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 70.

    Misses the Ceefax Advent Cal. Press revel for the next bit.

    RIP C McI

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    I loved the original Ceefax! The teletext we get now on digital TV is poor by comparison...

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    What a great man...........a true innovator

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    it is rather fitting that he dies just as the BBC finally finishes off ceefax with the end of analogue and swithces to outsourcing that blocks most of the picture niow shrunk into the corner when watching a program with add ons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I actually much preferred the old Ceefax (from analogue) to the new digital teletext. The old one was quick and simple and provided fast access to the TV guide. The new one seems to want to be like the Internet, except it's slower, so it offers no benefits. Bring back the old system, I think it could still have a place even now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Colin and I have one thing in common - a great-granddaughter.

  • Comment number 64.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    It's a shame that most people will never comprehend just how close to a miracle analogue TV was. There were time signals. ceefax, synchro pulses black & white and colour all stuffed into the waveform with NICAM hanging on. The guy who realised he could use the space between frames to transmit text deserves applause!

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Most remarkable thing I ever saw - at the time, anyway - was a CEEFAX enabled TV with an integral printer! It was very crude; being a dot matrix unit using heat sensitive paper - a bit like the printers you connected up to a Sinclair ZX81. The guy in the TV shop printed out a copy of the weather forecast for me. My colleagues were amazed when I showed them. RIP, Colin and thanks for all the dots!

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    I first saw a demonstration of Ceefax at Stratclyde university in 1974. The pages were called up by using a WIRED control box fitted with rotating thumbwheel switches!
    When Thatcher resigned it appeared on Ceefax so I walked into the warehouse and told everybody but nobody believed me till the newsflash came on TV!
    RIP Mr McIntyre

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    .Memories of my Father lol at Fools and Horses or watching the Falklands war correspondence. Those of us who can hear take all this for granted but with the subtitles on 888 it changed everything thanks to people like Colin and the engineers that cracked it. RIP Colin you certainly made a difference!

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Being the child of parents who were profoundly deaf I think I can trump every positive comment here. My Father acquired one of the first decoders and it sat on top of our television. Teletext and the service Ceefax unlocked television and everything it had to offer for my parents at least.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    48. chrislabiff . That sort of comment is typical of the cynical self centred society we now live in. What have YOU done, "chris" that is exceptional, or are you just one of lifes takers and under achievers ???

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    48 chrislabiff. Colin McIntyre's effort and vision changed your life. He wasn't depressed or cynical, but worked hard to create broadcastable "on demand" text. Because of it's success - he created a market, not just in Britain but around the world. It's part of the reason we have text on mobile phones. It also allows you to type your comments into HYS. What is your "life changing" contribution?

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    What a rich and varied life!
    I want to thank BBC for teaching me about this man of whom I had never heard before.
    CEEFAX stood phonetically for See Facts, & was a perfect name BBC's teletext information service transmitted via the analogue signal, which started in 1974.
    I say again: What a rich & varied life: Well lived, Colin McIntyre!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Used to love ceefax.

    Remember the comment

    'this was a match best watched on ceefax'

    0-0 on grey cold November afternoon.
    A cup of tea and ceefax was so much more appealing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    48. chrislabiff

    "Lazy input - people die daily. He was 86."

    That's what I want on my headstone. A bit pricey at £2 per letter but you can't put a price on wit.

    I think Mr McIntyre deserves better though. He's made a small difference to many peoples lives.

    More than I'll ever do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Ceefax, slow and clunking that it was, had no match as a source of massive amounts of useful information. It vanished here 3 years ago. I still miss it. Its gaudy dumbed-down digital successor is hardly worth the bother of turning it on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    50.Lesley - "Since London went digital i have really missed Ceefax. The digital version (whatever it is called) is no substitute......"

    I am no Ceefax expert, but when we went digital down here in the Westcountry I noticed no difference at all in the service. Just press your red button & the type in the nos or navigate themenu using up/down & select?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    I used to love sitting in front of my nans ceefax enabled tv in the very early 80's trying to find test pages and weird stuff by randomly typing in numbers :)


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