In the 1980's and 90's, in time when the Internet was still confined to research labs and universities, France had a public & commercial data network of it's own. The network itself was called TRANSPAC (operated by France Telecom). Individuals could connect from their homes using a device called the Minitel.
The Minitel was provided freely to anyone who requested it, as a replacement from the white and yellow pages. Several tens of millions of households had a Minitel in the early 90's.
The was typically a brown box, including a screen, a keyboard and a modem. It was just a dumb terminal, capable of connecting via dial-up to an access point (PAVI) and then connect to a server via the Transpac network.
The screen could display 40 x 25 characters in 8 shades of grey. The modem was operating at 1200 bps downstream and 75 bps upstream. Later versions had more evolved specs by they never really took off until the Internet obsoleted most of this.
!(files/stut0.gif)*The Stut One Desktop on the Atari ST*
Several "hackers" made it possible to use the Minitel to connect to alternative sites. It involded dialing up to an "independant server" instead of a transpac access point (PAVI). This is pretty much the equivalent to the BBS systems that existed at the same time in the US.
STUT ONE is a piece of server software I developped for the ATARI ST to act as a server for such "alternative Minitel sites".
Back then, I had already released this software as open source under the GNU General Public License version 2.