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I suspect that many people these days would ask "what's the Minitel?" if you mentioned the word in polite conversation.
Those of us who have been in this technology game for two or three decades however, will be able to answer them. I suspect many of the "don't knows" will be surprised to find out just how revolutionary this device was in its day.
Back in the 1980s, when the rest of the world was thumbing through huge, heavy cumbersome wads of dead-tree flesh and ink, whenever they wanted to look up a telephone number -- the French had this information available at the press of a button.
Yes, they had an national online network that reached almost every home -- long before the Net was even on the horizon.
And the device that made this all possible was the Minitel -- a small terminal consisting of a keyboard and screen which hooked up to your phone and phoneline.
Perhaps even more astounding than the fact that the French were so visionary in the first place, is the fact that these devices have still been in use, up to 30 years later.
However, this weekend, the French will be pulling the plug on this magnificent and forward-thinking use of technology.
The Minitel network will fall silent -- effectively replaced by the Net that we all know and use today.
The idea for the Minitel was first mooted way back in the 1970s -- when I was first playing around with these new-fangled microprocessor things and many of Aardvark's readers were probably still in short-pants.
The first actual device was commissioned in 1982 and acted solely as a telephone directory service -- but plenty of companies saw the potential and started delivering other information and entertainment services through the network.
In fact, the growth of the Minitel was nothing short of amazing!
By the mid 1990s, the network boasted over 9 million Minitel terminals and there were over 20,000 different services available from its keyboard.
While NZ might think it's riding the sharp end of communications technology with its UFB plans -- they are nothing compared to the huge step forward that Minitel represented some 30 years ago.
I wonder if the UFB will be as long-lived as the Minitel network?
What do readers think?
Has anyone here actually *used* a Minitel or seen one in the flesh I wonder?
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