videotex, communications service that is linked to an adapted television receiver or a personal computer by telephone lines, cable television facilities, or the like, and that allows a user to retrieve and display alphanumeric and pictorial information at home. Originally, videotex systems were limited to menu-oriented applications, in which information is selected from hierarchically arranged menus and displayed in fixed frames, but later technologies allowed greater interactivity and scrolled the information across the viewing screen. There are two forms of videotex systems. One-way teletext systems permit the selection and display of such general information as airline schedules, traffic conditions, and traditional newspaper content. Viewdata systems are more specific and provide for two-way, or interactive, communication. Specific questions may be researched by accessing the appropriate database: e.g., bank balances can be verified and bills paid, merchandise can be ordered from retail merchants and catalogs, and travel and hotel reservations can be made.
In Japan and Europe, videotex systems became well-established and were government-operated; in North America, systems were developed by newspaper publishers (called electronic news) and banks. With the growing popularity of the personal computer, on-line database services became more significant, especially in the United States. These made the home user part of an interactive network and provide electronic mail and bulletin board facilities in addition to traditional videotex services. Videotex was ultimately superseded by the development of graphical web browsers and of the World Wide Web, though some services continue to be offered; Internet access gave the user the means to interact with services and facilities worldwide.
See A. F. Alber, Videotex/Teletext: Principles and Practices (1985); P. L. Mothersole and N. W. White, Broadcast Data Systems (1990); A. F. Alber, Interactive Computer Systems: Videotex and Multimedia (1993).