Re: Teletext

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Wed Jul 31 2002 - 19:59:08 EDT

William Overington suggested:

> I am thinking that it would be a good idea to encode the archive copies of
> teletext pages that exist into a Unicode compatible format for the future.
> Teletext has been around for about a quarter of a century in more or less
> its present form and within another quarter of a century that form might
> well be gone completely.
> I have looked in the Unicode mail list archive and found various items about
> encoding teletext pages using existing Unicode characters.
> I am here suggesting a different approach, a teletext archiving approach.

[snip long details about a PUA-based approach]

> I feel that this encoding will be useful as a stepping stone to a permanent
> regular Unicode encoding of teletext characters for archiving purposes.

> Readers interested in teletext might like to have a look at the following.
> I am hopeful that by having a specific encoding within Unicode for teletext
> that the archives of teletext pages that exist will be conserved for
> posterity and that an important aspect of social history will be preserved
> for the future.

While it is a laudable goal to aim for conservation of materials for
posterity, there needs to be some judicious selection that goes
into the *art* of archiving appropriate materials.

In the case of teletext, it seems to me that historical "fan" sites
like the one you have cited *are* the appropriate means for archiving
sufficient examples of teletext so that posterity understands not
merely how it was encoded, but sees actual examples of its use
and history, containing both text and blocky graphics in various
TV markets.

If you are concerned about whether such sites themselves may be
transient, then the appropriate thing to do is to archive the
*sites*, together with their explanations and all their examples
in context.

I see very little value in trying to capture out the text from most
of the teletext materials I have seen into permanent Unicode text
archives. What would be the point? Most of the actual text content
is of a very transient and uninteresting nature:

"The next Telesoftware update will be on MONDAY, November 28.
 In future, telesoftware updating will take place on Mondays
 at fortnightly intervals.
 The day for updating telesoftware is being changed to enable
 us to provide a better, more responsive and more reliable
 service to users. ...
 More in a moment"

Uh, right. This is the kind of "information junk" that we daily
try to filter out of our lives.

So while there is a place for the study of the history of anything,
including teletext, I don't see any particular role that Unicode
has here -- the material is much better represented by using
2D renderings, as shown on the teletext.mb21 site.


P.S. Teletext archival examples *are* interesting as a kind of
hint at what the web would be like, if the web were limited to
30x40 fixed-width cell character displays and 60x80 block graphics. ;-)

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