The Strange Atari-ness of Italian Televideo

21 Nov

If you’re a foreigner who has lived in Italy, do you remember the first time you saw Televideo?

I do. It was before I understood Italian very well, at Ale’s mom’s house with Ale and some friends. They were fixated on the TV, discussing news or soccer or something. And I was totally baffled by the fact that what was holding their attention looked like the opening screen to a heated match of Pong.

Ok, maybe not that bad. I mean, at least *this* had color.

I didn’t ask about it and let it go. I was too overwhelmed at the time with adjusting to everything in my new life and culture to bother inquiring further.

But as my time went on here, I learned that Televideo is a pretty essential part of a lot of Italian households. Which surprised me, given the technology of the Internet we have nowadays. But it somehow persists. It’s basically a free service you can access on your TV screen to get information like TV listings, news, sports, etc. Kind of like an Atari-style Internet with no mouse or hyperlinks. It’s divided into “pages” that you choose by punching in the numbers on your remote. You can see in the photo that there are even ads (red boxes in upper corners).

I don’t know why I find the concept and reality of Televideo fascinating. I think it’s just because it is so incredibly low-tech and 80s looking, yet people young and old seriously still use it.

Well, leave it to good old Wikipedia again to enlighten me on this one. Apparently Teletext is “nearly ubiquitous across Europe” — I admit my ignorance; I had no idea. Allow me to blame this on my humble United States upbringing: “…Teletext or other similar technologies in the USA are practically non-existent…” (despite the fact that apparently in the late 70s some networks tried to get it going).

Do you use a teletext service where you live?


17 Responses to “The Strange Atari-ness of Italian Televideo”

  1. Robert November 21, 2007 at 10:03 am #

    We do have teletext here but I have not really used it since I left the hotel industry – there we used it to check flight times and stay notified of any delays.

    Here it is quite useful to check the dates and times of concert fixtures and the like.

  2. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy November 21, 2007 at 11:14 am #

    My in-laws use it most in the south – to be honest I hate it as my brother-in-law is constantly typing in numbers (to check various “pages”) so I hear beeping all the time.

    Something you didn’t mention is that while you’re viewing these screens, the audio of whatever normal TV channel they were on is playing underneath…annoying.

  3. sognatrice November 21, 2007 at 11:43 am #

    I don’t get it, so I don’t really play around with it–and luckily neither does P or his family as far as I’ve seen.

    I find it quite odd myself, like you said, when there’s the internet and all 😉

  4. sognatrice November 21, 2007 at 11:43 am #

    Oh, by “I don’t get it” I meant “I don’t understand it.” Surely it must be on my TV somewhere….

  5. Suze November 21, 2007 at 11:57 am #

    Yep, we get it in the UK – though I rarely ever use it. I used to check news headlines, but with freeview now there is always a news channel on that you can grab the headlines from.
    Suze x

  6. Annika November 21, 2007 at 12:23 pm #

    It’s called Text-TV here and my husband is totally depending on it for the latest sports results. It’s also quite handy for the latest news, TV timetables etc whenever you don’t have a newspaper or computer at hand.

  7. Giulia November 21, 2007 at 1:17 pm #

    The only time I use televideo is when I am trying to find the results of the lotto. I always get annoyed because I always type in one page up from the number that I am supposed to type. Then in order to go to the prior page it’s not as simple as pushing the down button…NO… you have to type in the number and wait for all the pages to load again. UGH

  8. André Wegner November 21, 2007 at 1:43 pm #

    In Germany is’s also called Teletext. Mostly used for checking what’s currently on, what comes next and retrieve some short summaries on the current movie.

    Sometimes also used for reading short news, but not heavily used for this purpose as far as I know.

  9. Michelle November 21, 2007 at 2:27 pm #

    Cristiano loves Televideo, and I can’t stand it! We always have to switch off Sky, switch over to the regular TV – and then he has to flip through all those pages to find sports scores or whatever it is he’s looking for. The first time I saw it was when I was here visiting the very first time and Cristiano was checking train times for me. I thought it was really handy at the time but later wondered why he didn’t just use the Internet. He’s Mr. Technology Nerd so it seems strange that he’d be so attached to his Televideo, but he is…

  10. jessica in rome November 21, 2007 at 2:40 pm #

    I am with Sognatrice, I don’t understand it either. Daniele is always looking at it and we have sky, 2 computers and a wireless laptop. It’s is def a dinosaur.

  11. Andrea November 21, 2007 at 3:41 pm #

    That is just bizarre! I had no idea? What is even weirder is everytime I look at it I think of that game with the turtle and it was so horrible, but fun at the same time. You would move the turtle back and forth. So elementary and Bizarre.

  12. Sherry November 21, 2007 at 4:08 pm #

    “Atari-ness” – what an apt description! I’ve never seen anything like this. How strange yet interesting. Do people so widely rely on this in Italy (and perhaps other European countries) because wi-fi in your house is hard to come by? Or is it just that it’s been around forever and everyone is comfortable using Televideo instead?

  13. Shelley, At Home in Rome November 22, 2007 at 12:17 pm #

    Sherry: In my experience, people don’t really use Televideo as a substitute for Internet but like a supplement. Sometimes it’s just quicker and easier for things like sports scores or headlines. Wi-fi and high-speed Internet can be hard to come by in some areas, but Televideo is definitely nothing like the Internet; it just provides very basic information. I also think people are kind of attached to it, or as they would say here, “affezionato” — they just feel comfortable using it and have come to rely on it for certain bits of information.

  14. kataroma November 22, 2007 at 3:50 pm #

    Oh yeah – Rene uses it too – mostly to check the football scores and see what movies are on (usually Jaws, Jaws II, Jaws III etc. they seem to just love Jaws in Italy).

    We didn’t get it in Australia either so I’d never seen such a thing.

  15. mentalmosaic November 22, 2007 at 7:38 pm #

    Thanks for the info. I often see Angelo’s dad staring at this channel (or asleep in a chair facing this channel!) late at night. And you’re right about the Atari factor, I’d been thinking of it as the Pacman channel, myself.

  16. Janavi November 23, 2007 at 8:24 pm #

    I’ve never even heard of this.but here we have info scrolling under news & other shows & it’s really annoying.

  17. Rachele January 12, 2008 at 9:30 pm #

    Yes! I tried explaining to my Italian Fiance about this channel and how it looks like 1980 kaleeko vision….he didn’t really get it, but it does make me smile when ever we check lottery numbers or calcio scores!!!! I am so glad, someone has confirmed what i thought was step one of slowly loosing my mind. hahahahha

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