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Videotex (or "interactive videotex") was one of the earliest implementations of an "end-user information system". From the late 1970s to mid-1980s, it was used to deliver information (usually pages of text) to a user in computer-like format, typically to be displayed on a television.

In a strict definition, videotex refers to systems that provide interactive content and display it on a television, typically using modems to send data in both directions. A close relative is teletext, which sends data in one direction only, typically encoded in a television signal. Sometimes the term "viewdata" is used to describe all such systems generically. Unlike the modern Internet, traditional videotex services were highly centralized.

Videotex in its broader definition can be used to refer to any such service, including the Internet, bulletin board systems, online service providers, and even the arrival/departure displays at an airport. This usage is no longer common.

With the exception of Minitel in France, videotex elsewhere never managed to attract any more than a very small percentage of the universal mass market once envisaged. By the end of the 1980s its use was essentially limited to a few niche applications.


Initial development and technologies

United Kingdom

The first attempts at a general-purpose videotex service were created in the United Kingdom in the late 1960s. In about 1970 the BBC had a brainstorming session in which it was decided to start researching ways to send closed captioning information to audience. As the Teledata research continued the BBC became interested in using the system for delivering any sort of information, not just closed captioning. In 1972, the concept was first made public under the new name Ceefax. Meanwhile the General Post Office (soon to become British Telecom) had been researching a similar concept since the late 1960s, known as Viewdata. Unlike Ceefax which was a one-way service carried in the existing TV signal, Viewdata was a two-way system using telephones. Since the Post Office owned the telephones, this was considered to be an excellent way to drive more customers to use the phones. Not to be outdone by the BBC, they also announced their service, under the name Prestel. ITV soon joined the fray with a Ceefax-clone known as ORACLE.

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