A sort of vague precursor to the internet, the idea of sending text via a small, unused bit of the analogue television system's bandwidth dates back to 1972, when BBC and ITV engineers started experimenting with the idea.
ITV's Teletext service went live as "Oracle" in 1974 for a select group of with-it viewers. Unlike the BBC service, it carried ads, so you could keep up with the news and book your 10 days in Tenerife while you watched Crossroads or Pipkins. Some may remember its advertising slogan: "Page the Oracle".
The franchise was taken over by Teletext in 1993. Its owners, the Daily Mail, has said the news service will end in January 2010, though the more profitable travel stuff will soldier on, presumably until the switch to digital is complete in 2012.
Ceefax/Teletext "art" made out of blocks of coloured pixels is just one of the things the public may miss; newsrooms will regret the loss of a no-nonsense, fast and succinct running news list.