1983’s answer to information overload? More information via the Viewtron! Courtesy of AT&T with the help of your TV and a phone line.


“The AT&T Tech Channel has another set of golden videos from the ‘80s - this time, they’re highlighting the Viewtron system which let people access information, news, play games and conduct online banking through a remote-controlled (infra-red) keyboard and connected via telephone modem to a TV set. One of the big hopes for the system was online shopping, but as this AT&T post notes, "one of the online shopping sites had only logged a paltry 11 direct orders.”

After viewing the video, I have an idea why it failed - did you see that the Cuchi Cuchi doll being offered on the online toy store? It cost $98! (and this was in 1983). Yikes!

AT&T says that the system got about 15,000 users and the service was expanded to about 15 cities up and down the East coast, but eventually folded after spending $50 million.

Maybe some of these ideas ended up being used in other services that became the Internet we all know and love, but at the time, this seemed cutting edge.

Amazingly, AT&T says that teletext and videotex systems still exist, that “you still see them in use on cable television, especially on local public access stations for broadcasting events and schedules.” Even the BBC is broadcasting their Ceefax teletext information via analog signal, AT&T says, but this service is scheduled to end in October 2012.“

AT&T Archives: Viewtron Introduction, from the Viewdata Corporation


Viewtron videotex service: A series of 30-second television spots produced for Viewtron in 1984. Viewstron was an online service operated by Knight-Ridder newspapers from 1982-1986 by U.S.

Online news sites took of in the mid 1990s, with the popularity of the world wide web, but the origins of online news can be traced to the early 1980s. In 1983, the Knight-Ridder newspaper group and AT&T launched a revolutionary experiment to bring people news on demand through their computers or television sets. The videotext service, called Viewtron was a forerunner of online news media … Had the service existed only 5 years later, it would have been at the edge of the then-new Internet … in May 1993, the San Jose Mercury News … was teh first newspaper to put virtually its entire content online in AOL. … the Mercury Center was one of AOL’s most heavily promoted content providers and no doubt contributed to AOL’s rapid growth.