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#10 The French Connection


In the early 80's, way before the world wide web existed, the French government shipped a $200 terminal to every home with a phone line, and created a service that for decades ran alongside the internet. It was called The Minitel. Producer Carla Green speaks to reporter Jean-Marc Manach, who, in the early 90's, made a living posing as a woman in sex chat rooms on Minitel.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This episode is brought to you by better for him a new podcast from eighty people. In each episode Francesca Ramsay talks to visionaries in business leaders about mistakes. They ve made how they work their way through them and came out better for it. Listen on Spotify wherever you get. Your pot casts. So PDA, you are not much younger than me. But younger enough that you come from like a different internet generation than I do. When I started using the internet was like ninety one. Ninety two anyway serve before the world wide web. So I, dial in to a local bulletin board. There is for phone lines, and I would just
hours and hours of busy signals, while everybody desperately jockeying for the one of those four phone lines, and then I would connect and then by dad would get collating and fifteen minutes later I'll get bumped off, which is unbelievably frustrated with so when you, Sir, your on the internet, was not like you could log onto a bolt and with them the EU could be on it any like leave a message and someone else will go honor they had force of four people could be on at the same time, creating fancy. I they allow like every normal person, which meant that I could talk to Americans from anywhere in the world who had gotten a desk in the magazine wow, that's pretty cool, you were pretty futuristic. I have a memory of going to like a chat room and talking to some adult woman who is like. I guess you was flirting with me, but I didn't understand flirting and she was like hey. Do you want a private chat room and I was like yeah and she said age, sex location and is like twelve years old male, referred to in. I got bigger fished
and then she wiped off the way. Those were her exact words. I've got bigger fish to four that's so brutal. I felt so like lonely and also was like. I understand that we want She said that. Did you realize what was happening? I realize that Disappointed earn some way, but it took me like a long time to figure out how and why, when I first connected My first conversation was with in Iraq war that about the ban black flag, that's pretty good yeah. Where I was way cool even back in nineteen. Anyone who doing also feel like we both had kind of typical variances early on, like mine, was low. In alienated, and yours is like pop culture, weird stuff, waiting say typical. You mean like typical of us: Ass human beings. Yes, I think that you can self too much credit as a lonely, alienated person. I think you, I think you think gonna take that Away from your damn right, I think that you think that you're much you're like the year like way more popular and sociable and friendly than I am thanks.
A compliment, but there is we're talking about. It is because we have a story this week from producer Karla Green. It's about the can the day internet in France, which is in some ways very similar to the back the day internet that Mean PDA experienced, but in a lot of ways, much much weirder Carlyle. Take it from here nineteen. Eighty to France's national telephone companies, Hallstatt come decided spending too much money printing phone books. So it put the phone books online well kind of It actually did was convinced the french government to distribute a two hundred dollar computer to every french household, with a phone number it was ungainly clumsy piece of technology. Just a little c r t monitor with a keyboard when wanted to use it. You plug it into the telephone line, meaning you couldn't use the phone. At the same time, I'll steady called it the mini, then here's a French new cast from the mini that launch Sometimes these journeys are all about it now
we're going to talk about something that's relevant to you, or at least, will be relevant to you very soon in your daily life it was unveiled yesterday by the Minister of Telecommunications. It was the electronic phonebook linearity at first you couldn't use for much, you can look up for them and addresses banking information, the weather stock prices, things like that, the many that charge by the minute and each minute cost anywhere from fifty cents to a dollar or more. Companies that, provided these services would split the proceeds with fast Eddie come and quickly. Everyone was making a ton of money, but what many. You tell locked crucially, was a feature so interval, today's internet that sometimes we and even notice at the abyss, for users to interact with each other, so not long after its release a teenager, who has never identified as the story goes, hacked them beneath and added a messaging feature. People liked it and since they liked usage of them in it that increased self Hosty com
the great chatrooms into them. Any tat design. Those chatrooms quickly the single biggest reason people locked on, and perhaps surprisingly, the chat rooms, french people loved most were the SEC Start rooms. They were called many that a hose french for pink meaning, can't you just look at this the tv odd for a chat room called the job, local or the devil inside justice, a photo of a woman looking suggestively over her shoulder and the phone number for the server. Of course, the It was kind of a lie moment. So macroeconomic when I was today. My bills, I used to tell people, are worth doing, girl Little John Mark, as you can, probably tallow is a man and he ll, with thousands of other students and struggling artists with many
any my face and you might face is the feminine form of a frustratingly untranslatable word. It me at once: radio host and camp counselor. And somehow it also came to mean what shall mounted with his Wednesday night for a couple of months in the mid nineties, Jamak worked on the seventeenth floor of a tall building in Paris. During the daytime. The room would be full of any my fifteen or twenty at a time, almost all of them. Man, John suffrage awake nights when he was often alone. There was a great view of Paris from office building he worked on and it was quite ass. He sat in. One of an array of for many tat. He was different woman on each job. English is in great, so he did the rest of the interview in French or not yesterday morning beforehand, but because it was hard to eat you're on forming it at once. We didn't have time to go. Filled up a bottle of water. I turn on the media, Tellin log onto the forums, and then I was offer the whole night,
think I started around ten p m or midnight and I will do on five or six, I am to go to sleep- is its enormous and I'd runs into all these people. Waking up Work- and I just spend the night talking about sex of people all over the bizarre to normal spectrum, sodium that there was such a disconnect between me and the computers or half asleep, and I wondered if the well, I've been talking to all night were there among the commuter strike brain for enemies, as you did it, during the day the boss would breathe over the animal faces shoulders, pressuring them to finish up with each partner more quickly, could move on to the next being romantic are engaging in anything that would slow them down really was strictly forbidden. Industrial work shall not call that but he was in his words and out a budding see often mean EAST he's only using that word, autism, half ironically, you can hear it his voice. He's proud of his stand as a night shift after all, and you must face so he tried to inquire.
His own unique worldview, his out he's all Ciba feminist politics into every aspect of the job, the identities that he chose to inhabit as a woman, meat and I was a fifty six year old woman on another US authorities the old woman, Indonesia, and on the other, as a nineteen year old, bisexual student surprisingly. The nineteen year old, bisexual was far and away the most popular but GMO insisting on subverting expectations, Jerusalem refusing to only be blonde girls of giant breast. Also, and being ass. He ran from amused also meant the Jamak insisted on pushing pass the verbal abuse that most men used to open the conversation, remit of redress log on and say blow me whore, but I'd say not say, bourgeois Madame always works quite well, once he managed to get past the abuse he found many dead pink to be a uniquely raw and emotional place. Should people told me think They never told anyone and other things that enough We are told a man, so there was
seem to discover the secret. They trusted me with their secrets, their sexual fantasies. Fears their life dramas. There were p, who are genuinely traumatized? Who told me about their trauma? Maybe they taught those things because he was page or the nineteen year old, Bisexual co add, but it was also pub way because they were revelling in the new found anonymity of typing from behind a screen said John Mark Anonymity revealed an intimate side of people he'd, never really seen before I got a lot of people who were suicidal or the a couple of women young women who are really freaking out, I wasn't face to face with them, so I don't know how much of what they told me was the truth I do know is that the military costs money and longer. You were connected the more expensive it was. I don't get the point of lying. Gonna, be paying so much to be connected in the first place time he sighed a man logged on and immediately pelted him with a cloud of vitriol and verbal abuse, their freedom suit. You started out bitch and was really violet
I managed to common down. I said you can't talk that way, fifteen minutes of this. He told me that his daughter had gotten hit by a car leaving school, that he'd come unto them tell to let off some steam only there was really touching and covering how open people would be with him. On the many said, chat rooms was a revelation, fragile, mom six. I really didn't expect for people to reveal so much of themselves. Emotionally climate change, my life Help me to understand that what we call in Networks today is first and foremost just people and so did human beings. It's ok and computers is high technology its humans, It is also good. Not many women were any mattress, they had a hard time of it. It was pretty violence, and they didn't have the perspective that I did on men's fantasies. I hadn't of distance from it
and enough of a sense of irony about what I was doing to not get depressed about the human race because I was a heterosexual guy about issues. I wasn't. It. That all men were like that, in fact, John could see himself in the men. He talk too, because he'd been them when he was younger, nor like all teenage boys. I manner to get on minuet animals when it was just starting to get really big system, see what it was I was on the other side of the equation to comply and when I teenager I made of usernames to see what it was like. It is much more interesting because talk to men wanted to talk to you, since there weren't many women was so even before I was paid to pass my offers woman on the in detail. I already done it just to see the world, Joe MAX tenure as an enemy face was short lived, not because he was the cyber sex. It was for a different reason. We don't want, they moved to another building and second ex a fortune tellers and astrologers. We fortune telling that's going to follow a fortune telling us just stupid. That's
Gmail had no problems. Dang up all night impersonating, a woman in sex chat rooms for money. Fortune telling now has more than he could bear, but while not only lasted six months, the many that lasted quite a bit longer, in fact, when the internet did come along still they come viewed it as a competitive rival. In then many five, a french journalist asked to interview one positive. They come executive for a book. He was writing about the internet, the executive famously replied the entrance but we're going to ban the internet and create a french one internet to point out. That plan, of course, didn't work. For a company that was cashing in on fortune telling fast Eddie COM proved to be awful at actually predicting the future in the when the world wide web finally beat the France Wide web, the only real surprise was that it took as long as a dead, the with a network, was shut down in the summer of two thousand twelve turning. The four
two thousand remaining beneath a terminals and permanently blank screens. As Virgil Monk he's. It or now covering tech for Le Monde he's, we shouldn't miss for the many tat it was to expand if too limited nostalgia, internets long past. That's an american indulgence. Green is really a preacher Coming up, we humiliating treatment stated
this episode is brought few by better for it. A new pod cast from eighty hosted by Francesca Ramsay. We all make mistakes better, for it looks at how Mistakes have shaped the lives and careers of visionaries and business leaders and helps them think differently about what their working for you'll hear from an entrepreneur who ventured out on his own, and so I went out. I took seven hundred dollars. I had in the bank, but my own pickup truck took some flyers business cards and later I had a business and in each hour, rule breaker, whose learn while we all care about work in the first place you proud of the work
Do you want to be able to tell your friends about it? You want to be able to feel like you're, making a different you'll hear how they work their way through their mistakes and came out better for listen on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts This week were trying a brand new feature in reply, which we call yes. Yes now we ve found that our boss, Limburg comes so frequently with questions about internet, our canna, that we thought we'd just record one of questions to see Argos Takeaway Alex Egg eyes. So I was on twitter. Adam I came across the street from the main him Lara June and it says what if Leah gets a Pulitzer for dioxin? The fridge: do you know what that means yes period in what that means? Yes, Bloomberg. Do you know what that means? No! Ok, let's I'm Bavaria
Laden, which are the words in that sense, do make sense to you first followed. Sir. I've heard a fridges right. I don't know a pretty fridges for you can tell it as a specific fridge. I dont what fridges I dont know, who Leah Is- and I dont really no what doc, seeing as I serve no adopting as it, but I thought it had some India with computers and that fridges it does have something to do with computers are. It is a public service to me and all the listeners who might be like me as old as me. What is this treatment? So listen again is rhetoric Gawker, and she wrote a piece guessing at the identity of an anonymous twitter account called and Whitey fridge and an Whitey frigid, spoke to be. I guess it's like a parity, it's best to be like witty stuff from inside the New York Times building right because of you
We go. There is a trend of Theirs Goldman Sachs Elevator, which was like things you might overhear Goldman Sachs and was like the institutional, gossipy voice of Goldman Sachs, de fridge started like that at the New York Times, but its morphed into something like grumpy error and weird or which is just lake, I mean media critic who hates everything, except for my hopes, but there is a joke: twitter account that involve the that has got at an whitey for it. Yes, ok good fact, number one. I now know So then there's a woman Emily offend again. Yes, she writes a darker. He likes. Writing about the media. And so she didn't say who's behind the fridge. She wrote a peace being like here's, the evidence we have. Here's who we know, it's not so sure but so bit. Basically what she did. She wrote like essentially an article trying to actually get to the bottom of who the mit it's like the trend of flesh it out like trying to say like of illegal knows, and I who is deep throat- yes exactly but unimportant yet nothing. We always deep throat,
exactly there. There are a number of internet personalities who are anonymous. Who interact with the media like the opposite of inviting fridge? Is account called Darth? There has twenty thousand flowers talks a lot like Clare, Jeffrey IT mother Jones, like people like that, like editors and he'll, do sort of cute Photoshop. Be like Mitt Romney, with Photoshop Doglike, their sort of funny and a little critical. So people can please like a helpful spread of the internet, hillock whip up a Photoshop for you and Gawker. I think last winter was like we're. Gonna docks, Darth and people were mad like they said they were in a murder, They're, like how dare you Darth doesn't want to be public theirs journalistic value, and, as does that adopt so now, Gawker Doc, saying unimportant. Anonymous media for years is like its own institutional reporting in joke, but they're kind of serious about it and they're kind of like they do get a lot of traffic for abuse.
What do you want to now? Wait a minute. You explain it now that now you may have been explained a sentence of incentive so wonderfully I get the Pulitzer for dogs in the fridge. What this is is a is a is a human tweet get than ever first to a article, there was written on Gawker, in which the author is true. To uncover the true peace. And behind an anonymous twitter account, which is called the end, fridge and its money. Because Gawker has a history of going after. Somewhat annoying are somewhat friendly, but ultimately benign and unimportant anonymous twitter handles and attack and trying to uncover the trade, and it is with the with the seriousness that is to some.
People on the internet, marble pretty good yeah. I think we're yes, yes, yes, they like, Do you feel better informed you lad, you do. Do you feel happy that you know this, or do you just feel like? Ok, Now I know, and now there's like another piece of information in my brain, that probably crowding out a memory of one of my children's one of the amazing experiences I have my kids. This is that's like how I feel about this to you. I don't think I'm happy that I knows. Better, but that's ok. I think we should do the next day. I think you do know the segment. Ok, yeah yeah, so things. Much for listening to. Yes, yes, no end up boy back with more yes, yes, now on future opposite. Unless you guys absolute
Let us know the Commons dollar Zone comment reply, always PDA vote in me, Alex Golden shows it is by Lena Cities and Chris Nursery and edited by Alex Bloomer. Labour is a lone voice of reason in an otherwise insane world a theme It can scoring or by break master cylinder, and our add music is by Bill buildings special thing this week to Rachel Emily into Anthony Parowski, who provided the american voice of John Mark Monarch, into shown Ramos Farm for playing the voice. The news, castor thanks for listening. And we'll see you next week
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.