You Can’t Call Me Al

Minitel Terminal

Did Al Gore invent  the internet?  Nope! Here is proof Al was shoveling “crottes“! 

In 1978 France’s national postal system, Poste, Téléphone et Télécommunications, (PTT) rolled out the  Minitel.  Minitel was a video text online service accessible through telephone lines, and is considered one of the world’s most successful pre-world wide web online services.  From its earliest days, users could make online purchases, make train reservations, check  stock prices, search the telephone directory, have a mail box, and chat in a similar way to that is now made possible by the Internet.  It was used by 25 million people out of a total population of 60 million! Stand down Al , France started the internet!  Such an amazing prescient and tech savvy country surely must have jumped on Al’s internet version early on, right? Uh, ahem,well not exactly.  In 2009 Minitel still had ten million subscribers. Jump not, stroll no, crawl.

The modern “apart-hotel in” Orléans where I am staying is located just north of old city center on an ultra-modern electric tramway. The train station with direct connections to Paris and other major French cities is two stops away. The cathedral, old city, wonderful restaurants – three stops. Extremely convenient to all parts of Orléans. Air conditioned rooms, elevator, incoming telephone, television, a small but useable kitchen and a small refrigerator.. The apart-hotel boasts internet connection and wi–fi. All the conveniences and just forty euros per night! I’ll never stay here again.


Your standard internet connection speed.


Your internet connection speed after uploading 6.4 photos to the cloud.

That huge horse fly doing the back stroke in your Vichyssoise of convenience is the wi-fi and internet connection.  Yeah the apart-hotel has it but to use it you must have a code. “Come on Alex that’s for security purposes. Give them a break it’s for your protection, no big deal.”  Okay but every time you sign on to the Internet you must close your browser, reopen it and put in the code. Furthermore wi-fi is not in your room. Your only connection there is ethernet cable. Therefore, no iPad or iPhone connection in your room. Want wi-fi, yes they have it — in the lobby. Go down, sit in the lobby with twenty-seven teenagers playing video games. Ever try to play bridge to the theme music of Conan The Barbarian at 40db? Or aliens screaming as Mr. Spock applies the Vulcan death grip?

The Internet service is provided by Swiss.Com which must have its servers in Nigeria. Forget accessing your bank account. Not only will your bank URL not load, it doesn’t even acknowledge that it itself exists. What bank? No bank here, what is a bank anyway? “URL not found”.  Same for your email.  Oh, still not convinced of the horse fly? After 500 mb of service the dial-up speed connection speed drops from it’s normal caterpillar  to tortoise. At 2000 mb of service it signs off. That means I can save 6.43 photos to cloud storage before the tortoise says bonjour and 25.6 when the internet bids adieu.  I think at this point it actually starts using my computer for internet storage.  Ask the front desk about the speed and they hand you another code slip.  Complain about the speed, they shrug and blow air through a taut circular mouth with arched eyebrows over wide rolling eyes.  It’s French for  “Don’t call me Al.”  but it looks like Buster Keaton watching Marilyn Monroe on the subway grill in the Seven Year Itch.

Nevertheless,  France is installing high-speed fiber-optic cable in most major metropolitan areas much quicker than the United States. You can leave your hat on Al.

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