March 30, 2006 7:11 AM   Subscribe

The Internet Before its Time. Telidon was a novel "two-way TV" system that debuted in Canada in 1978. It used NAPLPS, a basic vector-graphics protocol, for presentation and operated over a 1200 bps modem. It was never a commercial or technological success, but I was 10, it was 1981 and I was playing hangman... ONLINE.
posted by GuyZero (24 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Inspired by the Meta thread about BBS's.
posted by GuyZero at 7:11 AM on March 30, 2006

I thought I was ahead of the curve BBS'ing at 300 bps on a C64 in the mid-80's. But Canada wins again!

Interesting stuff GuyZero.
posted by bardic at 7:18 AM on March 30, 2006

I'm about ten years older than you, GuyZero, and at the time wondered what the fuss was about. Do your banking on a computer? Read a newspaper on a televison? Crazy talk. Why would I type a letter at a terminal when I could send it by post, or just pick up the phone if I were that desperate?</codger>

Good post. And from your Wikipedia link: the Telidon History Project (looks like it was optimized for NCSA Mosaic - all part of the charm).
posted by hangashore at 7:23 AM on March 30, 2006

Nice post, GuyZero. I guess the name "Telidon" was a mashup "television" and "mastadon"...
posted by at 7:27 AM on March 30, 2006

The French got even further with Minitel which really was a pre internet internet - and it's still around.
posted by rhymer at 7:28 AM on March 30, 2006

It's no Ceefax.
posted by Artw at 7:35 AM on March 30, 2006

I was raised on the NABU, myself.
posted by Succa at 7:35 AM on March 30, 2006

Pah, back in '73 I remember transmitting productivity statistics over Cybersyn from my factory for my comrades in Santiago to analyse. I don't really, I wasn't born, I just like the story of the socialist proto-internet, made in Chile by an eccentric from Surrey.
posted by jack_mo at 7:40 AM on March 30, 2006

Cool! Thanks, GuyZero!
posted by carter at 7:43 AM on March 30, 2006

NAPLPS actually continued into the late 80s and early 90s, with Bell Canada's Alex terminals. Was it the same system as Minitel? Sources seem to have different opinions on that. I remember the ugly yet cute brown squareish terminals.

I can't for the life of me find a photo of one though.
posted by chuma at 7:52 AM on March 30, 2006

I love stuff like this.

The PLATO system had Telidon beat by nearly two decades, offering email and real-time chat hella before ARPAnet.

I once asked Don Bitzer, the father of PLATO -- hell, the father of email! -- what he thought of the Internet. "I don't use email anymore," he sighed. "I never learned anything from it that I couldn't have gotten some other way."
posted by digaman at 8:08 AM on March 30, 2006

I played with the Minitel when I was in paris in 1986.
cool beans, that. I got used to using it as a little city guide to help me get around. For years, I wondered when I'd see something akin to it in the US.
posted by Busithoth at 8:09 AM on March 30, 2006

Dude, back in 78, they were playing Massive Multiplayer Online Games in the UK. Well, they weren't massive per se. But they were multiplayer.
posted by thanotopsis at 8:15 AM on March 30, 2006

I forgot about this. The main library in Windsor had a couple of terminals.
posted by substrate at 8:21 AM on March 30, 2006

I recall seeing it in our high school library, but being a blue collar trade school we were not permitted to touch it. I was impressed by the vector graphics, but it was so slow and unreliable that I felt only depression watching it, feeling it would fail having swallowed enormous amounts of tax money.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:39 AM on March 30, 2006

I remember staying in a motel in Levis, Quebec and playing Burger Time on the tv in the 80's, you could choose all these different games with the tv remote. I think that was Telidon. Good post GuyZero.
posted by phirleh at 8:40 AM on March 30, 2006

The last link goes to a CBC video of the system in action and is so amazing. "Joe's Grocery Store" in gigantic CGA-esque characters, Peanuts comics drawn slowly, object by object, via NAPLPS... it has a real steampunk quality to it compared to now. Everyone should go watch that video clip!
posted by GuyZero at 8:45 AM on March 30, 2006

Back in the late 1970s my Dad was programming for a company that was doing lots of 2-way TV stuff with Ceefax and Prestel. Being all of 9 years old it seemed like no great surprise to me that TVs would *naturally* let you type stuff into them and pull down information. Because the games they played were uniformly unimpressive compared with what the Atari could do I was underwhelmed. Nonetheless, I remember being quite surprised during the 1980s when I first encountered Usenet and my initial impression was something along the lines of "Hey, it's not just for TVs any more!"
posted by meehawl at 9:07 AM on March 30, 2006

I remember waiting in line to use one of these machines at the library in Lethbridge, Alberta as a kid. Nifty stuff back in 1980 or so. What did I use it for? As near as I can recall, I looked at UIC's job listings on it. What else would a 10 year old do? :P
posted by Loctor at 9:19 AM on March 30, 2006

Metafilter: Ugly yet Cute
posted by wabashbdw at 9:24 AM on March 30, 2006

i can't remember what the system was called but i remember playing games in Quebec on Videotron cable with the remote in the early 80s. i think you had to get in a virtual line on the phone to play them? not sure. i would also call and order from a catalog of shows and they would get scheduled and play on 1 of 4 channels (i vaguely remember a lot of Gustav (?) cartoons).
posted by zenzizi at 10:24 AM on March 30, 2006

The Prodigy online service continued to use NAPLPS well into the 90s, up until about 1996 or so (not the "early 90s," as Wikipedia claims).

There used to be a number of NAPLPS terminals spread around throughout San Francisco's Embarcadero Center, providing an assortment of city informational services.

I mentioned (in that MetaTalk thread) that I was working for a small online service in San Francisco back in the day. One of the things that outfit wound up doing was selling Minitel terminals locally and providing an access gateway.
posted by majick at 2:36 PM on March 30, 2006

I had NABU too, growing up in Ottawa in the 80's. I can't imagine my dad paying $950 for a terminal, though! That said, he's just as big a geek as I am, so perhaps he did...
posted by krunk at 7:58 PM on March 30, 2006

Where's the mosquito? Anyone with me? I was pretty young at the time but remember seeing info about Telidon all over the place at the time and they always used a full-screen illustration of a mosquito to presumably suggest the educational/informational/encyclopedic potential of the technology.

I feel like that was the image that was always used, but none of the links (nor quickly in Google) provided it.
posted by stevil at 10:18 AM on March 31, 2006

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