101 Things Birmingham Gave The World. No. 42: Teletext

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Before Birmingham gave the World the Internet, information traveled at a much slower and more unreliable pace. Say you were on the terraces of the Spion kop on a Saturday afternoon, depressed, waiting and hoping for some light relief from Billy McNeill’s Aston Villa who were probably losing away at Watford: a mention on round-the-grounds round-up on the radio would filter through the one earpiece of the man with the anorak and transistor, be mumbled to a bloke trying not to stand too close to him, a rumour might become a ripple, would become a gale of laughter. If you missed the classified check, you wouldn’t really know what happened until the Sports Argus came out—and by that time you were usually well on the way to not caring.

Teletext changed all that. Pages around the magic number of 302 would be refreshed and rotated all around the country: from living room to pub. It was a revelation, provided you had a newish telly and a decent signal you could get information in a matter of minutes.

You won’t be in the least surprised that it’s Birmingham that is responsible for the BREAKING NEWS culture that drowns us, but it’s a more circulatory route than some. You can’t of course have teletext without television—and we couldn’t have had it if broadcasting television didn’t work quite the way it does.

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