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In 1981-82, two French inventions offered a glimpse of the future. Long before the coming of the World Wide Web, the Minitel provided a sort of internet-in-one-country.One was the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) or high-speed train. Long before Facebook, Google or Twitter – millions of French people went "online" daily to search for information, to book their holidays, chat to strangers or seek cheap (or not so cheap) sexual thrills.
Argument still rages about whether the Minitel, run by France Telecom and its predecessor, the PTT, was a fast-track into the future or a destructive dead-end.But none of these systems were as comprehensive or effective as Minitel.On the US system, it could take six minutes for a single page to appear on the screen.But France never managed to sell the Minitel technology abroad.The US took a great interest in the French invention in the 1980s but declined to buy it. To all but the stubborn French, the future of information technology was personal computers linked, internationally, by the servers and search engines which created the web.It will prove to be a historic moment, much like the last day of the stage-coaches from Paris to Lyon or the last steam trains from Marseille to Calais.
Guillotine This brutally efficient method of execution, also known as the "great equaliser", was pioneered during the French Revolution and adopted by other countries. Aqua-lung Invented in Paris in the winter of 1942-43 by naval officer Jacques Cousteau and engineer Émile Gagnan, the aqua-lung allows divers to descend hundreds of metres underwater by enabling them to carry the oxygen they breathe.
The mushroom-coloured box has become an emblem of France's struggles with a globalised, and allegedly Anglo-Saxon dominated, world.
It has often been argued that the obsession of the French state with the Minitel impeded France's conversion to the internet.
Hot air balloon The first untethered, manned flight was made in a hot air balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers and launched on 21 November, 1783.
Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne watched from the ground in Paris as their creation flew for 20 minutes.
But now, 30 years after it was invented, the wired experiment that foreshadowed the World Wide Web is about to lose its connection once and for all.