Ceefax founding editor Colin McIntyre dies at 85

Colin McIntyre Colin McIntyre's work set the standard for teletext services around the world

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The founding editor of the BBC's Ceefax service - the world's first teletext service - has died at the age of 85.

Colin McIntyre, who worked for the BBC for 30 years, died in hospital on Thursday after a short illness.

When Ceefax was launched in 1974, he updated all 24 news pages on his own, feeding punch tape into machines.

When he retired in 1982, Ceefax had a 20-strong team. It went on to attract 22 million viewers a week and inspired teletext services around Europe.

Ceefax will end its transmissions in October when the digital switchover is completed. McIntyre's death comes just four weeks after the service was switched off in London.

The technology for the world's first teletext service was developed by BBC engineers who were trying to find ways of providing subtitles on TV programmes for the deaf, rather than produce a news service.

They found that it was possible to transmit text information in the "spare lines" transmitted on the analogue TV signal.

McIntyre, who had worked at the BBC since 1952 including a spell as a correspondent based at the UN, was then appointed as the first editor of the service. At one stage, he had the country's only Ceefax-enabled TV set at his home.

In Ceefax's early days he worked regular office hours so the service was not updated in the evenings or at weekends.

The audience take-up rate was slow for the first seven years, because of the expense of the decoders needed to broadcast Ceefax onto TV sets, but soon the service expanded year by year.

He took early retirement at the age of 55 to write books, while acting as a teletext consultant in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

His publications included a book called "Monuments of War: How to Read a War Memorial" and World War II At Sea.

Colin McIntyre McIntyre acted as a teletext consultant in Europe, Australia and New Zealand

He also became one of the Oasis poets - World War II servicemen who wrote poetry about their experiences between 1939 and 1945.

Born in Argentina, McIntyre had come to the UK aged 17 to join the Army and was commissioned in his father's county regiment, The Black Watch.

He later served as a platoon commander and company commander with the Lovat Scouts in Greece, and as a captain and staff officer with the Sixth Airborne Division in Palestine.

After leaving the Army, he took an honours degree at Harvard University, which he attended at the same time as Edward Kennedy.

'Great communicator'

He was a renowned journalist at the BBC and became one of the youngest chief-sub editors in the newsroom when he was promoted to that role in 1955.

He later trained as a TV producer and served as a correspondent at the UN during the Suez and Hungary crises before becoming the BBC's chief publicity officer for seven years and programme promotions executive between 1972 and his appointment as Ceefax editor in 1974.

Start Quote

Colin McIntyre was a man with a vision and the drive to make that vision a reality”

End Quote Ralph Rivera BBC director, Future Media

He is survived by his American wife Field, with whom he recently celebrated 60 years of marriage, three daughters and a son, four grandsons, three grand-daughters and a great-grand-daughter.

Daughter Miranda McIntyre, who also had a spell working on Ceefax, said her father had always been very proud of his role developing the world's first teletext service.

She said: "He was a great communicator and quickly saw the opportunity to broadcast news and sport details as they happened, building up a team of journalists all expert at typing 'live copy'.

"It is hard to imagine in these days of the internet, but this was the first time that viewers could access the latest news whenever they wanted it, rather than waiting for the next news bulletin."

Ralph Rivera, BBC director of Future Media, said: "Colin McIntyre was a man with a vision and the drive to make that vision a reality.

"His pioneering work laid the foundations for much of the development work that we do at the BBC today."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Ceefax amazed me when I first encountered when my dad showed it me at the old BBC Radio Sheffield office where he worked. Seemed like the future had arrived....or maybe not in hindsight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    This is what I fail to understand.

    TV in the UK is supposed to be (mostly) public service Broadcasting.
    We loved Ceefax and to some extent the Commercial offerings teletext and C4 which had good stuff.

    Not one of us was consulted about "Digital" nor the loss of the "text" service yet here we are losing it all, and for what?

    Noting better imho, 99 channels of rubbish and repeats do not = quality

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Do you know I used to read the telly more than watch it ? Says it all really ! I wouldn't be too sniffy at the ITV / Channel 4 services either , something for every insomniac like me !

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    @24. Mooker
    Laughable? You are clearly too young to remember a world without the internet.

    It was a work of pure genius, doing so much with so little. A level of ingenuity which is sadly lacking with so many things today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Ceefax (and Teletext) were a lot better than any of the Digital services that are shoved at us now by a mile.

    The Digital stuff barely works, and when it does it is often out of sync.. I hate it.

    Bring us Ceefax for digital !

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I really miss Bamboozle which was on C4 text.
    Thanks to Colin I had some entertainment when there was nothing else to watch on tv.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    the demise of ceefax is a backward step in the digital age, the red button services arent as good as ceefax or the other teletext services were.
    Like most good things that work - this is one thing that cant be beaten
    its demise is the bad part of "modern" television.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Ceefax was interest and entertaining. Then BBC News took it over. The quality plummeted and never recovered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Ceefax (& Telextext) were wonderful services. Very easy to navigate and news stories without enough space for any bias! Digital text just doesn't compare - we've taken a step backwards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Remember watching Ceefax cricket updates when England were in The West Indies, around the late 80's/early 90's. My Dad, a couple of Uncles and I glued to the Ceefax screen watching in disbelief as England skittled the Windies out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Ceefax beats most internet news services, and certainly the "red button" news, hands down. Easy to navigate, concise news, clear to read and, once you learned a few numbers, incredibly simple to navigate. We haven't exactly improved on it, have we? For all of us who got our daily fix of "Charivari" on 119, Mr McIntyre's passing is a sad day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I loved Ceefax. It was the precursor to the internet for the masses and I always checked what it had to say, first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

    Does anyone else remember the character 'Ceefax' in the BBC series 'Roughnecks'? He was so called because he knew everything - the best ally in a pub quiz.

    I never knew Colin was the force behind it, but I thank him for making it happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    As My Favourite Comedian would say..

    May his God go with him.

    Ceefax was brilliant it really was, and even despite the internet I miss it, it was simple straight forward intuitive, all the other channels copied it but never surpassed it.

    As for this Digital rubbish they cannot get it right, so I simply gave up, the internet is useless as far as a Ceefax type service, no comparison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Ceefax was just great.
    As exciting as the first digital watch, or pocket calculator.
    One of those pieces of technology that make you feel the world really is slowly getting better.
    Anything that useful is soon improved on and not long after the marvel of the idea is lost.
    Thank you Mr McIntyre for making the 1970s a little more exciting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    A visionary who will be missed. I loved Ceefax, to me it was the home version of the computers i used at work in the NHS in the early 80s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    We still have Ceefax - for a few more months yet, and I dread to think what we'll do without it. This was one technological development that was worthwhile. Not all are. Why do we have to lose a facility in the pursuit of progress? And I won't be able to find all airport arrivals and departures in one place (anorakish I know). R.I.P. Mr McIntyre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Put into colour what Reuters had in black and white! My first programming course was in 1968 but this bloke outstripped all of us. Kudos and RIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Thank you for Ceefax Colin, RIP. If only the Red Button were half as good!

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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