"Bildschirmtext," a videotex system: A network before the Internet

By Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

A life without the Internet is no longer conceivable today. The precursor to the Internet paved the way in 1977: the interactive online service "Bildschirmtext," or "BTX" for short. The system was operated by the Deutsche Bundespost (German Federal Post Office). However, BTX was not as successful as expected and was shut down in 2001.

Page from the Bildschirmtext (BTX) of the Deutsche Bundespost with a greeting from Federal Post Minister Kurt Gscheidle to the participants in the field trial (c. 1979)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

The Deutsche Bundespost presented BTX at the IFA in Berlin and the first field trials were launched in Berlin and Düsseldorf in 1980.

"IBM Series / 1" node computer (after 1976) by International Business Machines Corp. (IBM)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

In order to make the use of BTX available throughout Germany, the necessary infrastructure had to be set up. In 1981, the American IT company IBM was awarded the contract to develop the network.

Federal Post Minister Dr. Christian Schwarz-Schillig and project manager for "Bildschirmtext" at the Federal Post Ministry, Eric Danke during a press conference at the International Radio Exhibition (IFA) in Berlin (01.09.1983) by City-Press, (Herausgeber)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

After the first successful field trials, in 1981, it was decided that BTX should be officially launched nationwide in the autumn of 1983.

On September 1, 1983, at the IFA in Berlin, Federal Post Minister Dr. Christian Schwarz-Schilling launched the BTX service with the symbolic push of a button.

BTX modem "DBT-03 modem" for access to the Deutsche Bundespost's BTX network (ca. 1987) by Deutsche Bundespost, VertriebMuseum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

The Bundespost provided the connection to the BTX network, because initially, the service could only be used with a modem produced by the company.

However, the Bundespost had no influence over page content.

BTX page "Dial-in" (ca. 1984)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

BTX "MCT 26" television set (1984) by Loewe Opta GmbH (1964 - 1999)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

At first, BTX was available through a television.

But keyboards and printers could also be connected to many devices.

BTX decoder board for MCT 26 television set (1984) by Loewe Opta GmbH (1964 - 1999)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

Infrared remote control for BTX MCT 26 television set (1984) by Loewe Opta GmbH (1964 - 1999)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

BTX "TBT 03" keyboard for MCT 26 television set (ca. 1984) by Loewe Opta GmbH (1964 - 1999)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

BTX "PBT 03" color printer for MCT 26 television set (ca. 1984) by Loewe Opta GmbH (1964 - 1999)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

BTX page "Overview of Bildschirmtext" (ca. 1984)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

BTX offered many possibilities: users could monitor share prices, check their account balances, or book their next trip. The CEPT standard also allowed for many different display formats.

"BTX is here!" poster (1984) by Lintas Werbeagentur; Deutsche BundespostMuseum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

Although BTX devices were expensive to acquire, the Bundespost expected great success from the new online service.

The Bundespost tried to counter the low number of users with advertising measures.

"Bitel T 3210" multifunctional telephone (1986) by Siemens AGMuseum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

The introduction of MultiTels was another attempt to increase the number of users. The devices offered the possibility of using BTX and telephones simultaneously and could also be rented.

FeAp 90-2, MultiTel 21, Loewe Opta AG (1949 - 1964), since 1987, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Show lessRead more
"Commodore C 64 C" personal computer, Commodore Büromaschinen GmbH, 1986, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Show lessRead more
External BTX: Decoder Module II for Commodore C 64 C personal computer, Siemens AG (seit 1966), 1986, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Show lessRead more

When the personal computer was introduced in the early 1990s, BTX saw an increase in interest in Germany, because, with a corresponding decoder module, BTX could now be used on a PC.

Public BTX terminal (1986) by Standard Elektrik Lorenz AG (SEL) (1958 - 1993), Luigi Colani (Designer)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

To begin with, the Bundespost set up public BTX terminals as an advertising measure. They could mainly be found in banks, as online banking via BTX was used frequently.

Minitel "M1.G" (1988) by Telic AlcatelMuseum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

Renaming the system to "Datex-J" and focusing on the private user in the 1990s could not prevent the collapse of the online service. In 2001, BTX was shut down in the Federal Republic of Germany. The expensive equipment and the high usage costs were some of the factors behind the "failure." The French counterpart "Téletél," on the other hand, was successful, because the devices were given away by the French Post Office.

Credits: Story

Bildschirmtext. Das Netz vor dem Internet

Eine virtuelle Ausstellung der Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.

Kuratorin: Elke Schimanski

Alle Objekte aus dem Bestand der Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.

www.museumsstiftung.de

Quellen:
Bahr, Heinz: Bildschirmtext ist für alle da. Heidelberg 1988.

Bildschirmtext magazin für tele leser, Heft 2, 1980.

BTX Praxis 1983.

BTX Praxis Mai 1985.

BTX Praxis Januar 1987.

Danke, Eric: Die Entstehung eines neuen Mediums. BTX und die Anfänge der Online-Kommunikation. in Losse, Vera/Oestereich, Christopher(Hg.): Immer wieder Neues. Wie verändern Erfindungen die Kommunikation?. Heidelberg 2002, S.45-54.

Eisenbeis, Manfred/Henrich, Andreas/Marschall, Michael: Programm Mosaik 2. Handbuch für die Gestaltung von Bildschirmtext. Nürnberg 1985.

Hyner, Dirk/Schneider, Volker H.: Innovation ohne Diffusion?, in Losse, Vera/Oestereich, Christopher(Hg.): Immer wieder Neues. Wie verändern Erfindungen die Kommunikation?, S.135-S.140.

Schneider, Volker: Technikentwicklung zwischen Politik und Markt: Der Fall Bildschirmtext. Frankfurt/Main 1989.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps