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The term telesoftware was coined by W.J.G. Overington who first proposed the idea;[1] it literally means “software at a distance” and it refers to the transmission of programs for a microprocessor or home computer via broadcast teletext.

Software bytes are presented to a terminal as pairs of standard teletext characters, thus utilizing an existing and well-proven broadcasting system.[2]


Telesoftware was pioneered in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s,[3] and a paper on the subject was presented by R.H. Vivian (IBA) and W.J.G. Overington at the 1978 International Broadcasting Convention.[4]

During that time, software was broadcast at various times on all of the (then) four terrestrial TV channels. Telesoftware and tutorials were available on Ceefax (BBC teletext service) for the BBC Micro via its teletext adapter between 1983 and 1989[5] and was generally transmitted for a period of one week. The BBC Ceefax Telesoftware service was managed by Jeremy Brayshaw.[6] Most of the Telesoftware programming tutorials were written by Gordon Horsington[7] and they, as well as most of the software, are still available from the online Telesoftware archives (see the external links below). Downloading could take place from Friday evening to the following Thursday evening. As the updating took place on a Friday, it was advised not to attempt to download software between 9am and 7pm on Fridays.[7]

Other channels provided for several other computers via a range of adapters and set-top boxes. The same delivery system was also used to deliver satellite weather images from the Meteosat satellite for download.[8]

Although none of the early telesoftware initiatives survived,[8] many of the techniques are now at the heart of the latest digital television systems.

Various archives of BBC Ceefax Telesoftware are preserved on the internet.[9]


  1. ^ Overington, W.J.G. (May 1977). "Telesoftware". Computing.
  2. ^ Hedger, J (September 1978). "Telesoftware: Using Teletext to Support a Home Computer". IEE Conference Publication 166: 273–276.
  3. ^ Gazzard, Alison (2015). "Extending the Aerial". View: Journal of European Television History and Culture. 4 (7): 90. doi:10.18146/2213-0969.2015.JETHC083.
  4. ^ Roizen, Joseph (February 1979). "IBC 78 — The 1978 International Broadcasting Convention". SMPTE Journal. 88 (2): 119–122. doi:10.5594/J10449.
  5. ^ "Teletext Gallery - BBC Ceefax Telesoftware". The Teletext Museum. Mike Brown. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Ceefax Telesoftware Axe Storm". The Micro User. Vol. 7 no. 8. October 1989. p. 12.
  7. ^ a b Horsington, Gordon (May 1987). "Free BBC Micro software on Ceefax: What can you receive - and how". The Micro User. Vol. 5 no. 3.
  8. ^ a b "BBC Announces Closure of Telesoftware Service". 1989. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Telesoftware". Jon Welch. 17 August 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2017.