Teletext is a medium where encoded pages of information are broadcast alongside a television programme, and can be decoded on-screen by the viewer at the touch of a button.  Developed in the UK in the early 1970s, the last British teletext service was discontinued in the mid-2010s but teletext is still used in many countries around the world.

Once broadcast, teletext was generally overwritten on the server and the archive status of teletext pages is patchy at best, with (at least in the UK) only a few examples of pages saved by the broadcasters and some pages saved by the public using PC decoder cards.

This website covers efforts to recover teletext pages from television programmes recorded on regular domestic videotape and other methods.

Tape donation and loans

The Teletext Archaeologist archive consists of pages ranging from 1976 until 2018 and is continually expanding.

In particular, we are looking for:

  • Video tape recorded between 1974 and 1980
  • BBC1 before 1984
  • BBC2 until December 1989
  • ITV before 1984
  • Channel Four and S4C, from any era
  • Paramount Comedy Channel recordings

…can you help to plug the gaps?

First-generation copies are best – copies do blur the teletext signals recorded on the tapes.  But if you don’t want to part with original tapes then a good quality dub can still be useful as long as it hasn’t been through a time-base corrector – these can overwrite the teletext data with their own signals.  Please do get in touch via the contact section below!

Twitter Latest

The latest curated finds are shared on Twitter – here are the latest posts:

Comparing the pre-1976 teletext control codes with the post-76, Level 1 codes - here's a page in Level 1 and the same page as viewed in a pre-1976 decoder. Pre 1976 there is no double height, no conceal/reveal and the alphanumeric colour codes are in a different place. https://t.co/XHkCasU3qj grim_fandango photo

Finally, here's another page I was able to recover (there aren't many) - about the Channel Islands. Mentions of Burtons and Woolworths, but no Benest's of Millbrook @ChannelArchive (1976) (tape h/t Rory Clark) https://t.co/VyXng05DX2 grim_fandango photo

Back to 1976 again, and here's a schematic of the ORACLE system. Who knows what any of it means, there is no key. Note the header row - there is a 'p' before the page number and the time format is https://t.co/o671sc944r (thanks to Rory Clark for the tape) https://t.co/7kbECu3r6V grim_fandango photo

Some great news: the oldest recovery so far is a partial 1976 ORACLE service. I've shared it before, but the attribute codes were different in those days so I didn't know what colours etc. things should be. Well, I found the pre-1976 codes! Here's P100 in its proper colours! https://t.co/dZj7eDby9N grim_fandango photo

This is what the teletext data stream looks like when broadcast over D-MAC, an early satellite broadcasting format. It’s the dots just above the picture parts. https://t.co/06vtFfabo1
grim_fandango photo
Philip Heron @fsphil
@grim_fandango @ZXGuesser It's sent in the sound/data burst and/or lines in the blanking interval. They're both using duobinary coding and don't get passed to the TV, it's decoded by an onboard chip. I'm using the field blanking lines here: https://t.co/7u7cc3jnSY


Interview on The Retro Hour podcast

Great to speak to Dan and Ravi from the Retro Hour podcast about all things teletext! Please give it a listen and subscribe, it’s a very professionally produced show. Teletext: Back From The Dead – The Retro Hour EP147

The Archive

The site now has a list of the services recovered so far, over 1200 teletext services from 1976-2016.  Scroll though at your peril here: https://teletextarchaeologist.org/the-archive/