clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

France's precursor to the internet, the Minitel, to retire after 30 years of service

New, 30 comments

The French Minitel videotex system will be retired on June 30th, 2012.

Minitel
Minitel

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.