Loved this article about the Minitel, about which I knew nothing.
PAIMPONT, France — A faint trail of mud and manure leads from the door of Yves Denais’s barn-floor office, overlooking the pens for his Holstein calves, to a cluttered desk atop which sits a compact beige plastic box that once placed Mr. Denais at the cutting edge of information technology.
The Minitel, the once-revolutionary online service that prefigured the Internet in the early 1980s, allowed the French to search a national phone registry, buy clothing and train tickets, make restaurant reservations, read newspapers or exchange electronic messages more than a decade before similar services existed almost anywhere else in the world. The network is now largely relegated to the realm of nostalgia, though, with its dial-up connection, black-and-white screen and text that scrolls out one pixelated character at a time.
Conceived in France, by the French, for the French — efforts to export the technology met with little success — the Minitel was long ago overtaken by the borderless, freewheeling Internet. It has remained in service, though, and it still has its devotees, including about 2,500 dairy farmers in Brittany who rely on it to call for the inseminator when a cow is in heat or to request that the authorities come to haul away animal carcasses.
That will soon have to change. The Minitel network is to be permanently shut down on Saturday — maintenance costs are too high, profits too low — after three decades of service that have left deep marks on business and culture in France. About 400,000 of the machines are still in use across the country, but perhaps most affected will be Brittany, where the devices were developed, and where many farmers still depend on them.
“Computers are all right, too, but it’s not the same,” said Mr. Denais, 47, who raises 165 dairy cattle on 300 rolling acres here, just west of Rennes, the regional capital. “I’m not very ‘Internet.’ ”
Source: The New York Times