France’s once revolutionary online service Minitel is to switch off at the end of June. Launched in 1985, it was in 1 million French homes by 1985 providing a ‘Yellow Pages-type’ series of services, online chat and holiday and train booking services. By the end of the 1990s more than 9 million terminals were installed, each linked to the telephone system.
However, it was Mintel’s sex-based ‘Rose’ services that gave the system a degree of notoriety, and still drive interest in the remaining 810,000 ‘live’ connections. There are still 1800 services available to users.
While the Minitel certainly was ahead of its time, it is also blamed by many for limiting the French interest in modern computer-based services. While France is catching up with the rest of the world in terms of computer ownership, at 82.9 computers per 100 people (Economist 2009 data) it is still behind Canada’s 108.6, the Netherlands 103.2 and Sweden’s 102.