In 1982, years before the world wide web, came the Minitel. It was a French videotex system, a way for users to get information, look up telephone numbers, and make purchases through a phone line. By 1985 Minitels were installed in over one million French homes and in 2005, despite the growing ubiquity of the internet, the system was used for a total of over 18 million hours. It couldn't hold out forever, though, and last year it was announced that the Minitel would be allowed to die a natural death on June 30th, 2012.
In a recent article for The Independent, John Lichfield asks if the Minitel was "a fast-track into the future or a destructive dead-end." He says that it's become "an emblem of France's struggles with a globalized, and allegedly Anglo-Saxon dominated, world." While he may be right, the Minitel undoubtably introduced millions of French people to the idea of accessing remote services through a phone line. And for that, it should be commended.