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Re: <nettime> To-morrow the Minitel! (!)
Tjebbe van Tijen on Mon, 9 Jun 2014 18:08:25 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> To-morrow the Minitel! (!)

In the years 1988/1989 we were organising in Amsterdam a congregation from radical publishers, performers and groups from all over Europe from Russia to the British isles, from Norway to Spain: Europe Against The Current.

Communication in those years was - compared to now - very limited: postal system, telephone & fax. 

Cost of telephone & fax was extremely high in those days. No cheap alternatives for the state monopoly prices.

The number of people that had a personal computer was even limited, and those who had one would mostly not have such a futuristic device as a modem to communicate, let alone have a dial-up provider or connection through an academic network.

I remember that in early 1989 we managed to arrange to have such a French Minitel machine and we experimented  a bit with it.

It's great success was - of course - mainly because of the sexual divertimento & services that could be tapped through it.

For us the main medium at that time remained the fax machine, which started to be available also in Eastern European countries. 

As travel from the 'unfree' to the 'free' world in Europe in those days involved a long process of invitation letters, exchange of personal information for embassies and so on, it was the wonder-machine, the fax that made our international meeting possible.

Communication machines depend on a shared protocol and a piece of hardware that can handle such a protocol.

Th fax machine (a principle developed & used already in the twenties of the last centuries for news agencies and photographs) had many manufacturers making many brands, still compatible.

With the Minitel, this aspect was less the case. There was some idea of a monopoly behind it that signalled it's failure from the very beginning.

Maybe the idea of state monopoly of communication (devices) is more strong in France, hence it's backwardness in the field of a meaningful digital communication industry.

The centralisation impulse of the French state, as expressed in the over-centrality of the metropolis Paris, has a history of many centuries.

This impulse can also be found in French industry.

So here we are back at the source of the failure of the Minitel.


On 9 Jun 2014, at 10:18, Patrice Riemens wrote:

Hi Nettimers,

No FaceBook Aquarium to-day, but a small intermission with the last
chapter of a 1988 French book [*] celebrating the saga of the Minitel,
the unsung predecessor of the Internet as mass connectivity and social
networking device.

So we go down Memory Lane! France, 1988: already close to 4 million
Minitel subscribers - where will this all end? We know - they didn't.
This is what they thought in their time - and they were not always
that far of ... ('Net Neutrality' anyone? ;-)

Cheers, enjoy!

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