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TV Wrap - A requiem for Aertel and Page 220

The service is being shuttered by RTÉ, so we remember its heyday.

Page 220 of Aertel.
Page 220 of Aertel.
Image: Back Page Football Twitter

FAREWELL THEN, AERTEL, even if most of us thought you died years ago.

But you can now go proudly to your grave as one of the only (somewhat) instant news platforms to be left untouched by the wicked hand of Russian disinformation and the pitiful banter of betting corporations.

In case you’ve been living under a rock or, erm, have been relying on Aertel for your news, it was announced last night that the teletext service has been scythed down in a round of RTÉ cuts.

It’s an appropriate time to gather around for the requiem, so hit the ‘hold’ button and linger with the memories it has left us.

Sport was found on page 200, with the football headlines – and a direction to a phone number for the FAI, should you need one in an emergency – on page 220.

Putting the football scores on 221 meant wearing down those numbers on the remote – particularly during the Premiership games only shown on Sky. This was also the page on which Irish goalscorers were shaded in green with those sent off written in red.

Page 222 was just about the only way to follow League of Ireland clubs in Europe, as page numbers churned in the top left-hand corner above garish, 8-bit ads.

Space demanded Aertel essentially popularised the phrase ‘cross-channel’, and its stories were pithy, blunt and largely definitive.

Away from sport there were also horoscopes, lotto numbers, bad jokes and the excruciating scrolling cinema times. Catching the right listing demanded the kind of patient, attentive stake-out skills found in the David Attenborough cameraman forced to spend three weeks in a jungle just to get a two-second shot of a particular type of frog.

Of course Aertel was clunky and occasionally infuriating to use, but it compares well to some of Ireland’s more modern methods of communication, which now seems to include the expression on Mr. Tayto’s face.

But as with most nostalgia trips, it’s not the dodgy tech that we miss but the simpler, vanished time for which it stood: a lovely, liminal era of on-demand news before news discovered the size of the demand.

Following sport and news today can be kind of exhausting: the sheer pace at which it unspools has come to colonise more and more of our daily lives.

In contrast, Aertel now seems like the last grand era of compartmentalisation. You’d come home from school and read the headlines, and then you might not check it again until the scores from the Champions League games not presented by Packie Bonner on TV3 started rolling in.

Now it’s almost impossible not to pay attention to the news’ frenzied pace.

The main difference between then and now is one of space.

While Aertel was restricted to an almost farcical lack of room – and thus could only limit itself to cold, verifiable truth and headlines of no more than nine words – the yawning maw of modern media can never be overfed.

Hence we today find ourselves flicking through an endless deluge of content, much of it consisting of empty transfer gossip, outrage both manufactured and calibrated, and a chain of someone’s response to someone else’s response to an original response to something.

It’s all there, and it is there to keep us all scrolling slavishly like the vapid prisoners we have become, chained up in prisons we have built from our own passions. 

Aertel didn’t print most of this stuff as, well, they had to keep some space for that FAI phone number. 

So as Aertel is switched off, this column remember it as a technology that occasionally allowed us to switch off too.

 Good night, sweet (low-res) prints.

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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