Ceefax teletext has been on-air since September 1974 when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister. Ceefax has brought us quick and accurate news of nine general elections and nine Olympics, plus the London Olympics this summer. Newsflashes and Subtitles came first on Ceefax as text superimposed over the television picture. Ceefax pioneered services like Travel News and pages of live Football and Racing results and the flight arrivals pages beloved of the armchair plane-spotters. Ceefax pioneered telesoftware, the transmission of software for the BBC Micro to accompany television programmes.

Ceefax even had a scrolling display of the football results, the Ceefax Vidiprinter. Even if Ceefax didn't invent the term short-form news, it pioneered offering quick news to a mass audience, and it was popular. Estimating the size of the Ceefax audience has never been easy but the weekly reach of Ceefax was estimated unofficially to be more than 15 million in the nineties and early naughties.

London will loose its Ceefax service when the Crystal Palace transmitter closes down its analogue television signals as Stage Two of digital switchover, expected 16th April 2012. The final switch-off of Ceefax teletext is expected when the digital switchover of the UK is complete when Ulster switches off analogue TV in October 2012. Ceefax has already gone in some regions.

The underlying technology was ground-breaking in the seventies: equally impressive is that the service has continued and evolved for forty years. The most recent Ceefax numbering system lives on in digital text: 100 for News, 200 for Business, 300 for Sport, 400 for TV and Radio etc. Ceefax - The world at your fingertips, RIP and Thank You.

Ceefax index: BBC1 at speed - BBC2 in depth