The YouTube Files – Another Evening With Oracle.

Another Evening With Oracle (Channel 4, 1992)

Following on from my recent look back at what was on offer one evening on Oracle on ITV, I thought that I would now have a look at what Channel 4 had to offer. This is on the evening of 20 December 1992 (one day after the previous review), not long before the closure at the end of that year, and again this video was uploaded to YouTube by “WEBFAX”.

The pages 500-699 are covered (pages 700-899 were never used, apart from 888 for subtitles), and 400-499 was Channel 4’s ancillary service 4-Tel (I might review those pages one day too). Whereas ITV covered things like news and sport, on Channel 4 you would get things like entertainment news, things for younger viewers, adverts, and so on. Again, I’ve picked out some of my highlights.

We begin with some finance pages, so if you are rich and are eager to know where the FTSE is, then this is for you. There are also some city news updates, that are provided by ITN, although not much seems to be happening at the moment, maybe that’s a good thing? And then we come on to the pages that I probably looked at back then.

First there is Beat Box, featuring pages about pop music, including trivia, charts, and a gig guide. It is determined by their critics that the album of the year is “Copper Blue” by Sugar. Then there are some children’s pages, featuring lots of animated pictures, rather terrible jokes, and stories. And don’t forget to take a look at the advent calendar too.

The next section is Buzz, featuring computer games, pen pals, competitions, all those kind of things. There is also the soap Park Avenue, which featured lots of episodes and characters, and as usual it’s all happening. And there is also Debbie’s Diary and Josh’s Diary. These pages were popular as they featured a teenager trying to deal with life.

I’m not sure why horse racing was featured separately from the other sport news on ITV, I suppose it was because they could have enough pages to fit in all of those ludicrous bookmaker “this’ll romp home!” adverts. There are also results, and columns from tipsters, although they all seem to be on holiday at the moment. Diversions is a section about hobbies, including pages on angling, chess, and recipes.

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Then there are film, theatre, and video reviews, followed by more money pages. On p669 for some reason, there is a picture of snooker, even though there is nothing else on that page. Was this an advert or a test page? It’s rather unusual. The last pages feature engineering and transmitter news, the A-Z index, and just like on ITV, a farewell from everyone at Oracle.

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The YouTube Files – An Evening With Oracle.

An Evening With Oracle (ITV, 1992)

You might know by now that when I was younger I used to enjoy watching Teletext, which I felt was as useful a source of information as newspapers and magazines were, so I have decided to review a video that was recently uploaded to YouTube by “WEBFAX”. Oracle was formerly the Teletext service that was available on ITV and Channel 4, and this video features the pages 100-399 on ITV on the evening of 19 December 1992 (I’ll do the Channel 4 equivalent in another piece soon).

The date is rather significant because Oracle would close at the end of 1992 having lost its licence, meaning that there was not even two weeks left before they would go off-air (and Christmas was coming too!), and they were beginning to wind down their services by this point. Here are some of my highlights. In the 100s we begin with the news pages, provided by ITN. There’s plenty of information, along with the Premium Bond numbers.

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Then there’s Live At Five (so called because I think that it updated every day at 5pm), which was a magazine section that featured horoscopes, letters, puzzles, and so on. Then there’s sport, and as it’s a Saturday, all of the football results have just about come in (and this was the first season of the Premier League), and the league tables and pools news are now updated. There’s also results in plenty of other sports, which is good news for ice hockey fans.

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Then we go into lots of pages of adverts, including betting and phone-in competitions. Who wants the chance to win a Super Nintendo? Then there’s a test page, and a page saying goodbye and explaining to viewers what was happened. Then we go into the 200s, which features the weather and TV guide. There’s also information about what’s on, including cinema news, and those all-important pantomimes.

The TV pages feature the critic Sam Brady, who really was the grumpiest person, and didn’t seem to like any programme at all. Maybe that was the idea, but it did make you feel that he was in the wrong job. But he will not be gagged! I remember seeing him interviewed on the TV once, and I was rather surprised to discover that he actually was a real person. There’s also ratings, soap news, and more adverts.

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Going into the 300s the pages are mostly weather and travel news, along with the chance to go on holiday somewhere in this country, or maybe a little further. There are also some oddities. I have always enjoyed some Teletext art, but I wasn’t expecting it on this page. Congratulations Mr Farquharson! I wonder what’s going on here?

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I would like to dedicate this piece to my sister Lucy, who died recently at the age of 47. She was as big a fan of pop culture, nostalgia, and trivia as I am, and I did enjoy sharing my memories about things with her, I will definitely miss doing that.

Game Show Memories – Bamboozle!

Bamboozle! (ITV/Channel 4, 1993-2009)

Is this a game show? I don’t know really, but because I don’t have that many more left to review now, I thought that I might as well do something different as I do remember playing this one myself. Does that mean that I appeared on the TV playing it? Well no not really, this was an interactive game show that was possible for viewers to play while sat at home.

In January 1993 Teletext replaced Oracle as the interactive text service on ITV and Channel 4 that provided information about news, sport, and so on. As I think I’ve said already, one of my favourite features was the game Bamboozle! that was hosted by the somewhat animated Bamber Boozler, who unless he was having a day off or there were technical problems would ask us the questions, and he would quickly become one of Britain’s most respected inquisitors. b1

The idea of Bamboozle! was that Bamber would ask the multiple-choice questions (sometimes they were all on the same theme, but usually they could be about anything), and the viewer chose what they thought was the right answer by pressing the corresponding coloured button on their TV remote control, and you had to get as many correct as you could. vlcsnap-00550

If you gave a wrong answer, you would be “bamboozled!” and have to go back to a particular determined point (and Bamber would be left yellow-faced by your uselessness), but Bamber’s wife Bambette would offer you a consolation question. I remember when Bamboozle! launched there were 25 questions, and if you got one wrong, you went right back to the start, which was rather harsh, although this changed over the years, and eventually settled down to 12 questions with various safe points. b2

It may seem a little similar to the format of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire but there were definitely no big-money prizes on offer here. The final page would feature Bamber congratulating you and determining your score based on how many answers you got correct first time. Occasionally there would also be a page featuring a competition that you could enter for a prize. After a while, a similar game launched on Teletext called Ten To One, which was hosted by Bamber’s brother Brian, where all the questions were about sport, and at the weekend Bamber’s son Buster would host a variation of Bamboozle! for younger viewers. b3

By the end in 2009, the questions updated every day, and Bamber was estimated to have asked around 57,000 questions, that’s nearly as many as William G Stewart on Fifteen-To-One. I remember that I always tried to play Bamboozle! as often as I could (as yes I did try and cheat by pressing lots of buttons), and after Teletext closed there was an attempt to revive the game as an interactive app so you could play it on your phone but that didn’t seem to last very long.

More TV Memories – Teletext.

Teletext (ITV/Channel 4, 1993-2009)

Many years ago I used to enjoy using Teletext, before the internet it was a very valuable service featuring the latest updates in news and sport coverage. Teletext replaced Oracle as the service for ITV and Channel 4 in 1993. And when I decided to recall the many hours I spent looking at the pages, I thought I would share with you some of my favourite features.

Bamboozle! This was the interactive game where the contestants where the viewers at home. Every day the charismatic Bamber Boozler would pose various general knowledge questions and we had to answer them by pressing the correct corresponding button on our remote control. The format did change over the years, with other members of Bamber’s family joining in the fun, and a few special games on a specific subject, but the challenge was always to get all the answers correct as quickly as possible. After the close of Teletext Bamboozle! became available to play as a game on your mobile phone. bamber450-4410

Digitiser. A great section that was all about the world of computer games. There would be daily news and reviews, but that was only the half of it. There were also a remarkably odd amount of characters created who would comment on the games. You can’t really ever forget the likes of The Man’s Diary or Chips And Teats With Mr Nude once you’ve seen them. digitiser450-1020

One of the best features was the letters page, where viewers wrote in with their viewers and usually got an amusing response. I remember a viewer with the surname O’Connor constantly being called Des, and Stuart N Hardy who was “the king of the mess-ups”. Most people were simply told “you, sir, are an idiot”. There was also more fun to be had when the reveal-me-do brought us even odder characters such as the adventures of Mr T and his bins.

Digitiser was written among others by “Mr Biffo”, and when the pages left Teletext in 2003 it was never the same. However, the idea was recently revived on the website and it is well worth a read. Digitiser was replaced with GameCentral which was a much more straightforward analysis of computer games, with writers who had worked on such established magazines as Edge. There was one amusing feature though with the regular spoof reviewer Nigel Humdrum who liked terrible cash-in mainstream games. After Teletext closed GameCentral continued for a while online. gamecentral1

Generator. I think this section was called Generator for a while at least, they were always changing the names and page numbers of features. It had news and reviews for younger viewers, the most memorable page being Megazine. This was where viewers wrote in with odd comments on life under bizarre pseudonyms. They received replies from the mysterious “WLW” who was apparently a gay giraffe, and it was all teenage angst writ large really. teletext-itv-340-19930123-bg

Planet Sound. A daily look at the world of music, with news, reviews and features. I remember reading the Launchpad page which reviewed the week’s singles, and wondering who half the acts were. There was also a chance for up-and-coming bands to send in their demo tapes and a lot of acts got their first exposure on that page. I also remember letters page The Void with lots of debate about the state of the music scene. The only actual pop star I can actually ever remember ever writing to the page who was a regular viewer was Paul Heaton from The Beautiful South.


Teletext removed all its news content at the end of 2009, although it did carry on in some regions until 2012 when the digital switchover was finally complete. By then all the pages consisted of was those ludicrous horseracing adverts with tipsters insisting that we should bet on outsiders with comments like “This one can’t lose! 25-1! LUMP ON BIG!”. In more recent years there have been a few variations such as Digital Teletext and the website but they’re not the same really.