A French telecom engineer says that the man that turned Apple into the empire of web-connected devices it is today drew some of his inspiration from a table-top box that connected French homes to information long before the arrival of widely available Internet.
Long before hundreds of millions of homes worldwide began connecting to the Internet in the 1990s, France’s Minitel box, the steam train of the online world, attracted the attention of Apple Inc’s now deceased founder, Steve Jobs.
The Minitel, removed from service at the end of June, was used by 25 million people in France at its peak, accessing services ranging from checking the weather, to making reservations, to posting small ads.
“He bought one and took it to bits to see how it worked,” Gerard Thery, one of the Frenchmen behind the 1982 launch of the Minitel system, told business newspaper Economie Matin.
What once looked like a technological wonder was accessible via the dial-up code 3615. Its famous “Minitel Rose” sex chat lines were blamed for the astronomical phone bills of many unwitting customers.
The Minitel was originally designed by France Telecom as an online directory, but never caught on abroad. It was used by fewer and fewer users as the Internet, and gadgets such as those made by Apple, rendered it passe.