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Older people, like Claudette, 80, say they will be devastated when they lose their little terminals."I use it several times a week to consult my accounts," she said.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 Minitel – a rather sinister, computer-like terminal attached to classic telephone landlines – was installed in one million French homes by 1985. Of two ideas launched in France in 1981-82, it was the seemingly backward-looking one – the TGV – which seduced the world.At the end of the 1990s, nine million terminals were linked to some 25,000 Minitel services. The Minitel, though far ahead of its time, was an evolutionary cul-de-sac.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.

Mr Delors recently said that the euro was "doomed from the start".

There was even an abbreviated Minitel language, rather like "text speak", such as "slt, té ki? )But Minitel, compared with the web, had many limitations. The imminent demise of the Minitel has produced a surge of reminiscences on the early days of the service. Gerome Nox, a veteran male French pop musician, admitted this week to the newspaper Libération that he had in a previous life been "Julie", an "animatrice" or hostess on one of the first Minitel text-sex lines. It was to the point and crude." After a while he realised that "my Julie" had become "disagreeable, wicked and odious".

Few women wanted the work, he said, so most of the "hostesses", paid the equivalent of £2.50 an hour, were men."(The clients) were like a shoal of starving piranha fish," he said. He announced online that he was a man "whose job is to inflate all your phone bills. It is less known that beneficiaries of this early text-sex were conservative, regional newspapers.

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.

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