Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Aah, CEEFAX - the end of an era

The announcement that the BBC's CEEFAX teletext service will cease when the last analogue TV service in the UK is switched off at midnight tonight has triggered a wave of nostalgia in me.

The blocky pixels which characterised CEEFAX were also the basis for VDU MODE 7 on the BBC Micro. I spent many hours, days, weeks (my long-suffering partner says "months") writing and reviewing educational software for the BBC Micro in the early 1980s, most of it in MODE 7, and became quite a dab hand at making graphics that vaguely resembled the person or thing they were supposed to represent. Certainly the pupils at Hundred Acre Wood School who were the main "beneficiaries" of the fruits of my labours never seemed to have any difficulty recognising what they saw on the screen.

The same graphic mode was used for the PRESTEL online service which I clearly remember demonstrating to my governors one evening via the technological marvel that was a 1200/75 bps acoustic coupler and a telephone handset. MODE 7 was perfect for something with such limited bandwidth.

One of the governors wrote to me after the meeting that "One day we'll take all this for granted. It will be so fast and reliable that people will look back at what we have in 1982, say how primitive it is and wonder how and why we persevered with it". It certainly looks that way thirty years down the line. I wonder how people will look back on iPads, smart phones and Kinect in 2042 ...

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Same but different

As a fan of the great game (cricket, you fools!) I have been lucky enough to visit both the Adelaide Oval and the Melbourne Cricket Ground on my travels.

Whilst at the MCG I bought some greetings cards with images of paintings by E P Kinsella including one called "The Hope of His Side" which I had last seen in the 1970s on the cover of an LP by the Climax Chicago Blues Band. Another image is "Out First Ball" which you can see below.

I filed the cards away in a safe place and only rediscovered them last week. Something in the back of my mind told me the images on my cards were different from the image on the LP cover so I hunted through the attic until I found the LP and, sure enough, there's a big difference. The paintings were obviously "localised" for UK and Australian consumption - look at the differences in the background and face in the UK version of "Out First  Ball"  below.