France is scrapping its once groundbreaking Minitel service, complete with mushroom-coloured boxes, that blazed a trail for the World Wide Web.
Launched in 1982, this home-grown precursor of the Internet brought on-line banking, travel reservations and even sex chats to millions.
“I think that with the Minitel we invented a lot of today’s technology,” said Jean-Paul Maury, former director of the Minitel project at France Telecom.
“The fact that a terminal could access a service at the other end of the world – that was invented with the Minitel: by that, I mean the Internet and all online networks.”
There are still an estimated 670,000 terminals in circulation. In the late 1990s, France had 25 million users.
But creator France Telecom was unable to sell the clunky system overseas. And, with the rapid growth of the Internet making Minitel obsolete, the plug will be pulled this weekend, once and for all.