Telidon: Clunky-Tech from the Government

In the early 80’s I saw samples of the “revolutionary” Telidon system, which was similar to the French Prestel system, that had become part of the French phone company set up. I recall a headline in the New Scientist, “Dial M for Merde” – opening an article on the problems the rural and older French citizens were having with the phone book – integrated in what was basically an on-line system. The Telidon images and text were clunky, delivered via cable, somehow using the black band that used to be visible in the days when there was a horizontal and vertical hold button on tv sets. (The intro to the Outer Limits series said: “We control the horizontal, we control the vertical.”) But there was two-way communication! Through your tv! This system was going to change the world of communications, and the Canadian government was all for it, until that govt. changed, and the project faded away. In those days librarians were suddenly stars in the information organization realm, and people were just beginning to realize that data bases could in fact be of value – aggregated, bought, sold.

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