As a boy I would stare at the television screen in a state of subdued perplexity. The dark blue, the bright yellow, the turquoise, the white, the black; it all made for a jarring colour scheme, akin to the emetic discharge of a child who had hastily eaten half a packet of jumbo Crayolas. The music that played perpetually in the background was so harmless, so unforgettably gentle and, in a sense non-musical, that it might as well not have been there. It was the sort of music that hardly happened.
The information provided was slow and looped - if you missed what you were trying to read the first time around then you'd better have a spare five minutes to wait for it to appear again. Even as I grew older, I never really understood exactly what it was for; rather like the shipping forecast, Ceefax seemed to be something that always existed. Furthermore, it shared that same peculiarity with the monotonous and soporific gale warnings, courtesy of the Met Office, in that it would occasionally creep up on you on particularly lonely nights. One minute you're pottering around in the early evening with the TV on in the background, the next it's 4am and Ceefax has been broadcasting for hours without you ever noticing.
As I got older and appreciated the more practical uses, I would patiently check the weather - page 401 - before going outside. Twenty degrees. Dry. Sunny Spells. Hot pink. Lovely.
Yet, despite its flaws and despite that, next to the speed and efficiency of the internet it now seems laughably slow and inefficient, like an elderly turtle on barbiturates, I shall miss Ceefax. There's a certain charm to its audacious design and its slowly-does-it approach to providing you with whatever information you happen to be seeking, be it TV listings, news, sport, etc.
As the world's first teletext information service - put to use in 1974, with the initial idea formulated in the early 1960s - it's something we should talk of with the pride and respect it deserves, it's one of our great British exports, right up there with the pork pie, the lavatory and hooliganism. The 'red button', which will replace Ceefax, is all well and good if you happen to be a big girl's blouse, but us men and women who grew up with rough-and-ready analogue will be able to tell our children - with a nostalgic twinkle in our eye - that there was once a day when the telly actually stopped broadcasting stuff. That live subtitles used to be even more bonkers than they are now, and that eight colours are enough.
So here's to 38 years of unprecedented service. Ceefax, you confused me when I was younger, you frustrated me when I was older and you kept me company during the long and lonely nights.
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