The Life of Marquis the Minitel

Here I sit, on a worn away wooden desk in an unfinished attic with one skylight window. One could see the dust particles slowly float in the air around the single beam of light. These are the only things that seem to move besides the occasional bug. I am surrounded by forgotten objects, boxes of old magazines and draped furniture. I wonder if I am the oldest thing in this attic. In fact, today is a big day for me, it is my 60th birthday. Who would have thought I would be celebrating it here, in a place so far from my real home? Life has been quite lonesome, but I guess that is to be expected with age. I can not remember the last time someone paid notice to me but what purpose do I serve to anyone anymore? I remember the faces of my first family when they saw me for the first time. Anyone could see the excitement they had to bring me home. I was the center of attention, no one wanted to leave me alone. They had so much pride in me and would brag to their visitors about how well they knew me as they showed off my features. Madame Gabrielle would invite all of her friends over to meet me. She was so gentle with her touch and was very patient with me. I could not say the same about her two children, who handled me roughly. Amongst her family, I had very different relationships with each of them, some stranger than others, nevertheless I was their prize possession. Though we did not get along, Madame Gabrielle’s daughter named me Marquis, a name that has stuck with me. Quickly, there was a huge rise and I became the standard across my country. All of a sudden Madame Gabrielle’s friends stopped coming over as much but I made sure to keep her in touch with them. I was no longer unique to others but my family still spent time with me everyday. New models came out and my family held on to me for a little while. When they decided it was time for us to part ways, I made my way into the hands of a new family. I became the gift to an American ambassador's teenage daughter, Alice. She brought me overseas and introduced me to her friends. Apparently, I had similar counterparts in her home country and she managed to integrate me into her network. I was impressed by my popularity in the states. I knew I was then the standard in France but my influence had spread across the globe. When the American ambassador gave me to his daughter he told her “This is the way of the future. Governments around the world are impressed by the connectivity made possible by these guys. A lot of things are going to change.”. He was right, things did change and it was like rapid fire. I helped regulate society and I became a staple in the United States just like how I did in France. However, unlike France’s hybrid system, the United States’s government made it a fully public system. Time passed and there were faster and smarter models that came out and I again was obsolete. Since then I have spent my time up here, with other forgotten possessions. I hear someone coming, maybe I am getting a visitor, they must know it is my birthday. Slowly up the steps comes Alice and someone is accompanying her. Alice says “Anything you want in this room, you can have. I simply have no use for anything up here and the place I am going will not allow me to have any of this stuff.”. Hm, I wonder where she is going and who is with her. The companion replies “Thanks Grandma. Is that an original minitel over there?”. They are referring to me so they must know it is my birthday. Alice says “Yes Charlie, I got that when I was about your age, maybe I was a little older, but my father gave me it to me when we were living in France. That is what everyone one used back then and it certainly does not compare to what we have now, but if you want it, it’s yours. I believe it still works.”. Charlie replies “Thanks grandma, I think I will just take this for now but I will be back some other time to go through everything else.” He picks me up and brings me to his car outside. Looking through Alice’s house on my way out, everything was different. I quickly saw the room of which I once sat now with a big, slim screen in my place. While sitting in Charlie's car, I hear Alice say “Be careful with it. Do not let anyone know about it because these aren’t really allowed anymore. Your mother would be so mad if she knew I let you have this and your father would turn it in to the authorities. That man is so afraid of everything. Well, you know, I heard from one of my old gamepigeon friends, Cathy, that people have set up illegal phone lines that are out of the government's control. Yeah, her nephew got involved in that shenanigans and he had to flee the country! I know you are a good kid so you won’t get caught up in any of that stuff but I do want you to have this. When the government forced everyone to get rid of this model, I was fortunate to have one that was registered and manufactured in France so when the collectors came knocking this device was unknown to them. Just be the smart boy that I know you are.”. Charlie says “Yeah, I will be careful grandma, thanks. I will see you later.”. Charlie hops in the car and we are off. This is certainly not what a car looked like when I was being transported around in the 80s. We arrive at Charlie’s house and he places a bag over me as he takes me from the car to his room. He drops me on his desk and tries to figure out how I work. I am excited! Today really is a special day and someone is interested in the world that I can show them, just like how I did in my glory years. But, it seems to me from looking around Charlie’s room that he already has everything and more than what I can offer. All of these screens, so slim, how are they so slim? Why am I not so slim? I bet Charlie would have no trouble carrying them around all day. His room is filled with screens, there are more screens than there are walls. Someone is knocking on the door. Charlie frantically says, “One second!”. He scrambles to hide me in his closet. He runs to open the door. “Hey mom. What’s up?” Charlie asks. It’s his mom! I wonder if he will introduce us. Maybe he is hiding me for a surprise birthday party. Wait a minute, no, I am not supposed to be the one hiding. “Hey, how was grandma? Did you help her around the house?” his mom asks. He replies “Yeah, I did. I’ll probably head back some other time to help her with more stuff. But, I did everything on the checklist.”. “Okay, good. Next time get your sister to go with you. You know how much it would mean to grandma. There is a lot that she needs help with before she can move to the retirement home.” she says back. “I know, I’ll try to get her to come.” Charlie snaps back. “Charlie is everything okay? You seem shook?” his mom questions. “Mom, who says ‘shook’ anymore? It’s 2042, not 2019. Everything is fine. I’ll be down in a bit.” he says as the door closes. “Okay make sure to log on soon, it’s five til 3.” his mom says muffled through the closed door. Charlie takes me out of his closet and places me back on his desk. He turns on all of his screens and they immediately display graphics, calling attention every which way to the point of sensory overload. He stares at them for sometime, taking in all the information. He starts filling out polls that seem pretty generic. Mainly about what he did within the last hour. This seems all so familiar to me, but I can not quite place my mouse on it. Upon completion a screen pops up that congratulated him for his hard work and told him to ‘Make sure everything remains in order’. Mon Dieu! This is Operation Order, it must be in full swing now. My purpose has been served, I am the reason he is taking these polls. My life’s mission lives on, I was merely phase 1. I was made to be helpful and to make users feel like they were advancing towards something but really I was running under the deceit of suppressing their actions and choices. This interface surprises me, things used to be better disguised and our intentions were secretly embedded in our wording but now it is so obviously shown. I guess it got to the point where the designers no longer needed to hide behind a ruse. I feel satisfaction in my life and this certainly has been the best birthday present ever. To be continued... Photo of Marquis when he was 8. This website is apart of a collection, check it out here: Neocities.