About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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August 08, 2008



Actually, Minitel goes back to the 1960's, as I remember fondly from my days on a post-college tour of Europe. It was given out initially as an alternative to the phone monopoly distributing white and yellow pages, and allowed people to look up the information for themselves. The French thought it was the knees bees, and after seeing how it worked _ and how they used it _ I came back from that trip convinced Ma Bell would soon bring it to the United States. It would have saved so much money doing away with operators. I think you are old enough to remember how much we overused 411 in the old days, even to find local numbers that were in the phone book. When computers came, and I got my first TRS-80 in 1981, I thought someone would knit these 300-baud networks together in a U.S. version of Minitel by using that phone information here, but it really didn't take off. It took another 5-year absence from the United States before I came back in 1995 to find the Internet, and you see what is happening to R.H. Donnelly (yellow page publisher) stock these days.
I have fond memories of the Minitel. At one point, the French hoped to turn it into a network that would beat the U.S. in computer technology, but they couldn't keep up with the huge leaps ahead with each release of each new Intel chip, and each new version of Microsoft.
Thanks for the blast from the past.

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