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Welcome to viewdata.org.uk!

It's over 30 years since the GPO launched Prestel on the unsuspecting public.  Over the fifteen or so years of it's existence, it became everything that the Internet is today, and spawned an entire industry of competing and complimentary services, plus more than a few hobby based systems, not to mention a multitude of companies dedicated to supporting those publishing or using the services.  For the most part, outside some specialist applications, these have all now disappeared without trace.  Our aim here is to celebrate the heyday of this industry, and not let what was a revolutionary concept be totally forgotten.

Image "Prestel:room1982thumb.jpg"
Being on-line, 1982 style
We're especially disappointed that there was no celebration of the 30th anniversary; apparently nobody cares any more about such an important milestone in the history of "being on-line".  We appreciate that many people will consider Viewdata to have been a dead-end technology, but it laid the groundwork for much of what was to come.  Would the UK have become such a major player in the provision of on-line services were it not for the experience already gained by many companies in running consumer-facing online services?  Who knows, but it must have had an impact.

On viewdata.org.uk, we celebrate all aspects of Viewdata in the UK, and beyond.  Obviously we're concentrating on it's heyday of the 1980s, however that doesn't stop us from covering current systems too!

We have screenshots, brochures, memories and stories, downloads, and even interactive access to demonstrations.  We plan access to systems that are still running, and emulations of past services.

We've got examples from commercial systems (Prestel being the biggest) and from non-commercial and hobbyist systems; we're not fussy! We would especially like to add information from systems which were not generally publicly accessible, as those are the services most likely to have vanished without trace.


Please feel free to contribute anything you have!  If you were an IP on Prestel or elsewhere, and have a copy of your pages from the time, we're able to republish them in an interactive format.   Individual screenshots are still welcome, of course, as are brochures and other documents.  Old backup tapes of entire systems would be especially welcome, however we're also very interested in publishing your memories and experiences of being involved with, or just using, viewdata systems.

Our main hope is for the discs from, or a backup of, the Prestel computers themselves to surface.  It seems that when they were finally switched off, nothing was officially retained.  Surely somebody took home a disc or tape?

To write privately, the contact page gives our details, or you may wish to contribute to our forum where you can reminisce in public.

We're also happy to exchange links with other relevant websites!  Just Contact us with the details!


Latest News

17th February 2016 rob A couple of links to very interesting videos from the BT Film Archive have been added to the Videos page.

8th August 2015 rob Back in the mists of time, (well, 1988..) I recorded one of my Prestel sessions to disc.  This was the first day of the new off-peak time charges, and many people were upset and leaving.  This session included my checking of emails, replying to a couple, and then browsing the chatlines.  Through the magic of emulation, and a bit of BBC BASIC, you now have the opportunity to watch me doing this all over again.  This is how we really used to use Prestel! See the Videos page to view it!  And PS: yes, I know more updates are long overdue!

17th January 2015 rob A long log time ago, in a world far far away, a young rodent by the name of Micromouse kept the nascent generation of online addicts informed and entertained by his news and opinion column.  A "blogger" before such terms were invented.. We won't mention the Prince Philip Prestel Hack.. As time marched on, so did Sqweeeks, becoming a well known, indeed world renowned, and highly respected IT Journalist and commentator.   On 12th January, Steve Gold died from complications arising from a heart operation, just days before his 59th Birthday.  He was a friend, and a great chap.  He will be sorely missed.  A memorial site is here.

21st October 2012 rob Wiki version is now available here although woefully incomplete.  Help and contributions are more than welcome!

9th July 2012 rob A little bit of breaking news from 1990 (Thanks Ant)

7th July 2012 rob We have moved site to a new host; if you see this, it's working! Phew..

26th May 2012 rob Blimey, an update! Just a note about cookies, sorry!

13th July 2011 Rob A new page and some new documents - read a little about CitiService, the link to the stock market!

18th March 2011 Rob Merry Red Nose Day!  Added two new old leaflets to the Silicon Village page.

9th February 2011 Rob Added a set of nice Prestel leaflets from September 1984.  

5th February 2011 Rob Created an overdue introduction page for Suppliers, and included some pages from a trade directory listing various suppliers.  Also added a page with brochures for Tandata, one of the major player in domestic hardware!

24th January 2011 Rob Added an experimental RSS Feed to the main website to keep you updated with the latest news.  Please let me know if there are any problems with this through the Contact page.

22nd January 2011 Rob Added a section on Healthdata, including a complete copy of their Offline Database! Thanks, David.

7th November 2010 Rob Added a Prestel Directories page, and added the first (of many!) directory to it.  See the breadth of information available!

31st October 2010 Rob Gosh is it that long since the last update? I'll have to get the scanner connected.. I've added another YouTube Video that mentions, and shows some pages from, Prestel.  It's an American item, but still interesting!

Older News



10 Mar 2010, 15:22
Ayo George
15 Sep 2010, 16:00
I had the privilege of working in the Prestel Indexing Unit which was based on Hills Road Cambridge in 1980/81.
22 Mar 2011, 07:28
I currently work for an online travel agent in the UK. As a result I have had to work with viewdata over the past few months.

I cannot understand why somebody would create a website to 'remember' this technology. The fact that some people still use this system is amazing and does not say a lot for such people.
22 Mar 2011, 08:00
Hi Brian.
If you have a look around the site, you will see that I'm concentrating on what was happening back in the 1980s, arguably the hay-day of viewdata, and long before the World Wide Web came to importance. It was all new and exciting, and there was a definite camaraderie going on. The technology was pushed to it's limits, and many friends were made. This is why we look back fondly on it.

Obviously, as I acknowledge above, viewdata still has it's uses, and users, even today, but it's a shadow of it's former self, and the few travel systems I have seen have been pitiful in their implementation.

The best comparison I can think of is to say Prestel, especially Micronet, was like Facebook is today. I'm sure people will remember that fondly, in years to come.
D Morgan
19 Mar 2012, 17:54
Brian I can understand you not enjoying the use of such a system today, But without viewdata prestel and micronet and ordinary people being convinced to buy what were at the time, very expensive modems and computers the entire of the networked computer and internet era we experience today might not have occurred at all, this site remembers a technology vital to the history of this country, What Rob does here is an amazing job of preserving a tenuous but precious link to a very important part of computing history, which more than often seems to have dissappeared as it often seems to have fallen between the gaps as concerns preservation. Should we have thrown away all the model T fords ? once we had finished using them ? computing history is important to preserve.
08 May 2012, 13:39
I just attended a very interesting presentation about a new gallery at the Science Museum opening in Autumn 2014, given at the West London Branch of the BCS. I think the page with the details on should be public:


Rob - you might like to drop Tilly an email to see if she's interested in including any of your site in the exhibit. Of course, in my view, Viewdata formed a critical stage in moving to the world as it exists today.
Tony M
02 Oct 2013, 16:38
I was there in the begining, with a private viewdata system, first Mullard Ltd then Philips UK.
See a Philips internal article at
http://www.epepnet.co.uk/yourarticles/Other%20Items/1990-isaNewsMoviesROCCt oVAX%5B2%5D.pdf
Viewdata led the way to the Internet. It led the way for the GPO monopoly of modem connection (thru hard wired modem then their famour PO96 jack plug) to be broken. It led the way for TV and monitor interfaces to be developed. Remember SCART? And it introduced email to business.
Peter Churchyard
26 Jan 2016, 15:54
Hi, with my trusty ZX Spectrum and the 1200/75 modem I used Prestel to play the MUD Shades. I certainly ran up a big phone bill one week!
John Bone
31 May 2016, 11:51
Tribute to Stave Gold "MicroMouse".

John Bone
Clive Young
29 Dec 2016, 10:18
Came across this by accident while surfing. Brings back many memories. I worked at DTI and joined the Club 403 unit in 1984, just after it started I think. DTI put a lot of money into Club 403. I kept track of spend, among other things. I spent a lot of time travelling to see Peter Young at Birmingham P & M to see how things were going. I also remember going to see a Club 403 sponsored footie match at Aston Villa against Coventry I recall, to spread the word, - 0-0. Anyone remember that?
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