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Delving into the archives - how red button could have looked in 1998

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Andrew Bowden Andrew Bowden | 09:15 UK time, Monday, 1 June 2009

A couple of years ago we moved offices, and as usually happens on such occasions, much time was spent clearing out cupboards and drawers that had, naturally, become full of stuff that everyone had forgotten about.

One cupboard contained folders and folders of meeting minutes from 1999. Another contained a draft continuity script for the launch of BBC Choice. Elsewhere we found a box of BBC Sport branded pencils.

My favourite find was a batch of A4 printouts which contained different brand name options for the service we now know as BBC Red Button.

As I wrote on my personal blog at the time, the names were a lovely mixture, and included BBC Text, BBC Text+, BBCi, Ceefax Digital and, my personal favourite, SuperCeefax.

Where those printouts are now, I don't know. Sat unloved in cupboard in our current office, probably.

I was reminded of them after coming across a set of archive files on one of our computer servers recently.

Amongst them were these mock ups made back in 1998 showing how the BBC's new digital text service could look.

Proposed design for Digital Text homepage from 1998

Proposed design for a News Story from 1998

Proposed design for TV listings section from 1998

Proposed design for a weather map from 1998

It's clearly very much based on the design and layout used by Ceefax, as you can see from these pictures:

Proposed design for the A-Z index from 1998

Page 199 from Ceefax in 1998

And as you can see, it's very different to what actually launched.

BBC Text homepage from 2000

BBC Text's news headlines page in 2000

BBC Text's TV/radio listings page in 2000

Completely menu based, page numbers weren't even added as an option until several years later.

It's also a lot less visually rich. The Ceefax style mock ups were rather optimistic in that they were very graphically rich - far more so than our available bandwidth and the early set top boxes would actually have been able to cope with.

The screenshots open a mirror into a different world. Into a world where BBC Red Button never existed, where people are being urged to press text, and where this blog has a name that mentions SuperCeefax.

Back in this world, and there's a chance to see how far so much has changed in the last eleven years. And with new developments like broadband connected TVs coming soon, red button services may be about to make an evolutionary step, or even a leap in a whole new direction.

Teletext Then and Now also has some screenshots of our early services, including the trial service launched in 1999. And if you see a box of BBC Sport pencils floating around, please let us know.


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