Monday, 26 January 2015

Dan Farrimond, Teletext related Q&A.....

Dan Farrimond is the reason my blog now looks so bloody awesome. I mean, aesthetics are a matter of opinion, generally.....but if you're not keen on the blocky visuals of 8-bit gaming or Teletext, you're not the sort of person I'm going to get along bloody well get out!

However, if you're a bit of an 80's nerd at heart, then you might want to click the 'read-more' link, you can even pretend you're pressing the 'Reveal' button if you like.....I do it all the time....but then, I do occasionally don a baseball cap....sideways.....still with me?! Don't tar Dan with the same brush though, discriminate only against me, please! Enough of my now, quite frankly, predictable on for a proper grown-ups views on stuff......

So, what inspired you to get into retro electronic-based art?

Well, ten solid years of obsessive teletext use and a childhood of video gaming might well have something to do with it, but I must credit the guys behind the International Teletext Art Festival for getting me addicted once again. The prospect of having stuff displayed on European teletext services is still as exciting waiting to see if the letter you sent to Ceefax was on subpage 12 of 12, or if your tasteful crayon tribute to Sonic the Hedgehog was included in on today’s digitised art gallery. (Editor - Was it included or not?! And yes, that's right, I'm referring to myself as 'Editor', it's my blog and I'll do as I please.......this is the last time I'll interrupt.)

Of the wide range of artistic genres out there, teletext is the one that really made me think ‘I want to have a go at this!’ Unlike my mid-90s foray into video game art – i.e. cobbling together sub-Etch-a-Sketch drawings with BASIC code on my Amstrad CPC464 – this one stuck. Funny, really, because I never did submit anything to Frame-It.

Is there demand for it and what do people generally ask for?

You might think there isn't much demand for a teletext artist in this post-digital switchover age – I certainly did at first. But it’s easy to forget that teletext is still widely used in many European countries where internet coverage isn't as comprehensive as the UK. I doubt you could get wireless access atop the Swiss Alps (Ed - It's bad enough getting a signal in Newport), but you could get teletext. Probably… I wonder if anyone has even tried? If anyone reading just so happened to do so while on summer holiday in Butlins Monte Rosa, please write in and let me know.

So it is still a current technology, just about. And then there’s the nostalgia factor, as many still have fond memories of flicking through teletext pages while sprinkling far too much sugar on their cornflakes, or cheating at that multiple choice quiz on Channel 4 and skipping straight from the first question to the end screen. Which defeats the object, but somehow hacking the system with but a television remote while screaming “suck on that, Boozler” gives you an enormous sense of satisfaction. Not that I've ever done it myself, of course...(Ed- It's ok, I'm in denial,'s my defence mechanism, born out of frequent castigation I receive as a result of being me)

As much as I forced myself to become more ‘contemporary’, people still wanted teletext stuff. At some point I decided to stop fighting it and put ‘teletext artist’ as my occupation in the census. Hmm, I wonder how many other people did that?

I have been asked to ‘teletextise’ all sorts of things, from internet avatars and facial portraits to people’s cats. No, really! But probably the weirdest thing I've drawn in teletext form is… well, to put it politely, an artificial hair covering for one’s posterior – a bottom wig. It was a weird Twitter football thing, so it’s best not to probe too far! (Ed - As much as I love to probe posteriors, I think....for the good of this leave it be)

If you had to choose……Teletext or the Internet…..and why?

There’s a strong case for both. I often daydream about what would happen if the whole internet was hacked, rendering it nonfunctional for months. Teletext would be resurrected as the primary form of public communication, with CRTs dragged from the attic and fired up for the first time since the days when people had no idea what a ‘YOLO’ was (the mint with the yole?). Writers would once again be forced into crafting succinct articles of pure information and trolls everywhere would melt into non-existence behind that mighty BBC TV firewall.

Until that day I am happy enough with the internet, as it’s possible to transmit teletext via the world wide web. Well, after a fashion - there are services like Teletext40 that continue the teletextual tradition via clever emulation of the format.

But in answer to your question, I have to choose teletext because nobody else will (Ed - Don't be a martyr!). Heck, someone’s got to keep the thing alive, and it might as well be me! If you need me, I'll be in the corner trying to get a good enough reception to decipher the lottery numbers for 24 June 1998.

Do you think the technology boom makes up for the loss of Bamboozle and the ‘reveal’ button?

Ahh, the mythical reveal button! In 500 years, when the human race is communicating via juiced-up virtual reality helmets (Ed - It'll be a via a chip, implanted into your parietal lobe even before you've been born....that's right, I've done research!), a traveller from the year 2015 will emerge from where the Large Hadron Collider once stood. He will demonstrate the use of the reveal button with his portable TV and promptly be locked up for murder – this futuristic 1970s technology will literally cause people’s heads to explode in an instant! (Ed - Leaving only the nano machine brain chip behind, containing Dennis Quaid and a bottle of Jack Daniels.....little Innerspace humour for you there....booooo!)

In my opinion, the concept of a free game built into your television set will never be bettered. However, Flappy Bird is a pretty good alternative… wonder if they've made a teletext version yet? I'll put that on the ‘to do’ list for 2015 – it’s on WebFax page 435 after the TV listings for Channel 4+96.

Bamber Boozler lives on in the form of an app, but unless they introduce DLC where you match three forms of candy as they fall into his mouth, I doubt it will even scrape the backside of the modern equivalent of the ELSPA charts. (They’re wearing a titanium-reinforced #Arswig.)

That app isn't quite the same as navigating a chocolate-stained fastext remote, so I'm going to organise a Bamboozle party with archived versions of the Channel 4 Teletext service and a Richard Whiteley impersonator as host. Fancy coming along?

Is too much nostalgia unhealthy…..or is everything modern just rubbish?!

It probably is very unhealthy indeed. I should probably stop trying to convince everyone that teletext was a highly significant milestone in communications development and that it should not simply be left to rot in the compost heap of dead technology alongside the carphone and whatever they used to open tins before the can opener was invented. It is probably not important that Ceefax was developed right here in the United Kingdom by a bunch of blokes in a shed with a screwdriver and bits of gaffer tape.

Don't get me wrong, I think the internet is a wonderful thing. You couldn't get animated gifs of farting hamsters or a comprehensive list of entertainers that died during a live performance on teletext, and in that respect we have advanced as a civilisation. I’m not saying we should all go back to analogue teletext (even though I might already have done so in answer to a previous question), but we should at least acknowledge how teletext changed the world. I swear there’s a whole film, nay, 25-series documentary somewhere in that. If you're reading this, BBC, I am available for scriptwriting duties. (Ed- If they call you in, I can be your marauding idiotic agent a la Stephen Merchant in Extra's......"can we have some money for stationery please, that's a deal-breaker".)

What is your projects’ ultimate objective?

Ah, it is good that you can sense an underlying purpose to the teletext stuff! (Ed - it's a sixth sense, if anything, or seventh, if you include by ability to sniff out a bullshitter within a 1000 yard radius, it reeks in my world.)

The ultimate goal would be to ‘bring back’ analogue teletext to some extent, if not through traditional TV broadcast means then maybe museums and art galleries, the internet or even that secret underground Viewdata network I’m not supposed to tell anyone about under penalty of torture from the Secret Society of Teletext Elders. They meet at the disused radio tower on Seefachs hill when the teletext clock reads 03:03, 3 March to discuss plans for teletext world domination. But I’m not supposed to talk about it.

Failing that, I just want someone to look at a piece of teletext art and think it’s ‘pretty cool’. Because that’s what it’s all about, right? (Ed - Amen.)

You can check out Dan's great work at or follow him on twitter @illarterate!

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure there were many Sonic the Hedgehog drawings on Frame-It, but sadly none were mine. I could only draw a dodgy Mario... thing is, that's what he actually looks like now. Dodgy. Apparently.

    Incidentally, I saw an ad for Butcombe Beer at the Arsenal game at the weekend. Wonder if you drink that while wearing the #Arswig? (Think about it...)

    Cheers for the interview! Your blog looks fantastic, by the way. You have great taste... ;)


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