updated 09:15 am EDT, Mon July 25, 2011
Service predated public Internet
France Télécom is closing its longstanding Minitel networking service. The carrier began offering this service in 1982, at a time when the Internet was still basically available only to researchers and defense organizations. Minitel will stop operating next June.
Thirty years ago, France Telecom began giving small terminals away to French households. This actually predated the public usage of the Internet. The keyboard was a unique non-QWERTY design. Using it, individuals could gain access to phone directories, order train or airline tickets, participate in message boards, get the weather, mail-order retail goods, and handle banking. Information was presented as text with limited graphics. Users would be charged based on the number of minutes. The service was not built upon on TCP/IP, as is the Internet, but on the X.25 protocol.
At its 1999 peak, Minitel reached 25 million users, 42 percent of the French population. Since then, its popularity and rise of the Internet has eroded its subscriber base.