Post your frames' source data and grow the scene!

From edit.tf development blog. Comments are welcome via email.


Today is the autumnal equinox. Round here in Somerset, whether you ask the farming community who have been partying away at the harvest homes in the last few weeks, or the pagans celebrating in Glastonbury, it's a time associated with the harvest.

As well as the equinox, it's the forty-fifth birthday of Ceefax, the world's first teletext service. Even though teletext was shut down years ago in the UK, the teletext art scene is small but thriving, and people all over the web and social media platforms are having fun producing and sharing teletext frames. This is exactly what Dan Farrimond had in mind in 2014 with his ideas about how to kickstart the teletext art scene on the fortieth birthday of Ceefax, five years ago. His ideas included the production of as-easy-as-possible web-based editors that reduce the barrier to getting strarted as much as possible, like ZXNet and edit.tf. Just one of all the other things that people have done since, these editors play a part in keeping teletext scene alive. They have allowed beginners and those with a casual interest to play with teletext page and navigate the tricky but ultimately rewarding learning curve associated with the control codes.

If you can code or write HTML pages, even at a basic level, think about how you learned to do that. You most likely did it, at least in part, by studying existing source code or viewing the source of web pages. Humans are hardwired to learn by imitation, and in the technical realm, we naturally copy and adapt others' work in order to do this. Apart from making learning easier, it's fun to see how tricks were done and the techniques involved in making a particular design. The amazing wizardry in recovery efforts and historical frame databases we now have allow us to view and take apart frames from even the very early days of teletext, learn from their tricks and make our own. Technical creative endeavours, be they coding or making teletext frames, work best when they build on existing work in one way or another.

An often-underestimated feature of edit.tf and ZXNet is that the URL contains the source data for the frame. Other editors like wxTED support it as an output format. Although that makes the URL very long, it also opens the way to much easier collaboration on frame designs. You can send frames via email, instant messenger or even text message. Or, when you've made your frame and want to show it to others on social media, as well as posting a graphic of it, you can post the data itself in the form of a URL. If you choose to do that, you enable other people to take your work, play with it, learn from it, and extend it to something else. Even if you don't think it's very good, someone out there will be able to learn from it or extend it, and make it available for the next person. The more people do this, the more the teletext art scene will grow as a whole and the more its output will improve. Sow code, recoveries and control characters, and later reap frames, more software, artpacks, demos and democompos, block parties and chunky fringes, and more.

So, a suggestion. When you design teletext frames and post them for everyone to enjoy, or when you compile those frames into artpacks or competition results, please remember to include the source data whether as an editor URL or as a raw data file — anything that allows the frame to be loaded up in an editor and played with by anyone. If you do that, you'll be doing one of the things which help to continue to grow the teletext art scene even more than in the last five (and forty-five) years.