Yes, the French are known for great wines, but they should get more credit for being tech pioneers. Deployed in 1982, the Minitel 1 allowed users to make purchases, read newspapers, exchange digital messages and more using an online network that predated the real Internet. By the mid-1990s, nearly half of the French population (25 million) was using the 9 million Minitel devices in circulation. Although telecommunications provider PTT — and later, France Telecom — were unable to export the service, in a way, the Minitel 1 was the world's first Internet appliance.
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