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Fual a zwiontents

A gizmo, yesterday

On Saturday, with the decision-making assistance of Dave2, I bought a new TV. Hardly riveting news, I know - but this replaced my cheapo mini black-and-white box, which had done an adequate job for the last four months. There're very few programmes I watch regularly, so this new device is primarily for hooking up games consoles. It's a 15" LCD TV (which handily supports NTSC for my Japanese imports) branded Mikomi. I say 'branded', because directly next to it on the stand in Argos, was the EXACT same model with the Bush logo on the front. No doubt a lot of companies are buying in these units and applying their own brand badges.

What better way to demonstrate the image quality of an LCD TV, than with teletext? (You may notice some errors on the screen, due to low reception - I haven't set up the proper aerial as I write this. Teletext low-signal glitches often provide entertaining new words or sentences, such as 'Un o k Yorw Pe', 'Ao Digixat' and 'in.Egset. ook theEgooti'. Our resident ooker, Andrew, may be able to decipher that last one.)

Ah, teletext. It's weirdly fascinating, in a geeky way, to see such neanderthal techology still beamed into millions of homes. Credit to the teletext artists for creating instantly recognisable images of cars, places and people with eight-colour uberblocky graphics. And it's such a unique format. A few years ago I wrote an article on Linux for Channel 4 Teletext - the now-removed 'Online' section that used to be at p490 or thereabouts. With a mere 60 words per page (excluding header and adverts), teletext writing forces you to be enormously concise. Also, with multi-pages (where it shows '3/7' or so in the corner) you don't know at which point viewers are going to start reading, so on every page you have to introduce the topic extremely snappily to maintain their interest.

It's a shame this teletext format won't be around for long; the government plans to end analogue transmissions in several years so we'll have the new-fangled digital stuff. Ceefax, BBC's teletext service, still impresses with the amount of 'serious' content - although sadly they removed the FCO travel advice, which had compellingly matter-of-fact descriptions of dangerous countries. (Stuff like: "Travellers to Port Moresby, do not leave your hotel. Do not walk anywhere. Avoid making eye contact with civilians. If you are assaulted, threatened or robbed, do not attempt to resist, as most criminals murder their victims after the attack.")

Meanwhile, the confusingly named Teletext Ltd (ITV and Channel 4's successor to Oracle, not to be confused with lower-case 'teletext', which is generic) does a good job with light-hearted stuff - games, quizzes, holidays, dating and the like. Still, I always wish they'd pushed it further, trying things like foreign language lessons, or live Internet feeds. They could have a page which pulls news story summaries from Slashdot, or even the LXF front page :-)

Do try this at home, kids!

On a gaming-related note, Paul introduced me to the fiendishly difficult Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 on Sunday. Having never played a skateboarding sim before, but with many hours of my youth spent playing 1080 on the N64, it took me a while to grasp the huge array of control combinations. Like so many games of this ilk, it's best not to think about what you're doing - just work on reflexes and reaction. Anyway, I was well impressed with THPS4, as it gets that most awkward of gameplay balances right: fun to play as a novice, but with a huge amount to master.

And as I finish typing this, my flashy new TV is putting all its effort into saying "ger elam QUEEN YE @oof". Ah, bliss...

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