its place. It doesn’t need servers that must be connected to. The number of receivers doesn’t matter, it’s connectionless. That’s were teletext had its place. It could transport news that everyone could read at same time, at any speed. People could read through the pages, over and over again.

  2. Internet had its own broadcast-style medium called “multicast” but it was basically destined to die straight from the start. Too much inter-network setup for its time so people didn’t bother and now when it could be used, people still don’t bother because other more complex systems took it’s place.

      1. I’m using IPv4 multicast to distribute 40 HD video streams in the local network. A raspberry pi 4 with 40 ffmpeg instances acts as a “transmitter”, converting RTSP sources to multicast, and VLC does the receiving end. With properly configured IGMP at the switches, this reduces the bandwidth needed to acceptable levels.
        btw: modern operating systems use multicasts to a large extent for discovery and directory services. If you don’t enable IGMP and MLD in the infrastructure, multicasts are handled like broadcasts and the “background noise” thus generated in a >100 node switched network can easily congest 10Mb/s links and nodes.

  3. I’m surprised that Teletext hasn’t been something that the maker community has tried it’s hand at more than it has. It seems like something that would be easy pickings to play with.

    1. There’s a pretty thriving teletext community – assisted by the Raspberry Pi having a composite video output that can be persuaded to create analogue video with teletext data in its Vertical Blanking for decoding on connected TV sets. There are even text generators that create current CEEFAX style pages from BBC News RSS feeds I believe.

  4. Ahh remembering my professor back in university. He work before in one of the big it companys. he explained that teletext was planned as the internet we later known, chattig and playing games to each other but the customer wasn’t ready for it. There is a TED talk about start ups which describes, why start ups fail, short version because the customer wasnt ready or doesnt want it.

    There was the military DARPA and than the university Network but finally the Guy at CERN with his HMTL document reading thing makes the game.

    I makes me nostalgic, remembering the guy who downloaded so much GB of Porn that the univesity Server went down for a weekend.

    1. Because it was too expensive for what its worth. For example over here we had the Bildschirmtext, anything remotely interesting was behind a paywall and people didn’t want to pay that on top of what the rent for the BTX terminal and the base price was going for. So it essentially flopped until the Telekom added internet access. And then after that its only use was more or less reduced to online banking.

  5. The teletext datastream which would previously have been inserted into the VBI is carried in a packetised elementary datastream within the MPEG transmission stream in DVB.
    The WST Aertel service was carried on the satellite versions of RTÉ, while the terrestrial broadcasts had an MHEG5 text service instead.
    There’s nothing really for readers to flick on and see on a TV now though, at least from the satellite channels. At a little before half past 1 on yesterday afternoon the final pages were deleted from the teletext service leaving nothing but a stream of filler packets (and the teletext based subtitling which will presumably continue).

  6. Irish but living in St. Louis for 25 years; a college friend ended up writing applications for the Frech-style Minitel terminals you could buy for the service. I think he earned a then-decent income stream of about a grand a month on that simple app. In France I once exposed an API from an AS/400 to Minitel, and we put a customer stock inquiry system online. All 90 – 92.

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