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<nettime> Minitel not Dead! (Chris Matyszczyk, Technically Incorrect)
Patrice Riemens on Sun, 8 Jul 2012 15:58:47 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Minitel not Dead! (Chris Matyszczyk, Technically Incorrect)

original to:

bwo Antony Antony (HFH)

    Technically Incorrect,
    Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs got his inspiration from the French? The French?

A report suggests that the minute Steve Jobs saw France's chunky, clunky
Minitel, he took it apart in order to see how it worked. And then the Mac
was born. Perhaps.

by Chris Matyszczyk
July 7, 2012 9:42 AM PDT

"Yes, I owe it all to the French."

We are all guided by our influences, even if sometimes we don't want to
admit who they really are.

Just as Mark Zuckerberg would never admit to being moved by Dr. Ruth and
Genghis Khan, so Larry Page would surely never concede to the subconscious
influence of "Mork and Mindy" and the early novels of John Le Carre.

However, a Reuters report is now suggesting something so beautifully
preposterous, so life-affirmingly unnatural that it will lift the spirits
of the most downhearted.

For this report claims that Steve Jobs was influenced by the French. Yes,
the French, the people who lent their name to Belgian fried potatoes.

Quoting a French engineer called Gerard Thery, Reuters says that when Jobs
took one look at France's Minitel back in 1982, he hungrily dismantled it
to see how this fine, magical box really worked.

Should the history -- or even existence -- of Minitel have escaped you,
this was a rather fascinating box that Frenchmen placed on their home
office desks in order to chat with someone who was not their wife.
(Credit: Tieum/Wikipedia)

It measured several yards across and had a crank handle like an old
gramophone player.

Oh, yes, I exaggerate somewhat. However, this thing never caught on
anywhere but France. Which is a pity, because it was, in some ways, ahead
of its time. Indeed, there are those who would argue that it was the last
time French business was ahead of its time.

It was finally laid to rest at the end of June, after a career more
tortured than the average French actor.

This was especially painful for French farmers, who used Minitel to follow
the price of pork.

It's unclear just how much Jobs took from his no-doubt joyous dismantling.
But if you squint and dream in bright colors, you might just be able to
see some nascent concepts behind, say, an early Mac.

Some might find deep humor, tragedy, or both in the fact that Minitel
didn't develop beyond French borders because its French masters insisted
it be sold as one whole ecosystem, rather than adapted to local conditions
and mores.

It's odd that Jobs himself doesn't seem to have paid homage to Minitel at
one of his many fine presentations. Perhaps he feared that if he'd stood
up and declared that French technology had inspired him, no one would have
ever taken him seriously.

About Chris Matyszczyk

Chris Matyszczyk is an award-winning creative director who advises major
corporations on content creation and marketing. He brings an irreverent,
sarcastic, and sometimes ironic voice to the tech world. He is a member of
the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET.

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