October 21, 2010

1980 Video: "Telefuture" - Everything Old is New Again!

Greetings. The next historical artifact from my archival video extraction project is a particularly fascinating short news report called Telefuture -- I'm dating it to the late 1979 to 1980 time period. I've also bracketed the beginning and end of this report with a couple of other hopefully interesting/amusing clips (from a bit later than 1980) that I've recovered from the archive.

This video segment looks forward to the predicted world of television-based information services, and in so doing demonstrates the fascinating "arc of technology" that so often is visible with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

As you'll see, the report concentrates on Teletext -- and Viewdata (aka "Videotex") services -- the former delivered as vertical blanking interval data on broadcast signals, the latter over telephone modems.

While Teletext systems (e.g. the BBC's Ceefax) remained popular in Europe (the BBC system is reportedly still operational, scheduled to end with the termination of analogue TV broadcasting in 2012), Teletext never really got beyond the experimental stage in the U.S. (I do still have a working Teletext box from my work with the system -- but of course there's nothing for it to display!) Meanwhile, Viewdata was largely supplanted by PC-based dial-up services and the like.

Various hybrids were also proposed, including the use of touch-tone telephones to request Teletext pages, which would then be delivered to the particular subscriber via the broadcast data stream. My own Stargate system, that I installed at the "Superstation WTBS" uplink to experimentally transmit Usenet netnews data many years ago, was actually a Teletext technology system, though in my case decoders fed received data to PCs, rather than using television displays.

That "arc of technology" I mentioned is especially noteworthy today, as we watch efforts to "converge" Internet applications back to home televisions, via devices such as TiVo, Google TV, Apple TV, and various others. Viewed in this light, those predictions from three decades ago don't look silly at all.

Finally, you'll note from the report that even back then, concerns were already being expressed that these new technologies could threaten traditional newspapers and other related media outlets.

Indeed, everything old is new again.

1980 Video: "Telefuture"
[YouTube] (~5 minutes)


Posted by Lauren at October 21, 2010 02:56 PM | Permalink
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