The plan had been to have at least two full weeks prior to launch day where Teletext was edited and updated as if we were already on the air.
Typically, the pressure washed over me. I didn't share the stress - fun as it was, this was a job, like the other jobs I'd had. Let's chalk it up to the innocence of youth, or the fact I was a real chill guy back then, but I refused to grasp what a big deal it all was, or how much money was at stake for people. Or the reputations that were on the line.
Or that we would have the ire of the entire country bearing down at us; after all, we were the people who had killed Oracle, a national treasure.
Our predecessor had been part of the tapestry of the UK since the mid-70s. Imagine if someone pushed David Attenborough under a bus, and replaced him with a guy called Divad Uttenborough, who kept clicking his fingers and gyrating his hips, and we were all told: "This man will be your Attenborough now".
That's what it was like.
Still, forget the public debut of the multi-million pound media organisation I worked for, forget what was at stake, or that we were Divad Uttenborough; the most important thing at that point was ensuring I got to have a nice Christmas.
I'd worked once before on the 26th, when I was at Ladbrokes, and ended up having lunch in McDonald's with a tramp. Depressing scarcely covers it, and I wasn't about to risk having to share my large fries for a second time.
Nevertheless, I was willing to concede the battle of New Year's Day.
They insisted it was all hands on deck, that we were expected to come in and man the phones, for the anticipated deluge of complaints. I was fine with that. Hangover or not, January 1st is usually a nothing day: it's like hanging around after everyone else has left the party. It has a bleak, lamentable quality, like a tinselled corpse... not so much New Year's Day as "Now What?" Day.
I'd been up late the night before, of course. Not only to ring in the new year with friends, but because at the stroke of midnight Oracle closed... disappearing into a dark tunnel, with one last flourish of justified barbs aimed at it's successor. That night, the chimes of Big Ben were a death knell.
There was a brief pause, before Oracle was replaced by the main index page of Teletext. The first thing anybody saw was my graphic of a hand holding a remote control, and the words - which I'd written out - welcoming viewers to this new epoch.
I wish I could say that I felt excited or proud, but I'd had my work shown on the Wembley Stadium scoreboard, and in Ladbrokes betting shops, and on Ladbrokes old Oracle pages. I was sort of used to it by that point. Yes, it was a nice enough drawing - albeit using technology that was, even then, archaic - but I didn't really feel any sense of pride; it probably only took me about five minutes.
Obviously, Digitiser was my first stop: we were on ITV those days, before we got shunted to Channel 4 a few months later, as Teletext attempted to appease the UK's unimpressed TV regulators.
The first edition of Digitiser was slight on actual content - graphics of Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog took up at least half the news pages, another quarter of which were swallowed by hype, and a final quarter with some story about a "virtual reality" TV show presented by Craig Charles. Our first reviews - Chuck Rock on the Super NES and Kirby's Dreamland on the Gameboy - were similarly slender on words, barely a page and a half each.
Only one letter - written by me, but attributed to a friend of mine, James Murray - went out, along with a page of requests for more letters. One page of tips - probably stolen from CVG - and the all-formats games chart rounded out the day. Well, along with a lot of adverts for travel services, as was Teletext's way.
Looking back at the few pages of Teletext that are preserved online, I think the launch was remarkably bold.
I can't take complete credit for that - I was simply following the brief of my employers - but there's no doubt that the service was considerably more visual than either its predecessor, or main rival, Ceefax. It appeared friendlier, warmer. I'm sure I worked enormously hard to get the graphics ready in time for launch, but it honestly never felt like hard work: drawing came natural to me.
It was the writing I was struggling with.
I'd never anticipated becoming a writer, and so Digitiser felt like more of a slog at the beginning. I knew I wasn't in the same league as my co-writer. I wasn't bothered by it, it never made me feel insecure, but I worked hard to improve. It drove me on to be better, to keep up with Tim. Generating words wasn't an issue - I wrote fast and copiously, and still do - but making them good was the challenge.
I was still finding my own voice, my own style. What I wanted to say with how I wrote. In some respects, I still am; if I was still writing about the same sort of things 24 years on, it would indicate that something has gone horribly wrong with my life.
Still... our first day on air managed to establish something of a tradition for Digitiser: upsetting people, and then continuing to upset them rather than apologise.
The office was chaotic as I entered on the morning of January 1st.
Phones were ringing, people were shouting across the office, but there was a sort of euphoria floating around, like that feeling you get after you pop a really good zit.
I remember one of the sub-editors - one of the more laid-back sub-editors, an outspoken, Northern, Roy Orbison lookalike, who we shall call Roger Wilko - offering me his hand for a high five as I passed him. Inexplicably, I simply tickled his palm.
The second I sat down, calls started being transferred to my phone. A lot of those calls that day were a case of dealing with the sheer abundance of confused pensioners who couldn't get to grips with the new service; things had moved around, or vanished, or been replaced.
We were all armed with a list of all the new sections, and the pages they appeared on, to deal with this eventuality, and steer the bewildered around the service. I don't know why they couldn't have just kept everything where it was, but I suppose things needed to be shifted around to make room for the anal sex tips.
There wasn't a minute that day where we weren't on the phone to viewers. And the majority of the calls we received were from irate Amiga owners.
On our first day on air we'd mentioned we'd be featuring console reviews on weekdays, with PC and arcade reviews at the weekend.
That format didn't last long admittedly, chiefly because it ignored the fact that there might not be enough console games to fill the reviews during the week. We never specifically said we weren't going to be covering the Amiga, but that was clearly implicated by its omission.
We did what we could do: we had PCs at work - and Tim was working hard on blagging himself a free one. I had the Super NES, Mega Drive, Game Boy and Game Gear at home. And we got to bunk off work once a week to hang out at the Trocadero arcade near Picadilly Circus.
One thing we couldn't do was Amiga reviews. Neither of us had an Amiga, and we didn't really want to try and get an Amiga. I was excited about consoles, Tim was excited about free PCs... the Amiga was, very clearly, on its way out. It was at the end of its life cycle, and the hassle that getting one would've entailed simply didn't seem worth the effort. The previous year's launch of the Amiga 1200 felt like desperation, and wholly irrelevant in the face of Sega, Nintendo, and Microsoft.
The only people who were excited about the Amiga at that point were the several million or so existing Amiga owners who tuned in to that first day of Digitiser, expecting us to continue the good work of our predecessor, in covering their system.
The phones began to ring, and just didn't stop. Angry, entitled nerd after angry entitled nerd called us. Where now would they get their Amiga reviews, if not through the medium of teletext? Why do things have to change? Here are a load of meaningless figures about how popular the Amiga is!
The following day, the letters began to flood in, and - like the phone calls - they didn't stop. Oddly, they didn't even stop when we started putting the letters on air, along with our responses along the lines of "The Amiga is a dead system" and "Stop being paranoid, insecure idiots" and "All Amiga owners smell".
It's a miracle Digitiser ever became as popular as it did, given the way we used to insult anyone who wrote in.
Here's where things start getting difficult, where I start butting up against the outer walls of my memory (it was almost 24 years ago, so I hope you'll forgive me).
After weeks of this - maybe a month or two - we got an Amiga from somewhere... I don't know if it was from Commodore, or Teletext paid for it (unlikely), but we got an Amiga. We got that Amiga to shut up the Amiga owners, so we could put up an announcement saying we were going to be reviewing Amiga games, so that they stopped calling and writing, because it was getting beyond a joke.
I remember unboxing the Amiga 1200 on my living room floor. I don't ever remember actually playing on it, however.
As it transpired - who'd have thought?! - the Amiga was a dying format, and consoles were the future of gaming. Commodore went bankrupt the following year, after the disastrous launch of its hilarious CD32 monstrosity. The brand went through a handful of different owners, before vanishing with a lamentable, barely audible hiss of bottom gas.
And that's the most important thing to take from this instalment of the story: that Digitiser was always, without fail, one hundred percent, right...
GAMES OF MY YEARS: DIGITISER - Part One by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: 16-BIT - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: 16-BIT - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ARCADES - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ARCADES - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: SEGA MASTER SYSTEM - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: SEGA MASTER SYSTEM - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: ATARI - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: ATARI - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ZX SPECTRUM PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ZX SPECTRUM PART TWO by Mr Biffo