It’s nearly 40 years since the GPO launched Prestel on the unsuspecting public. Over the fifteen or so years of it’s existence, it became everything that the Internet is today, and spawned an entire industry of competing and complimentary services, plus more than a few hobby based systems, not to mention a multitude of companies dedicated to supporting those publishing or using the services. For the most part, outside some specialist applications, these have all now disappeared without trace. Our aim here is to celebrate the heyday of this industry, and not let what was a revolutionary concept be totally forgotten.
We’re especially disappointed that there was no celebration of the 30th anniversary; apparently nobody cares any more about such an important milestone in the history of “being on-line”. We appreciate that many people will consider Viewdata to have been a dead-end technology, but it laid the groundwork for much of what was to come. Would the UK have become such a major player in the provision of on-line services were it not for the experience already gained by many companies in running consumer-facing online services? Who knows, but it must have had an impact.
On viewdata.org.uk, we celebrate all aspects of Viewdata in the UK, and beyond. Obviously we’re concentrating on it’s heyday of the 1980s, before the World Wide Web took over, however that doesn’t stop us from covering current systems too!
We have screenshots, brochures, memories and stories, downloads, and even interactive access to demonstrations. We plan access to systems that are still running, and emulations of past services.
We’ve got examples from commercial systems (Prestel being the biggest) and from non-commercial and hobbyist systems; we’re not fussy! We would especially like to add information from systems which were not generally publicly accessible, as those are the services most likely to have vanished without trace.
Please feel free to contribute anything you have! If you were an IP on Prestel or elsewhere, and have a copy of your pages from the time, we’re able to republish them in an interactive format. Individual screenshots are still welcome, of course, as are brochures and other documents. Old backup tapes of entire systems would be especially welcome, however we’re also very interested in publishing your memories and experiences of being involved with, or just using, viewdata systems.
Our main hope is for the discs from, or a backup of, the Prestel computers themselves to surface. It seems that when they were finally switched off, nothing was officially retained. Surely somebody took home a disc or tape?
We’re also happy to exchange links with other relevant websites! Just Contact us with the details!