/ Technology

Farewell Ceefax – will you miss it?

300. 302. 316. 101. 400. 220. These are numbers I’ll remember long after I’ve forgotten my old PIN or mobile numbers. Ceefax, the BBC’s text information service on analogue TV, is in its final days.

As each part of the country switches to digital TV, so the analogue Ceefax gets switched off too.

And if you’re wondering, ITV’s Teletext service ended in December 2009.

Even with a computer and an internet connection, I still often preferred Ceefax for its speed and convenience. Information was basic and graphics were rudimentary (or laughable now), but that was OK.

I could switch on the TV and find what I wanted, fast. Page 316 for the latest football scores, 400 for the weather, 101 for the news. Going over to the other side of the room to turn on my computer and wait for it to boot up was oh so slow in comparison.

I also fondly remember the music that went with the pages on live broadcasts! Like Ceefax, it was pretty easy-going. Why not listen to this Ceefax music as you read the rest of my Convo?

Does the digital text service live up to Ceefax?

Despite reminiscing the considerable charms of Ceefax, I don’t lament its demise. The internet is now so much richer, and our computers so much faster, that I don’t think it’s really needed anymore. Plus, with our tablets and smartphones, we can now access the information we want much more conveniently and in front of the telly.

I also don’t think Ceefax’s replacement, the BBC Text service on digital, is quite as useful as its ancestor. In fact, I rarely use it. There are too many competing options around that do what it does just that bit better.

It’s also not that fun to use. I certainly can’t see it receiving the same kind of nostalgia in the future – unless they bring back some blocky graphics and that music again!

Will you miss Ceefax? What were your favourite pages? And does its digital replacement live up to your expectations?


Ceefax is an interesting part of the history of TV, like the Test Card. It provided a useful source of information before the days of the Web.

I can remember when one or two very useful minority interest pages were removed to make way for something popular – probably National Lottery results – and that annoyed me.

I do not miss Ceefax but welcome the development of a service that provided useful information on demand. What impressed me much more was NCSA Mosaic, the first ‘popular’ Web browser, back in 1993. That was big step forward from Gopher and other early Internet services. But that’s getting off-topic.

Here is a link to a Teletext museum website, with images that provide reminders of the past:

I used to use Ceefax all the time as a wide-ranging source of information, then along came the Internet. The digital TV replacement for Ceefax is, I find, clunky and tedious to navigate so I hardly ever use it, except to look up program information.

Calum Campbell says:
7 May 2012

I totally agree the BBC Red Button is worse than Ceefax because some news stories are now spread out of three pages instead of one like in Ceefax and was quicker to load than red button that sometimes dosn’t work.

I do miss ceefax, I enjoyed digesting info on mix whilst watching TV at the same time. Scrolling the news whilst watching countryfiles is something I genuinely miss.
I found it quick, easy to use and far less intrusive than the web.
RIP ceefax.

Ian Savell says:
30 April 2012

I used to use text for
* Program schedules (now I use the TV’s EPG which is far better)
* Subtitles (now incorporated in the broadcast, but had my partially deaf Mum not died last year she would have been devastated, she found digital subtitles intermittent and hard to read)
* Headlines (I can get them on my PC browser’s home page, but that’s in a different room, and “red button” headlines are limited)
So I don’t really miss text, but the “modern” alternatives are not all as convenient as the best of text.

I stopped using Ceefax a few years ago and haven’t really missed it although – as Chris says in the article – it was very handy for rapid updates on your favourite topics; the navigation certainly stayed in your head so you could quickly jump from a soccer score to a share price for example. It was nice to have a reminder of the Ceefax background music; I always liked the test card music and often had it on during the daytime when pottering around indoors. I wish the test card was still available as a standard reference for adjusting all the picture modes and moods available on the modern television set.

par ailleurs says:
1 May 2012

I used (note the past tense) to love Ceefax. But there again I used to think that a Morris Minor was a sensible car, cassette tapes were a brilliant invention and video recorders were great. That says it all really. Who can forget the thrill of wanting to check the travel news before setting out. Each page took about 15 seconds to change and you didn’t necessarily want to read anything on every one of them.
The BBC’s modern digital text service is quick and useful. It wins hands down. Let’s face it there are only a few die-hards who mourn the passing of analogue TV. Ceefax is the same. Bye bye; it was nice knowing you!

I still think cassette tapes are brilliant, just wish they had found a way to stop them bunching & sticking, I still install cassette players in any car I drive.
Sometimes new technology doesn’t mean better tech,
I find the BBC digital service too complex and not user friendly [admittedly it may be saying more about me than the service].
I didn’t mind the time it took Ceefax to load as I used it on mix, thing is I liked it and found it appropriate for my needs, like rocket lollies and bicycles I could actually fix myself.
As for just a few diehards mourning the passing of analogue TV, I think we are more than just a few, digital is being sold to the public as the best thing since sliced bread. Those of us who actually worked on analogue systems, know just how overrated digital is, and how much we have lost by going down the 2 step path.

The BBC were running down Ceefax for years. There used to be pages of finacial advice on a saturday-you could get the inshore weather forecast every day-I could go on.
Now this info is not available unless you have an internet connected computer. But some people either don’t want the expense and hassle and some people simply cannot afford it-I know of several on low wages who can’t.
On the other hand, the travel section is now much better, and changes fairly quickly when stoppages occur.

The programme guide on digital is hard work. I just want to call up a channel prog guide. Rocket science of course!

I may have delayed more than most when it came to going digital, but having experienced it, with the plethora of “choices” available, I’m less than impressed. More channels has resulted in an ever deteriorating feed of bunkum than ever before.

There is no user friendly text schedule available. What I now see is an onerous and time consuming process simply to find what’s on a particular channel or later in the day on any.

The result for me? I now watch far less TV than hitherto. I’ve realised there are better things in life than spending half an hour searching for something decent to view on a TV

michael heaton says:
17 September 2019

All the news, sport, weather and travel under one roof and can find all the information at the touch of a button in seconds.
I am in my late 60’s and due to clumsy fingers do not have a mobile
No idea what to do when it finishes

I was sorry to read yesterday that the BBC intended to switch off the ‘Red Button’ information service in 2020 [it will still allow its use for selecting alternative stages at Glastonbury or tennis matches at Wimbledon]. While it is true that all the information is available elsewhere via the internet I find it handy during a slack moment during a programme on TV to quickly check a sports result or see the news headlines.

The reported justification for the close down is that it takes a considerable resource to maintain the Red Button service and that the BBC wishes to develop other communication and media channels. It sees the Red Button service as redundant at a time when people have so many other choices for catching up with news, and it is difficult to argue against that.

I have noticed that late at night and from early in the morning the BBC News channel is broadcast from Singapore [I believe] and is given an oriental slant with Asian presenters. That in itself is not an issue but the selection of stories, news items and discussion topics is largely irrelevant to the home audience so I wonder why the BBC, which says it cannot afford to maintain the free TV licence for the over-75’s, considers it necessary to broadcast a foreign news service that hardly anyone here watches.