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The Wall Street Journal is reporting that France Telecom will shut down Minitel. Minitel was one of the first videotext services (and the largest operator) that allowed users to access computers through telephone lines and a dumb terminal. The text only, four color service provided consumer information. Minitel was the forerunner to Compuserve, AOL and the Internet.
Minitel was established by President Francois Mitterand, who arguably was one of the most visionary public officials in the telecommunications and computer-based information area. In the early 1980s Mitterand also launched a project to develop the first online learning program to educate French children. He hired Nicholas Negroponte to run the project.
I invested in a competitor to Minitel. The investment did not work out and I let my interest in online access to computer information eventually wane. I had seen the Internet well ahead of its popularity but I could not put the pieces together. Someday I will tell the story of how I missed the Transformer toy opportunity.