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Internet on your TV

With ONdigital I remember they launched an email client first (onMail) that had a dongle that plugged into the STB with a keyboard remote. There was a software update than enabled the guide button on the remote which was used for Onrequest and Onmail. They never launched a EPG within the Ondigital boxes, instead relying on MHEG Teletext/ONview guides that took ages to load. i wonder if the onNet pages are on

The Sega Dreamcast had a web browser back when it launched which was my first experience with browsing the internet on the TV. The PlanetWeb browser it used wasn't built into the console, and had to be loaded off a separate disc like a game.

Didn't Sky also had something similar with talk21 and open?

I'm yet to have experienced the ONmail stuff, I don't know much about it, but it makes sense to look at it, given it ties all this together.

Trouble is, that MHEG stuff you mention, that'll sadly all be gone now, unless somebody happens to have a mux dump that contained it, which seems fairly unlikely these days. Would've been nice to have been able to bring that back too. Also, having used some MHEG apps on older ONdigital boxes (after they went bust), the dialup boxes almost felt a bit like that. Slower than the MHEG, and obviously recognisable to anybody who ever used dialup, but still a similar experience of waiting for the thing to render.

The ONnet web content is partially archived on's Wayback Machine, that's how I got hold of the pieces of web page to display them on my box, but there are sadly large pieces (most obviously images) missing, so it's quite incomplete. Likewise the Bush internet portal, it's sort of there, but with chunks missing. Could perhaps be reassembled by hand, but would take somebody who's good at art to recreate it accurately, and there's not a lot of source material to recreate it from.

The Dreamcast stuff isn't quite my scene personally, but what is interesting is that they too have been using the methods I used to get these boxes online for some years now, to play online games and use the Dreamcast's browser, via the dialup modem (as the broadband adapters are now expensive and hard to find), which is pretty cool.

Sky did apparently have an email portal via BT and Open..., which I hadn't been previously aware of, though again it would've suffered a similar fate to the MHEG applications on ONdigital in terms of whether it could be brought back. I do have a couple of Open.../Sky keyboards, but as Sky never had a web browser on their boxes it had always made me wonder how useful they would've been. I guess email would be one big use of them, that'd make sense (to whatever extent people ever actually used set top boxes for email at least).

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Internet on your TV

Since my previous (now a bit old and neglected) thread about reviving set top boxes seemed to gather interest, I thought it might be nice to do the same for their internet-enabled counterparts whilst I'm taking a break from the main part of the project.

So I did. Remember the Bush Internet TV boxes? or ONdigital's own ONnet service? I wanted to see how they looked back in the day - there are surprisingly few screenshots online - so I set up a fake phone line, a local server, and argued with Linux for 12 hours or so, and...


* worked! Eventually.

The Bush box can freely browse, to the extent you'd expect a slightly dodgy 20 year old embedded web browser to be able to browse (which, it turns out, isn't very great). I wouldn't suggest anybody does, but it functions about as well as it ever would've, minus the broad availability of Geocities-class websites to view on it.

The ONnet box sadly can't freely browse (yet), it seems to require initial registration with ONdigital's back-end system, which... erm, hasn't existed for well over 15 years, so that's a bit tricky. In the meantime I've bodged it to show what it would've looked like (as best I can) by redirecting the initial registration setup page it expects to a slightly modified copy of an archived ONnet homepage from around 2000.

Unfortunately neither service's content pages are especially well archived, so they're not quite as "just like it was back in the day", but it's a nice taste of roughly more-or-less kinda-sorta what it would've looked like.