The Minitel terminal is a device similar in design to a desktop computer, with a small screen and keyboard, which provides access to a text-based information service via conventional telephone lines. Although a number of countries developed similar systems during the 1980s, the French Minitel has been the most widely used, and is commonly described as a predecessor of domestic use Internet. Minitel was created to provide telephone directory information - with the ultimate aim of replacing printed phone books - but it also quickly served as a platform for other information such train times, horse racing results, horoscopes, retail purchases, and chat lines. Several million terminals were distributed free of charge to French telephone subscribers during the 1980s and 90s, but its use has recently declined, due in part to the limitations of the low resolution text only screens, and restricted user interaction. Minitel's current owners France Telecom until recently planned to scrap the system, but it seems this has been temporarily delayed. This said, in an era where digital technology is becoming the rule, and as similar text services such as Ceefax/Teletext (which function on analogue television sets in the United Kingdom) are beginning to be phased out, it seems inevitable that Minitel is heading to the end of its illustrious
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