Wednesday, August 10, 2005

25 Years Online in the Netherlands: A Compact History in 25 Instalments

Instalment 10: Teleservices: when?

In the run-up to the launch of Viditel, many predictions about the future were made during the conferences: teleshopping, telebanking and telemetering. The most far out prediction was telemetering. According to a British guru, energy companies would be able to read the electricity meter remotely. It was the first hint to powerline services, which are still in an experimental stage in 2006.

Opening screen of James Telesuper grocery service

The benefits of teleshopping were also exposed, but did not really come about as videotext services. The low amount of videotex users, the rudimentary graphical possibilities and the lack of integration with the administration department and the warehouse were debit to this situation. The Dutch direct mail shop Wehkamp did a small experiment on Viditel in 1980, but stopped it before the first year was over. But teleshopping came back in 1985. In the region Haarlem James Teleservice, a subsidiary of the retailer Albert Heijn, started an online grocery distribution service. The service changed its name to Albert in 2001. But there was also a cowboy project: Teleshop Holwerd in the North of the Netherlands; in one year the teleshop should have 50.000 shoppers with their free videotext terminal. The project never got further than a press release. Comp-U-Card Netherlands did better with 7.000 clients and a catalogue of 13.000 items.

Opening screens of the Postbank Girotel service

It took some time, but telebanking eventually made its promise come true. This was not only due to videotex, but also the rise of the PC or house computer as it was called at that time. From the pocketcomputer ZX spectrum of Sir Clive Sinclair some 3500 were sold for 400 Dutch guilders (180 euro) by 1982. The Hobby Computer Club had 6000 members. By 1982 one in the 72 households possessed a PC. On Thursday January 30,1986 the Postbank started up a public trial with 1000 selected business and private clients. The system, named Girotel, worked over Viditel and over its own network. The Postbank was the first bank to launch a telebanking service. The development group had studied all the articles about access and identification and most of all came with a fair subscription price. A few banks followed suit. AMRO took part in Ditzitel and later on in an experiment in Nuenen and Amstelveen.

But not all banks that followed with telebanking services used Viditel as network access, but had their own network, procedure and subscription price. Bank Mees & Hope developed its own telebanking system and ask a subscription price of 1200 Dutch guilders (550 euro) per year! The Postbank eventually left Viditel in 1990 and rerouted its traffic over its own network. By October 1, 2006 the Girotel service will be ended by the Postbank after 10 years of service and exchanged for Internet services.

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