Back in the day, Minitel represented the online future. France built a nationwide online network back in the early eighties, when very few people had PC’s and 300 baud modems cost $300.

I was surprised to find out that Minitel still exists and can be accessed over the Net with an emulator.

The BBC story above points out some important lessons we learned (and are still learning) from Minitel: social applications of networks are far more powerful than “information at your fingertips”, a ubiquitous low-overhead infrastructure for small payments is essential if you want to sell information, communication revolutions may not always translate from one country to another, and it’s hard for mere obsolescence to kill a successful network