Life Style

At the Cité des Télécoms, young people, the telephone and its ancestors

Kalya was born in 2007. “The year when the first smartphone appeared”, underlines the teenager, who, like most of her peers, uses her phone intensively, instinctively, perfectly naturally. On a family visit to the Cité des Télécoms in Pleumeur-Bodou (Côtes-d’Armor), the affable young girl cannot help teasing her grandmother, Jeanine, 70: “In terms of technologies, before 2007, it was downright the Middle Ages! ».

Jeanine, a retired nurse, gives him a knowing smile. Her granddaughter’s remark brings distant memories to the surface. “My mother ran the post office in our little village of Ille-et-Vilaine. We had a telephone at home, or rather a telephone box. Naturally, I had no access to it! The locals called very rarely, only in case of emergency”says the grandmother, not unhappy with its effect.

The Minitel, a mini-telephone?

Admittedly, it was not quite the Middle Ages, but what a distance traveled in just two generations, seem to say the wide-eyed Jérémy, 11, and Louenn, 12, his two other grandchildren. Louenn surprised, but also disconcerted, when he is asked to dial a number on an old rotary telephone. In digital time, it’s not easy to guess that you have to turn the dial to the stop…

Not easy either, for the three teenagers, to designate the Minitel, yet under their eyes. They rather look for a “mini phone”a “flip phone”not far from representing the height of obsolescence and old-fashionedness. “No, it’s this kind of computer”points out Jeanine. “I remember going to the post office with your mother using a Minitel to register her for the baccalaureate. It must have been in 1991”she calculates.

The Minitel, the dial telephone but also, well before, in the XXe century, the young ladies of the telephone who manually established communication between users… At the time, the price of a three-minute call was equivalent to 15 baguettes of bread! The exhibition goes back in time by focusing very largely on the telephone. “It is the object of telecommunications par excellence, the one that speaks to everyone”justifies Élisabeth Jouanard, mediator.

“The future that comes from afar”

Responsible for the museography, Pierre-Yves Paranthoën is in the habit of summarizing the approach of the Cité des Télécoms in one expression: “The future that comes from afar. » A way of showing young and old – it is assumed that the technological knowledge of the average adult is similar to that of teenagers of 12 or 14 years old – that the latest model of smartphone is part of a succession of innovations dating back to the 19e century.

In the “founding fathers” room, an interactive terminal allows visitors to understand that each of the functions embedded in our telephones owes much to the inventiveness of a series of pioneers: Graham Bell and his Bell system (1877), then qualified of “talking telegraph”, Herman Hollerith and his punched cards (1890), to store information, or the Lumière brothers and their cinematograph (1895), which records and projects animated images…

One of the challenges is to demystify the magical side of the telephone and its exponential performance. Another terminal, at the end of the course, offers to virtually disassemble the device to reassemble its various components.

With a sometimes stunning staging, the exhibition shows it well: behind the slightest SMS or e-mail, there are physical principles, a lot of ingenuity and many trades, from the laying of submarine cables to the supervision and maintenance of the Internet network, through the connection of homes to fiber optics. Enough to arouse vocations, and avoid a blind use of technologies.

“Each of our actions has a social, economic and environmental impact”

A pitfall that does not seem to await Gabriel, 13 years old. And for good reason: his parents refuse to buy him a phone. “I manage to live without”, assures the young Toulousain. Because Gabriel is more like the Last of the Mohicans, the Cité des Télécoms has designed, among other workshops for schoolchildren, a module entitled “Le Numérique et moi”.

“We try to make students understand that each of our actions in the digital world has a social, economic, environmental, slips Elisabeth Jouanard. They are asked if they would be willing to change some of their habits or give up buying a new phone to protect the planet. »

The risk of “being lulled, carried, overwhelmed by this connected world”

In small touches, the course addresses the question of uses and, implicitly, that of technological progress much faster than human progress. In helmets, audio testimonies of young people, older people, elders. It is a question in particular of an infinite knowledge just a click away. But also, in the voice of a teenager, the risks of hacking personal data.

A mother, she evokes the temptation that can be that of the young people of “let yourself be lulled, carried, overwhelmed by this connected world”. A grandmother, finally, says she fears “Mass manipulation by large firms”. And to add: “Without falling into science fiction, it scares me a bit for my children, who blindly trust technology. »


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