diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Why I still hate BBCi but now some other things are niggling me too

A number of you responded to yesterday's Ceefax/BBCi rant, and now I feel even worse. Here's why.

Andrew writes: "On the basis of your results, I presume you're using satellite for your timings, because on DTT (also known by the marketing term Freeview), BBCi is far far far faster on a recent box (ie not one from the ITV Digital era), and would probably give you close results to Ceefax even with the menu navigating."
No Andrew, I don't have satellite (I can't get satellite or cable where I live) so I'm watching on Freeview. And I do have one of those old ITV Digital boxes (grrr, I bought it during the six weeks when they weren't giving away a free Monkey) which probably explains why my BBCi takes forever to load. So, if I want faster BBCi I need to buy a new box - in which case it's hardly Free-view is it?

Vaughan adds: "For one year, not so long ago, I spent one working day of every week writing pages for it (the Learning pages on BBC2, since you ask - no, you'll never have seen them, because nobody ever visited them). And it drove me up the wall. That sodding great clunking antiquated system - it's even worse to write content for than it is to use. I still haven't recovered from the trauma and mental scarring. Oh God. Help. The pixels. The PIXELS!!!"
I used to be a dab hand on the BBC Microcomputer, which had its own special 'Mode 7' teletext graphics just like Ceefax. I even tried writing an interactive teletext program once, although that's now lying somewhere on an obsolete floppy disc deep in a packing crate in my spare room. And yes, the pixels were an absolute nightmare. I'd also like to apologise for not reading your BBC2 Ceefax pages, but that's because my terrestrial reception's isn't good enough to get decent BBC2 reception (for which I blame Canary Wharf). On my TV the BBC Learning Index features such incomplete textual gems as "W RKSKIL S   vice for starting wo k". Sigh, sorry.

Dr D asks: "Picking up on my campaign for dot matrix based media on this blog - have you considered a Geezerfax service?"
No, it would never work.

Scaryduck comments: "BBCi may be crap, but have you tried ITV's digital-text content? What little there is is a thinly veiled attempt to extract money from the punter. Crap."
He's right. ITV's digital text service Teletext also takes forever to load, plus there are annoying adverts tucked in all over the place (Press '0' for annoying pop-up spam). Looks like an online platform for selling home loans, horse racing and holidays, plus a very few useful bits tagged on as an afterthought. No Bamber Boozler, sadly. ITV/C4 teletext used not to be crap. It used to be called Oracle, and at the time (pre-1993) had much more interesting content than Ceefax. Reminisce here.

Annipink concludes: "My mother was addicted to teletext - it was the only way I managed to convince her to try the internet - like teletext, only faster, and more information."
I think you could have something there. Teletext is undoubtedly a medium of the past compared to the internet. Even flashy new BBCi has its roots firmly in the last century. See the screen shot on page 20 of this five-year-old BBC report as evidence. And BBC boffins confess to the heinous crime of "mapping Ceefax pages, accessed using a three digit number, into a menu-driven navigable hierarchy" as long ago as 1998 in this project initiation document. I fear the battle is lost. Maybe we should all stick to finding our information online and leave the red button alone. But I do wish there was something worth reading while I was sitting watching the television.

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