The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'minitel'


Minitel, France's proprietary information network, is 20 years old. Initially started as a means of replacing paper phone directories, it evolved into a model of what the Internet would have been like if the French had invented it: centralised, subsidised, run by a state-owned monopoly, based on proprietary technology and tidy, if a bit bland. Oh, and it's based around 1980s-vintage technology and phone lines. Though even while the French embrace the Internet, Minitel is far from dead; the lightweight, micropayment-based model of information exchange embodied in it is apparently being adapted to mobile phones, where it will undoubtedly prove as spectacularly popular as WAP.

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The story of Minitel, France's idiosyncratic national online service, hailed as a world leader in the 1980s, now seen as embarrassingly dated by some, yet still a source of national pride to many French users.

Just as anti-globalisation campaigner José Bové tapped into a rich French vein of resentment for many things Anglo-Saxon and for lousy American food in particular when he vandalised a McDonald's restaurant last year, so Minitel need not politely defer to the internet. Just yet. Dominique Lamiche of France Télécom says: "We'll always have people who prefer to buy a train ticket on the Minitel because it's fast and one knows how to manage it. You don't need the internet's animated pictures to buy a simple train ticket."

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