Old technologies which are still around

Minitel Reading this piece on ZDnet that I flagged few months ago, I stumbled across interesting figures:

  • In 2007, Minitel traffic and services generated 100 Millions Euros (shared between the french provider France Telecom and third parties) through to 4000 "services" (sort of the equivalent of websites). In 1996, there were 25 000 services that generated 1 billion euros of revenues.
  • 220 millions of connections in 2007, approximately 20 millions per months.
  • Traffic dropped by 90% between 1996 and 2006 and by 35% between 2006 and 2007.
  • There are still 1 million Minitel terminals that are active but people still access Minitel services through their PCs (2 millions do, through emulators). In 1996, there were 6.5 millions.
  • Minitel terminals are still sold and - even better - manufactured by recycling old ones.
  • Most of the usage are: looking up addresses/phone numbers by the mythic "3611", reverse phone directory, astrology and bets. But "minitel rose" (sex chats) have vanished.
  • Professional services are very important mostly for logistics marketplace.
  • 25% of the revenues comes from financial services (following stock exchanges, investments etc.)

Why do I blog this? intrigued by an object of the past that still have offer some resistance to progress. The fact that people still use minitel services through the Web is very interesting: the thing work, people have their habits and keep using the media they used for a long time.

Also it's important to note that if things/invention are slow to take off, they are also slow to die!. If there's an S-curve till a mature market for any invention, the curve is reversed the other way as well. The following paper in the NYT times the other day address this issue concerning mainframe computer which were expected to disappear ten years ago:

"What are the common traits of survivor technologies? First, it seems, there is a core technology requirement: there must be some enduring advantage in the old technology that is not entirely supplanted by the new. But beyond that, it is the business decisions that matter most: investing to retool the traditional technology, adopting a new business model and nurturing a support network of loyal customers, industry partners and skilled workers. The unfulfilled predictions of demise, experts say, tend to overestimate the importance of pure technical innovation and underestimate the role of business judgment."