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Londoners mourn as teletext goes dark, a victim of the DTV transition

Zachary Lutz

Despite the many advantages of digital broadcast television, the transition is separating Europeans from a reliable source of information known as teletext. Citizens of London are the latest to experience the loss, as analog signals in the region were switched off just yesterday. Ceefax, a service of the BBC, has provided millions of Britons with news, sports, weather, television listings, subtitles and games for the past 38 years, and is now accessible only in Kent, Sussex, north-east England and Northern Ireland. Soon, it may cease to exist altogether.

Seen as a precursor to the internet, teletext is a free service that's heavily rooted in analog PAL signals, where small packets of data are sent in the vertical blanking interval, which is otherwise unnoticed by viewers. Because the information is broadcast, users were never subject to network congestion, and only needed to wait a brief moment for their desired page to be transmitted -- more advanced televisions even cached this information locally. As part of the airwaves, the service is naturally free, and in that sense, it lacks a suitable replacement. As with all progress, however, there are casualties, and teletext was an unfortunate bystander. Those who cherished the service can take a moment to relive the memories in the links below.

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