Among the latest developments in telecommunications are viewdata systems which use both telephone and television. The extract below is from a brochure advertising “Prestel”.


(This article was written in 90’s)

Prestel is the first of a new kind of information service. It is currently being used by thousands of customers in Britain and overseas, large businesses, small firms, colleges, farms, hotels, high street shops and in a growing number of private homes. They find Prestel a quick and very easy way to get the information they need every day, as well as offering powerful two-way communications.


An adapted television set and an ordinary telephone line link Prestel customers to an enormous range of computer-held information. To call up an item from the thousands available, you simply press the numbered buttons on a keypad the size of a pocket calculator. The information on Prestel is organised in ‘pages’ – a page is a screenful of information.

As soon as you ask for a particular page, the computer sends it instantly down the telephone line and it appears on the screen of your set. Prestel can store hundreds of thousands of pages, but finding the information is easy. There are special index pages on Prestel to help you, and also printed directories.

You can learn how to use the system in a few minutes without any special training. The information on Prestel is supplied by hundreds of independent organisations called Information Providers, who are in direct contact with the central computer and edit their pages to keep them constantly up-to-date. Prestel is, therefore, an important medium for fast-changing information like foreign exchange rates, the availability of airline seats, or the latest sports results. It can, of course, bring you business information, the latest news, detailed guides to the countries of the world, office space to rent, theatre and cinema guides, and more.

The first group of people to take to Prestel in a big way were travel agents, and there are now over 200 tour operators, ferry companies and airlines on Prestel detailing fares, timetables and up-to-date availability, all at the press of a button. Such information can be very valuable when planning holidays and business trips. With its vast range of topics, Prestel can be thought of as an electronic publishing medium.

But it is more than that. As well as receiving information, users can send messages to each other on a special computer. They can also send messages to Information Providers using Response Pages. This allows them to order goods via Prestel, book a hotel room, or reserve a seat at the theatre.


A. Mark the statements as True (T) or False (F).

1. At present, only people in Britain have access to Prestel.

2. News on Prestel is always up-to-date.

3. The first users of Prestel were airline companies.

4. Prestel is not onîy an electronic publishing medium.
1. What devices are necessary for a Prestel customer?
2. How can you call up a piece of information on Prestel?
3. What helps you find information on Prestel easily?
4. Where does Prestel obtain information from?
5. What kind of information can you get from Prestel? (Give two examples.)
6. How can you book a hotel room using Prestel?

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