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And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the chatrooms French people most loved were the sex chatrooms.They were called Minitel rose – French for “Pink Minitel”.
Those chatrooms quickly became the single biggest reason people logged on.[AD SOUNDS, A WOMAN SPEAKING IN FRENCH] CARLA: This is a TV ad for a chat room called Le Diable au Corps, or “The Devil Inside.” It’s just a still photo of a woman looking suggestively over her shoulder, and the phone number for the server. JEAN-MARC MANACH: My name is Jean Marc Manach, when I was a student, to pay my bills, I used to tell people I was a beautiful girl on Minitel CARLA: Jean Marc, as you can probably tell, is a man.And he, along with thousands of other students and struggling artists, was a Minitel animatrice.CARLA: Maybe they told him those things because he was Brigitte or the 19-year-old bisexual co-ed.But it was also probably because they were reveling in the newfound anonymity of typing from behind a screen, said Jean Marc.I wasn’t face to face with them, so I don’t know how much of what they told me was the truth.
But what I do know is that the Minitel cost money, and the longer you were connected, the more expensive it was.
He’s only using that word – artisan – half-ironically.
You can hear it in his voice – he’s proud of his stint as a night-shift, artisan, animatrice.
ALEX: They had four so four people could be on at the same time. Companies that provided these services would split the proceeds with France Telecom, and quickly everyone was making a ton of money.
BOTH: [laugh] ALEX: But the reason we’re talking about it is because we have a story this week from producer Carla Green. What it actually did was convince the French government to distribute a $200 computer to every French household with a phone number.
During the daytime, the room would be full of animatrices – fifteen or twenty at a time. Jean Marc preferred to work nights, when he was often alone. Jean Marc’s English isn’t great, so we did the rest of the interview in French.