CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

Telidon - ‘knowledge at your fingertips!’

The Story

Imagine using your television to communicate with the world. That's the vision for Telidon, a Canadian adaptation of two-way television technology that is making international headlines. Canada is probing the system's commercial possibilities, and showing it to the public. As we see in this clip, Telidon is being pitched as a delightful way to read Peanuts cartoons, get sports scores and local weather forecasts, do banking, shop for a house, and even buy tickets for hot new movies like Rocky II!

Medium: Television
Program: Newsday
Broadcast Date: Feb. 13, 1981
Guest(s): Angela Bergoise
Reporter: Paul Barr
Duration: 2:10
Peanuts: United Feature Syndicate Inc.

Did You know?

• Telidon was just one of many "videotex" systems introduced in the early 1980s. In 1979, the British Post Office (now British Telecom) launched Viewdata, a system that connected televisions to remote computer databases via an add-on terminal and telephone lines. The name was later changed to Prestel. But the system was unpopular, since sets cost three times as much as regular televisions. As well, there were additional telephone charges.

• In France, the very similar Minitel system proved much more popular in the early 1980s. The system was subsidized by France Télécom, which pushed the system by offering Minitel terminals instead of distributing phonebooks. Newspapers and other commercial interests began using the system, but it was the advent of sexually-themed chat lines that propelled it to popularity. Most hotel rooms had Minitel terminals, and most companies (and call-girls) boasted their own Minitel numbers.

• Back in Canada, Telidon was a hot topic in 1980. Department of Communications spokesperson Douglas Parkhill praised Telidon's possibilities on Don Harron's Morningside. But Ideas producer Max Allen complained that for all its potential, Telidon had turned into nothing more than a department store shopping catalogue.

• All videotex systems were relatively primitive by internet standards of a quarter-century later. They were often slow, or led the user to "dead ends" and stale content. They also featured blocky graphics, unwieldy menu systems and information screens that couldn't scroll.
• By 1981 most businesses and consumers had lost interest in Telidon, and the system was considered a commercial failure.

• In 1978 Bell Canada began offering a telephone-based packet-switching network of its own, called Datapac. Datapac linked remote computers over telephone lines and became the nation's standard for transmitting data. It was one of the world's first commercial packet-switched telephone services, though it was used almost exclusively by large corporations.
• There have been five Rocky movies (1976-1990) in which the plucky Philadelphia boxer, played by Sylvester Stallone, overcomes adversity.


Inventing the Internet Age more