French bid "adieu" to Minitel, the France-Wide Web
By Vicky Buffery and Pauline Mevel
PARIS (Reuters) - France pulls the plug on the Minitel this weekend, a home-grown precursor of the Internet which brought on-line banking, travel reservations and even sex chats to millions a decade before the World Wide Web.
In a country where resistance to all things "Anglo-Saxon" runs deep, the Minitel evokes both pride at French technological prowess and regret that the country failed to capitalize on the commercial online network, launched in 1982.
By its peak in the late 1990s, some 25 million people in France were using Minitel's 26,000 services, ranging from checking the weather to buying clothes and booking train tickets.
But its creator, France Telecom, was unable to sell the clunky system overseas.
"With the Minitel, we invented a lot of today's technology," said Jean-Paul Maury, former director of the Minitel project at France Telecom.
"A terminal accessing a service located at the end of the world, that was born with the Minitel: by that I mean the Internet and all online networks."
Aficionados are preparing to mourn the passing of the network, ironically enough, on the Internet. On social networking site Facebook, groups have sprung up to prolong its memory, proclaiming: "No to the end of the Minitel".
For many French, the Minitel is a reminder of a time when their country - often criticized for stifling entrepreneurial innovation - was at the cutting edge of modernity. Continued...