When the UK was a technology leader

Today is the end of Teletext as the last analogue antenna is switched off. It’s a digital death and many of us (well, the old ones) are reminiscing at the wake, remembering how we used it, talking about watching the screen all Saturday afternoon to keep up with the football scores, and telling a few jokes. (Remember page 528? What a corker! Still makes me smile ….)

It’s also a poignant reminder of times when the UK dared to lead the world. Teletext, along with its sister service Prestel, was a world-leader in technology. It was based on a special chipset designed and developed for ‘videotext’ graphic display. Our television industry (we still had one back then) integrated it into television sets as a premium feature. In no time at all it was standard and up-to-the-minute information was available in offices and living rooms across the UK. There was nothing like it anywhere else (although France deployed the Teletel service using the same chipset, that compared more with the Prestel service – more of which in future blogs).

Nowadays we look to the US, Japan or the Asian tiger economies for this sort of technical innovation in our homes. However, there is a vibrant start up culture growing in London and other centres that gives us hope for the future. Perhaps we can begin to think boldly enough and have the courage to develop our dreams so that once again we can lead the world. Let’s hope that we soon have another success like Teletext.

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