Videotex (better known as
in the UK) began as a service provided by the
German post office. Using low-cost computer terminals and modems users could
access post office computers to view data assembled by registered
'information providers'. These information providers paid a
subscription to the post office and, in turn, could charge the
end user a fee for viewing each 'page' of information they had
provided. In practice, of course, most information providers
(such as national airlines providing flight information) did not
charge the end user for data thus displayed.
The standards developed in Germany were taken by several other
countries and modified for use in their own, similar, services
- the most well known in the UK being the Prestel service
originally provided by British Telecom. Over the years those
differing versions were largely brought back together but
principal services from France, Britain, Canada and America still
varied in some respects.
A basic videotex terminal is not unlike other computer terminals
in appearance with a separate keyboard and screen - the keyboard
is fairly standard but the screens do tend to be smaller than
usual. Normally the screen is only capable of displaying 40
columns of text (although 80 columns is sometimes now available)
which means that the characters are large and easy to read.
Simple 'mosaic' graphics are available which, although only
slightly better than 'block' graphics (where individual character
positions can be completely blocked-in to form shapes), can be
quite effective when combined with the use of the 8 colours available.
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