The image above is the current front page of TV4 Text. Note the numbered links for different news articles and sections. Quick Swedish lesson tangent: Avförings means “fecal.”
The BBC pioneered teletext technology in the early 70’s, and Sweden was the next country to follow a few years later. Many networks around the world adopted teletext systems since then, but in the past decade some have shut down because of the transition to digital broadcasting and the ubiquity of the internet.
But not in Sweden. SVT, the Swedish national TV network, has admirably kept Text-TV relevant in today’s ever-changing media landscape. They adapted the text encoding for digital broadcasting, so it is available as a part of current cable and over-the-air service. But more impressively, they offer a Text-TV website which faithfully recreates the familiar page layout and navigation, including the option of a white-on-black “TV” color scheme.
Discovering this new old technology was a revelation for me, but I was skeptical as to how much it is really used among my own “Twitter this, Facebook that” generation. So I asked a Swedish friend whether young people actually watch the Text-TV. His response was, “It’s mostly older people who grew up with it their whole lives, but the app is pretty good for sports.”
Yes, that’s right. A 40-year-old system for displaying text on a television has been ported to iPhone and Android, along with the same vintage fonts and colors.
Apparently the 3rd-party iPhone version was one of the most popular apps in Sweden when it was released. According to an editorial director at SVT, “Text-TV has a minimalist style, straightforward language, and an interface with no pictures or anything to overload a mobile. I also think that Text-TV has become a little like a cult, there is some kind of nostalgia for many.”
May Text-TV live to see another 40 years.