The Server-Side Pad

by Fabien Tiburce, Best practices and personal experiences with enterprise software

25 Years Online. Do I Get a Balloon?

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MinitelI was 12 years old in 1984 when my parents brought home a Minitel.  It didn’t cost them anything.  The state-owned phone company (PTT who later became France Télécom) figured it costs 100 francs to print a phone book per year and 500 francs to manufacture a Minitel.  Hoping to recoup their investment in 5 years, they gave away 9 million terminals.  Phone books went the way of the dodo and a country, perhaps not realizing it, entered the electronic age.  France Télécom did a lot more than recoup their investment.  Private services flourished driving network fee revenues.  By the end of 1999, the network had 25 million users in France.  The Minitel is generally considered the world’s most successful pre-internet online service.  The network was secure (private phone company network) allowing online banking and electronic commerce to take off.  Booking train tickets, buying from electronic catalogues and looking up online databases were in widespread use by the late 80’s.  None of that really mattered to me at the time, I had discovered chat rooms and was hooked (did I mention the per minute network fees?).  The Minitel is a technological relic by today’s standards and yet won’t completely go away.  There are internet gateways for it now and it’s still commonly used for secure enterprise applications requiring a private network (which can easily be handled by TCP/IP technologies, virtual private networks, etc…).  Anyways, upon realizing I had been online for 25 years I proudly told my wife.  Now this may surprise you as it surprised me, but from the look on her face, I doubt I am getting a balloon…;)

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Written by Compliantia

April 15, 2009 at 3:59 am

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