Friday, 29 June 2012

Things change

The French do things differently ... in technology as in many things.

In the 1950s they had an 819-line TV system that was, even by (some) current standards, high definition. Their colour television was so different to those used almost everywhere else that it was nicknamed 'System Essentially Contrary to the American Method'. And they made a roaring success of a telephone-based text system ... called Minitel.

This weekend Minitel will finally be turned off. It was the place the French went to check the weather and news; book tickets and shop; and find porn. It was, as the BBC story puts it, the France-Wide Web: 26 thousand services used by 26 million people from the early 1980s until this Saturday. To those people in the UK (mostly travel agents) who remember Prestel ... BT's equivalent service ... this will seem amazing. But the key factor was probably that every telephone subscriber in France was given a terminal, even though that did apparently strain the telco's finances.

The news about Minitel prompted me to consider the lifetime of systems, and especially how computing and the internet are constantly evolving; even at a structural level with the change to IP addressing that has just started. Do you have any routers, or computers, that may need modifying to work with IP version 6? Will your machines work with new versions of the OS ... especially if you have an older Mac Pro that won't work with the new version of OS X. In my case, with a small amount of equipment used for work, it's easy to keep track of such things. For a large company it must be a nightmare, and means that you need a reliable system to track the state of all your hardware.

At least when my elderly audio amplifiers went 'bang' the other day I know I can still get them fixed and get them working again ... computers don't work that way, sadly.