Apple's Jobs tapped France 3615 for pre-internet ideas

PARIS Thu Jul 5, 2012 7:41pm EDT

A tribute to Apple Inc., co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs is left in front of an Apple store in downtown Montreal, October 6, 2011. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

A tribute to Apple Inc., co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs is left in front of an Apple store in downtown Montreal, October 6, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Christinne Muschi

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PARIS (Reuters) - The man who turned Apple into a web-connected empire of consumer gadgets drew some of his inspiration from a table-top box that wired French households to networked information way before the arrival of mass Internet, a French telecoms engineer says.

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 clunky Minitel, pulled out of service at the end of June, was used by some 25 million people in France at the time for services ranging from checking the weather to making travel reservations and 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.

Two decades of Internet sealed the fate of what once looked like a technological wonder that might conquer the world with a then wide range of shopping and travel booking services, 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.

Originally designed by France Telecom as an online directory to save paper, the Minitel never caught on abroad and was used by fewer and fewer French in recent years as the Internet, and the flashy gadgets made by companies like Apple, rendered it obsolete.

(Reporting By Brian Love, editing by Paul Casciato)

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Comments (3)
AtlantaX wrote:
Wait, there were still 25 million French using this relic in 2012? It was dial up? “Two decades of Internet sealed its fate?”. Two months of Internet should have sealed its fate. My head hurts thinking about the absurdity of this entire situation. This is a joke right? Crazy French…

Jul 06, 2012 1:04am EDT  --  Report as abuse
DLS wrote:
No, 25 Million people was the highest number of people using it back in the days :P
It continued to be used after the advent of internet because it was faster than 56k modems, and had much more services.

Jul 06, 2012 4:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
SciFiAuthor wrote:
I’ll try again to post my comment that was obvioulsy rejected. I’m still cautious about reading anything about a person who is no longer alive and, therefore, unable to defend himself. To me, this article sounds like it’s accusing Steve Jobs of “ripping off” the Mintel design in order to launch his own brand of Internet hardware. So, I could take this Reuters news article as an historical revelation or just another piece of yellow journalism.

If Reuters can’t take the heat from incisive comments then you need to get out of the news business. Having your say is not free. There are consequences. If I happen to run across Steve Jobs in the afterlife, I’ll be sure to get his slant on this story. In the meantime, I won’t waste my time trying to re-post comments on an online version of a global news service that thinks it’s above reproach.

So, I’m done here. Gerard Thery’s “theory” rules. For now.

Jul 07, 2012 12:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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