In the early 1970s, a lead designer at the Philips company named John Adams invented a "television information retrieval service" named Teletext. People who owned televisions with vertical blanking interval (VBI) decoders could access weather reports, news, and other information by "punching a series of buttons on a handheld calculator." The system used text and simple graphics to display the information, becoming essentially what Dazed refers to as "the older and less agile cousin of the Internet: a place where information, news and games existed in an aesthetic that remains instantly recognisable – at least to people who used it regularly before the world went online."
The service disappeared from British televisions in 2012 but is still used in other countries. As a sort of homage to the medium, artist Juha van Ingen and the FixC Cooperative art network have organized the International Teletext Art Festival, a showcase of work by various artists using the limited system of colors and shapes.
In an interview with Dazed, van Ingen said that the idea to focus on Teletext came from a joke during a meeting in Helsinki. "We were thinking of fun ways of expanding our artistic practises," he said. "Somebody brought up Teletext. The thought made us laugh at first but later on as we had a chance to use a Teletext editor in YLE-TV (the Finnish broadcasting corporation) we started to get really interested."
van Ingen also talked with Dazed about the pros and cons of the system. "One of the best things about Teletext is that you can't really just convert your other art into Teletext. You have to do it the Teletext way. To make art with 24 lines with 39 characters each, and to be limited to six colours plus black and white can be challenging." He added that "the downside of the medium is that it is almost impossible to get Teletext Art broadcasted," but that someone at YLE-TV liked the idea and helped make the festival happen back in 2012.