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A piece of technology doesn’t have to be a hit for it to be a milestone. In fact, some of the most important gadgets flopped, as it takes years of refinement for any given product category to resonate with mainstream consumers. For pioneering companies, it’s about pointing the way for an industry through innovation and risk taking. Remember the first stab at a smartphone, or the first mass-market digital camera? Did you know the first video call was placed while Lyndon Johnson was in office? Although these 12 gadgets enjoyed various degrees of commercial success, they all should be remembered for being ahead of their time.
Yes, the French are known for great wines, but they should get more credit for being tech pioneers. Deployed in 1982, the Minitel 1 allowed users to make purchases, read newspapers, exchange digital messages and more using an online network that predated the real Internet. By the mid-1990s, nearly half of the French population (25 million) was using the 9 million Minitel devices in circulation. Although telecommunications provider PTT — and later, France Telecom — were unable to export the service, in a way, the Minitel 1 was the world’s first Internet appliance.
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Published on: Mar 03, 2021