Steve Jobs Was Inspired By This French Table-Top Box



Unless you’ve spent a considerable amount of time in France, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve never seen the device pictured above. What you’re looking at is one of the predecessors to the internet, the Minitel. The Minitel was essentially a service offered in France that required a table-top box similar to the one above. Once connected, users could make purchases, check stock prices, chat with others, have a connected mailbox, and search the phone directory.

The service was finally retired only a few days ago, on June 30th, 2012, but some of the core innovations behind it, started all the way back in 1978, laid the path for what we know as the modern computer and internet service today.

The Minitel not only attracted the attention of millions of French users until the domination of the internet, it also drew the attention of Steve Jobs, who was inspired by the device.

According to French telecom engineer Gerald Thery:

He bought one and took it to bits to see how it worked.

Thery also says:

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.

Thery’s words are pretty vague, and it’s unclear if Jobs actually took any of the ideas contained in Minitel and helped make them a reality, but many of its concepts have become part of our everyday experiences with out devices and online.

Jobs has a habit of finding inspiration in unlikely places. Apparently, he often roamed the floors of Macy’s looking at the appliances for inspiration.

Source: Reuters Via: iPhoneinCanada

  • Kenton Presbrey

    Man…I miss Steve. Tim Cooks cool, but he’s no Steve. It was very inspiring to see someone who was so passionate about what they did.

  • thweisbach

    Is there any evidence that this is true? In all the histories of the Macintosh I’ve read the Minitel was never mentioned.

  • copperbum

    minitel also offered a sex chat service.. lol

  • Kendall Tawes

    When I was last in France the Minitel we used had been on nothing but phonebook duty for the last 10 years or so but was far better at that than anything else I have ever used. They are often similar in size and shape to early Macintoshes. Perhaps opening one up showed how to pack the power supply, logic board, and monitor in a way that wouldn’t require a fan. Most seemed to be without fans and ours was from the mid eighties so it wouldn’t be too far removed from what Steve would have been looking at.

  • Kontiki

    So weird, I saw a Minitel from the 80’s at my grandfather in France when I was about 10 years old. And remember that I was attracted to the stylish design of the box and the keyboard. That version had a fixed keyboard you could just lift up to cover the screen, with some green key(s). For that time it really looked futuristic, compact and non distracting. I understood that even I was only abouit 10. Steve must have been inspired by this thing, because he had a really good sense for what’s awesome and what not. It still amazes me how much a good design grabs your attention and gives you the feeling that this must be good!