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The Internet

Schluss For Germany's Oldest Online Service 51

Rolo Tomasi writes: "Germany's first online service, BTX (Bildschirmtext) is shutting down. BTX had a history of major security flaws, which made the Chaos Computer Club famous." Non-speakers might want to try a translation.
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Schluss For Germany's Oldest Online Service

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  • IT's always a shame to see a piece of computer history go away.

    Maybe we should set up a landmarks perservation kind of deally to prevent things like this from happening.

    of course it would have to be open source ;)
  • Still In Use (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bamberg29 ( 240460 ) on Sunday November 25, 2001 @05:28AM (#2609673)
    Germans still used this up to now for the so called 'Classic' applications such as home banking. T-Online (large German ISP) was the one that kept this system up until now mostly for the homebanking applications, but they have now migrated it to regular TCP/IP protocols.

    So now they can finally get rid of it.
  • So here's the translation, by paragraphs:


    Parting from the on-line dinosaur the oldest on-line service of Germany, the T-Online forerunner interactive videotext (VTX), is closed to 1 December.


    " I am particularly pleased that this premiere in Berlin can take place, the city, in which before 100 years the introduction of the telephone began ", was pleased Federal Ministers of Post and Telecommunications Kurt Gscheidle during the international radio exhibition 1977. He had attended a world premiere, whose effects at that time still nobody could foresee in the August-hot halls under the radio tower: The Federal Postal Administration presented the interactive videotext (VTX) and opened thereby first only for a small set of selected users the on-line age in Germany.


    1980 started a larger field test originally than interactive videotex of the conceived service with in each case 2000 users in Berlin and Duesseldorf. The technical equipment, which smoothed the way well two decades ago into the world of the country wide data network, consisted of a BTX decoder for the television, tormenting a slow modem and a keyboard. In few weeks VTX is now an final section of German on-line history. At the end of November the country wide 01910-Einwahlzugaenge are cut. Nostalgiker find thereafter only over a special issue and at gepfefferten prices to end of 2001 an acces, before T-Online switches off its BTX Zugangsknoten finally.


    " it is not worthwhile itself for us no more to let the platform continue ever fewer customer ", says Telekom speaker Ulrich Lissek in Bonn, which belonged once even with its Atari to the generation of the BTX pioneers. Seven years after the start surften already 95,600 VTX user by the network, in the year of the wall case counted the Telekom 195,000 members of the on-line municipality. The break-through for VTX came in the middle of the 90's, after also a first hakeliger Internet acces became possible over the BTX platform and enamels could be exchanged over the boundaries of the closed user group away. The BTX guest Internet ate his host quite fast. Today T-Online in Germany counts 5.6 million customer. " only some thousands use of it the old BTX technique ", say Lissek.


    Navigation in the on-line service was made similarly as at that time with the Microsoft operating system DOS by a number of kryptischer keyboard instructions. In each case between an asterisk and a lozenge character were to be indicated an instruction or after the model of the telephone network a page number. The first forms of the e-Commerce decrease/go back on VTX. Goods orders and for instance the attendance of expensive Erotik services were paid over the phone bill, which led again and again because of some windy Abzocker to legal arguments. Publishing houses opened liable to pay the costs their professional data bases, large distributing houses belonged to the BTX pioneers. Main application was however the on-line Banking very safe because of the closed user set.


    Legal basis of the BTX service was originally a convention, which set and differently than to Internet an anonymous use excluded high hurdles for the acces. Who wanted to place a supply like today to Internet homepage into the network, first a aufwaendige permission procedure had to pass through. Also the use with basic charges of eight Marks per month presupposed a complicated registration procedure. Additionally relatively high telephone and BTX fees resulted.


    VTX, 1977 of a working group in the post office Ministry still as " people teleprocessing system " planned, was also the base for first on-line-chops in Germany. Under still disputed circumstances it succeeded 1984 to a Aktionistem of the chaos computer club, Wau Holland, to use a safety gap. In the hay width unit journal of the ZDF it demonstrated, as ineffective a bank assault is in the comparison to the on-line tapped account. This brought the industry in sweating, helped however not against the largest Handicap of the text service: the absence of any pictures. Not only Hermann bricklayer, executive committee of institute for computer science at the University of Graz, had at that time granted VTX for the start because of a " peculiar backspace of the television to remote reading " no realistic chance of survival. 20 years later on-line history gives it right.

    • Babelfish does like PHP and here is the proof: the translation of German article [altavista.com].
      • Babelfish does like PHP and here is the proof: the translation of German article [altavista.com].

        Sure thing, Beavis:

        BabelFish Error 3012

        We're sorry we've encountered an error with your request.
        If you think this is a bug we should know about? Send us e-mail and let us know the following:

        * What browser you were using.
        * The operating system you are on.
        * The type of translation you were trying when this error occurred.

        Questions? Check out our FAQs.

        The error encountered is:

        Not a valid referer.
    • Nostalgiker find thereafter only over a special issue and at gepfefferten prices to end of 2001 an acces, before T-Online switches off its BTX Zugangsknoten finally.


      Is this written in the same language as this one?

      Achtung!

      Alles Lookenpeepers
      Das Elektronikermaschinen ist nicht fur
      Gefingerpoken und mittengrabben.
      Ist easy zum schnappen der Springenwerken, poppencorken undblowenfusen mit Spitzensparken.
      Ist nicht fur gewurken bei Dummkopfen. Das rubbernecker Sightseeren keepen die Hands in die Pocketten.
      Bitte, relaxen und watchen alles der Blinkenlighten.

      I will immediatly add windy Abzocker, first hakeliger Internet acces to my vocabulary, but what is a lozenge character? Seems to be a quite interesting name for #. Hmm, C lozenge.
    • There seems to be some confusion about the
      term videotext.

      In Germany, Videotext is additional information
      sent along with the TV signal and is used
      to transmit simple pages like a TV guide or
      weather forecasts. No back channel there.

      The system that'll be taken offline is
      BTX (Bildschirmtext). In the above
      translation there are some occurrences of
      VTX that should read BTX...
  • Another one bites the dust.

    Seriously: is it necessary to hear when every new tech company that either a) had a bad business model or b) couldn't adjust to a change in markets, dies? It's just business!

    No, this isn't a troll - I really do feel it's getting a bit OTT. Businesses die and start up the whole time, very few last that long, especially in a new and fast-changing market. It's often in fact more efficient to close one business and open a new one (rather than majorly change a business model) to respond to a large change in market conditions.

    If there was something pertinent hidden deep in the text, my apologies - my german is by no means fantastic these days and I don't trust babelfish that well!

  • by vscjoe ( 537452 ) on Sunday November 25, 2001 @06:17AM (#2609722)
    I have used the system a little, and found it to be very functional. More than a decade ago, you could already get train and airline schedules, make reservations, buy tickets, go mail-order shopping, and do many other things. All that worked with pretty simple and cheap clients that you just turned on an they worked. I don't know what they did on the server side, but it worked as well. Most of the e-commerce and business ideas you see today on the web were already there (perhaps a good place to dig for prior art to challenge those annoying e-commerce patents).
  • Glad to see...;-) (Score:3, Informative)

    by charon.de ( 56210 ) on Sunday November 25, 2001 @06:26AM (#2609728)


    It was always a piece of crap, the BTX search engine mostly found links to some hardcore site, where you should press 19 (for OK) to pay 9,99 DM to see the page, no matter what your search really was. It was expensive, I heard in france they have/had something similar, which was a big success, as the france telekom gave the terminals you needed, before it was possible to use it with a PC, for free. Where the German Telekom (former Deutsche Post), as always, ripped you off and took a fortune for those dummy terminals.

    Michael

    • I heard in france they have/had something similar, which was a big success, as the france telekom gave the terminals you needed, before it was possible to use it with a PC, for free.


      Yep, this was called "Mini-tel" and it was so cheap and easy to use that it kept most of the french peaple off using the internet for some years...
  • Micropayment (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lars T. ( 470328 ) <Lars,Traeger&googlemail,com> on Sunday November 25, 2001 @06:42AM (#2609736) Journal
    BTX allowed micropayment, in a way that a page you loaded could cost money, from between DM 0.01 to 9.99 (the system would ask you before you loaded it of course).

    When the CCC found an exploit in the system, they informed (the then still state owned monopolistic mail/phone company) Deutsche Bundespost. The DBP said there was nothing wrong, so the CCC used the exploit to get the computer from a bank to call up their page again and again, untill the bank owed the more than DM 10,000. They gave it back the next day, and BTX got a very bad press.


  • "Non-speakers might want to try a translation."

    This is so frustrationg! I speak quite well, and still can't read a lick of that damn German. They didn't use the word Ubermensch anywhere in the whole article !!! :^]
  • CCC mentioned here: (Score:2, Informative)

    by MegaFur ( 79453 )
    In my brand new (and probably lame) attempt to score karma, I would like to note that the Chaos Computer Club are talked about (some) in the book, The Hacker Crackdown [lysator.liu.se].

    Of course, probably everyone in the Universe (except for me that is, up until about 20 min ago) already knows that Bruce Sterling has written (or co-written or edited) a number of sci fi and/or "cyber" books. This one, however, (which is not fiction--we hope :-) ) deals mostly with

    the 1990 assault on hackers, when law-enforcement officials successfully arrested scores of suspected illicit hackers and other computer-based law-breakers. These raids became symbolic of the debate between fighting serious computer crime and protecting civil liberties. However, The Hacker Crackdown is about far more than a series of police sting operations. It's a lively tour of three cyberspace subcultures--the hacker underworld, the realm of the cybercops, and the idealistic culture of the cybercivil libertarians.
    (quote from Amazon [amazon.com])

  • Non-speakers might want to try a translation.

    Or learn to speak first.
  • by Florian Weimer ( 88405 ) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Sunday November 25, 2001 @07:27AM (#2609795) Homepage
    If you look at the bottom of the page, you'll notice that it's older than a year. BTX has already been shut down.

    I know that Slashdot is US-centric, but I wouldn't have thought that this results in semi-important European news being announced with a delay of one year.
    • OK, it's not said in the article. BTX is closed down bit by bit. Since 2 or 3 years most of the providers don't offer any more content over BTX. It is still possible to use the old BTX protocol if you dial in on 01943131 (14 Pfennig/minute, that's about 6 US cents). This dial-in infrastructure will be closed at 31/12/2001 [heise.de].

      You will be still able to reach some of the online banking offers over a special gateway called "classic gate". So BTX is not dead yet, but it's dying slowly.

    • I think you're wrong. n-tv.de has the same story [n-tv.de], and they say that the actual shutdown will take place on March 5th, 2002, on which day the Link Level Protocol (LLP) will be deactivated.

      Semi-important? Yeah, the news about the last TCP/IP connection being shut down will be semi-important too, when everyone uses mind transmitters, but it's still a part of history.

    • In the text there's clearly said that it will finally end 2001.

      Nostalgiker finden danach nur noch über eine Sondernummer und zu gepfefferten Preisen bis Ende 2001 einen Zugang, ehe T-Online seine BTX-Zugangsknoten endgültig ausknipst.
    • Not quite. The date on the page at billiger-surfen.de is most probably a typo. The news came from a T-Online press release dated November 14 which is even available in English [t-online.de]. Please try to get your facts straight before you start complaining. HTH.

  • i wonder what happens (happend?) to the public terminals. there used to be some at railway stations, only a few years ago (still after the internet boom).
    you could uns them with standart telephone cards (of course, as it was from deuthe telekom just as the public phones).
    they might well be gone for a while, you oversee them easyly if you got broadband at home...

    france has something similar, minitel. is it still in use? would be a shame if all the minitel terminals people in france have at home would become useless.
    but maybe someone comes up with a creative way of using them for something cool.


  • the equivalent in France, Minitel, still works,
    although for the first time it is reported
    that online purchases on the Web overtook
    those on Minitel this Xmas. (talking 10^9 $ here).

    Talk about a business model : reliable content
    due to synchronous, non packet data transmission,
    billed on the minute with a large number of
    phony pRon sites. I think that in 20 years
    more than 10 billion $ net profit were taken
    by France Telecom and all the content providers.
    about 10 million terminals were given for free
    to telephone line suscribers ; I think
    that it was the initial leverage that BTX
    neglected to apply.

    The system still rocks to find a phone #,
    book train tickets or check a bank account balance : the system boots in less than 10 s and
    connects to the site in about the same duration.

    The bandwidth admittely sucks, as well as the
    graphics (about the same half graphics characters as IBM 850), but to get something done quickly
    and reliably, it still is unbeatable.
    • When I worked in France in 1993 for Molex I connected our AS/400 RPG (yes, RPG!) order-entry program to Minitel so that suppliers could enter orders directly. It was as simple as rewriting the program to work on Minitel-size screens (40x20?) and installing a "custom" PC to act as a gateway between the AS/400 and the Minitel hookup. Can't recall if it was dialup or leased line. Ah, nostalgia... must find that waitress Sylvie's phone number...

      • you mean "Rocket Propelled Grenade", or
        is it another TLA ? (three letter acronym).
        Could be convenient to control one by
        Minitel...

        I guess it was leased line ("transpac", or
        RNIS, some kind of ISDN). For your phone #
        you should give a look to
        http://www.pagesblanches.fr

        or http://www.annu.com
        • No, no -- Report Program Generator, a really ancient and ugly procedural language used mostly on IBM mid-range systems. Dreadful language but it worked well for the target application domain. You are right, it was Transpac...
  • The article doesn't mention that the original BTX modem only had 1200 baud, one of the most heinous limitations of the system. They stuck with that monster for a long time because they had miscalculated the customer resoponse completely. Expecting a huge crowd of people flocking to BTX early on, they had ordered huge number of these crappy 1200 baud modems, 0.5 million if memory serves. Management was not too pleased to see only 195000 users after ten years of service. I forget at which point they decided to junk them.

    Another limiting factor was the use of outdated IBM minicomputers ("system 1" IIRC) as nodes even when PCs became much faster at a fraction of the cost in the mid 80s. This held the cost high, the flexibility at a minimum and the throughput so low as to be unusable for most anything but home banking. The things you can get away with as a monopolist. :-(

    In the 90s they finally managed to upgrade their nodes to 2400 baud and even later to a whopping 19200 or something like that. Always two to five years behind the times and with the independent Internet running circles around it, the service finally died. A long struggle it was.

  • I just checked on German Telekom's subsidiary t-online [t-online.de] web site. The non-banking applications are to shut down on December 31, 2001. However, home banking service applications are to continue to run on the existing hardware using the existing protocols indefinitely. Doesn't sound quite dead to me. Perhaps Buffy needs to lend a hand. :-)
  • ...might want to spend that extra year in pre-school, till they perfect basic syntax and fine motor skills.

    Oh, yeah, and lay off on the links to 'goatse.cx', you trolling wankers!

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