The original version of the text below appeared on ChunkyText - the official teletext service of Chunky Fringe - at Digitiser Live, on 20 July 2019. The full service is still available for you to view - this article can be found on page 106, while images of each screen are archived at the end of this page.

The Story Of Super Page 58

"Chris Bell's website is about something called Digitiser. I'm not sure what that is, but his links page is good - it looks like a real website."

This was the first thing that was ever written about Super Page 58 - one of the very earliest Digitiser fansites - in December 1997.

Those ever so slightly flummoxed words came from the classmate at uni who was assigned to review it as part of an assignment.

Super Page 58 started out as a quick university assignment, you see - the whole class had to make their own site.

I had to review someone else's. No idea whose or what it was like. Or whether it's still online nearly 22 years later.

22 years. Crikey. Like anyone ever saw that coming! Certainly not me: I didn't even think to tell Digi it was online!

It was my sister who thought me having a Digitiser website was worth telling Digitiser about.

After she'd written to tell them, Biffo emailed me. That was quite a shock to see in my inbox. The man was practically a hero of mythological legend. Yet here he was, writing to me.

My website was out in the wild now. One mention on Digi later, and, well - my destiny was set with it. I had to keep it running.

The irony of this was that I'd only ever written a letter to Digitiser once, all the way back in the spring of 1994.

I wasn't part of any community at this point. The letter I had printed was written defending Digi for the flack they'd been getting as "Sega-sceptics".

The Mega Drive was old and struggling to keep up with the times, I wrote, especially compared to the SNES. In typical Digi style, they completely disagreed with me in reply.

I was always immensely grateful for the positive mentions the site would get on Digi from time to time.

I never went asking for plugs, so it made me "laugh" when I received a livid email from an alt.digitiser regular lambasting me for sending newbies to them via my links page, because I surely must have begged Digi for mentions.

He was quite het up about it. I put a disclaimer on the link to the newsgroup after that...

Because of its accidental origins, I'd never really had a plan or target for what I wanted to do with Super Page 58. As a result, I let Digi's readers steer that for me.

People emailed me fairly regularly, and many would ask for certain content. I did what I could - but I didn't have a TV card on my PC to save teletext images, and there was concern among the fansite community about copyright infringement anyway.

The one thing that stood out head and shoulders above other content requests was a desire for a Man Diary archive - they'd never been saved anywhere before.

So many people asked for it in the end, that I duly obliged.

As a consequence of not having the kit on my machine to save it, I took to transcribing the Man Diaries by hand - then painstakingly typing them up later. I even used graph paper to map out the newer Digi characters, then recreated them in Paint Shop Pro.

That took some dedication!

As Super Page 58 grew and I added more content, it began to attract more and more attention. Not all of it welcome.

In early 2001 I received a belligerently-worded legal email from the absurdly double-surname-named lawyer for the publishers of the Bluffer's Guide books.

What is now the "Do You See?" Digi encyclopaedia used to be called the Bluffer's Guide To Digi. Apparently I was a Bad Man who sought to profit from the Bluffer's Guide name. Scandalous!

2001 was a significant year for Digi. It had been enjoying something of a golden period: The Snakes and Mr T were riding high, and the Digitiser Donkey was making an impression on the letters page.

Which was great. Except: I didn't get to see much of it. My family was moving - Mum had cancelled the phone in readiness, and my internet access with it. We didn't even move for another six months.

And there stopped the regular site updates...

Site updates ended in the summer of 2001, even though I got my internet access back the following January.

The reason? Digigate had happened. You know the story by now - suffice to say, the Digitiser that was on the air now was a sad shadow of its former self. There were no funnees to record.

Teletext Ltd had claimed Digi's humour "excluded" people, when in fact the reverse was true. By removing it they themselves excluded people. I couldn't bring myself to read Digi again until the end of 2002.

Just before Digigate took place, I'd started a new job, and had a work email account for the first time. Offline for months at home, one of the first things I did was to email Biffo.

The timing was impeccable - he told me what was going on, and of Digi's uncertain future. When the true extent was clear, he asked me with a heavy heart to take Super Page 58 offline to help save Digi.

That evening I unplugged my internetless PC, took it round a friend's house, and used their phoneline to close the site.

It's a funny thing, grieving for a Teletext gaming section that isn't as good as it used to be. It sounds so trivial when you put it like that.

But we know what Digi meant to fans, and the grief I experienced post-Digigate for it was real. I couldn't go near, and had to forget about it.

So it was a shock to receive an email from Biffo in November 2002, as unexpected as that first one in 1998, announcing that Digi was back.

Digi was back. Slowly at first, but it was true. And come its 10th anniversary, and a perfect tribute from Alex Garland, it was in ruder health than ever. Yes, definitely ruder...

Part of the reason for this, of course, was that it was ending.

Pushed too far too many times by Teletext bosses, Biffo had decided enough was enough. Digi had completed 10 years on air, and its humour and personality had been restored. It was the right time to bow out.

Digi came to a glorious close in March 2003. But not before Biffo had "marked" the occasion - onscreen thanks to a certain "worm", and off it with his leaving drinks.

I felt honoured to be invited along, and overcoming a fair amount of social anxiety to do so, had the best time that night. The next day? Not so much!

The pub only sold anonymous beer - in plain "strong, medium, and weak" varieties. I've stuck to spirits ever since...

It was brilliant to meet Biffo in person, and so many fellow fans. It gave another perspective to Digi, actually talking and joking about such a niche thing with real people in a social setting.

And, it was a shock for me to see how much they appreciated Super Page 58.

When you've worked on something so remote from its readers, you don't get a sense of how popular it is until you meet them. I guess the same was true for Biffo with Digi.

Post-Digi, I always intended to keep the site online, even it wasn't to be updated again, as a public service for all those who wanted it.

And, apart from a blip when I changed ISPs around 2006, it did, in one place or another.

That's where I expected it to stay - dormant; a relic of a bygone era. But unbeknownst to me, more than 10 years after Digi ended, Biffo was planning a comeback...

The impossible had happened. Digitiser was back as a going concern on the internet, with Mr Biffo at the helm once more.

What could I do but come out of retirement and start Super Page 58 up again to cover it? Public service, and all that - the demand was clearly there.

After various abortive attempts over the years, I finally rebooted and redesigned the site in February 2018. Working on it since then has been a joyous - if exhausting! - experience.

I honestly never thought I'd be updating Super Page 58 ever again. To be doing it now, regularly, with it growing to become better than it's ever been, is quite head-spinning to think about.

And so, finally, we came to Digitiser Live. The natural, insane, conclusion for all that had gone before.

Thanks for all your support over the years. I hope you enjoyed Chunky Fringe. I'm sure you enjoyed Digi Live - and being among your fellow fans. We had a brilliant time, didn't we?

One last thing: why is it called Super Page 58 when teletext pages are 3 digits?

Because your daddy told me to call it that, of course!

Not really - it's an old Digi trope where things were described as SUPER <THING> <NUMBER>. And that's all the story of that.

Chris Bell, July 2019


The original screens from the Chunky Text version of this page are below, courtesy of Alistair Cree, the excellent gent behind the service. Click to enlarge.

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Do you know of any important moments from the annals of Digi history that have been omitted? If so, then mail me (superpage58@gmail.com) right now, man. Credit will be duly given for anything that gets put up.

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