Perhaps the most ambitious videotex trial in the United States, Viewtron was a joint venture of Knight-Ridder newspapers, AT&T and other minor partners including Scripps-Howard and McClatchy newspapers.
     The partners formed Viewdata Corporation of America, which began market trials in Coral Gables, Fla., an upscale suburb of Miami, in 1980. The commercial service was launched in South Florida (Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties) on October 30, 1983. The emphasis was on consumer products, like weather, banking and shopping.
     News from Knight-Ridder's Miami Herald and the Associated Press was the heart of the service. Eight local schools provided neighborhoods news. Other items included local sports, police reports, news from local colleges and universities, neighborhood calendars and biographies of prominent locals.
     Viewtron was displayed on television sets through the use of Sceptre terminals, which were manufactured by AT&T and included a built-in 1,200-baud modem and infrared keyboard. 
     Pricing was a problem. To use the service, viewers had to buy the Sceptre Terminal. At launch, they cost $900 and were reduced to $600 when demand was soft. Further, a subscription in Miami cost $12 a month, plus long distance phone charges, if any. There also were additional charges for Hallmark Cards (electronic mail) of $2 per card or 50 cents for stationery. After May, 1984, the partners gave up trying to sell the Sceptre Terminals and changed the pricing system to be $39.95 a month including terminal rental.
     The company had predicted 5,000 subscribers by the end of the first year in operation. Only half that number was achieved with the company recording some $16 million in losses.
     Despite its meager success, Viewtron expanded to include all of Florida in 1984 and to other U.S. cities by 1985. At its height, Viewtron was operated in at least 15 cities by various newspaper companies: Miami, Philadelphia, San Jose, Detroit, Charlotte and St. Paul by Knight-Ridder and in Baltimore, Boston, Fort Worth, Kansas City, Seattle, New Orleans, Portland, Cleveland and Newark by other newspaper companies including Newhouse and Capital Cities.
     After an investment reportedly in excess of $50 million, Viewtron closed in 1986.

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