Apple's late CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs was apparently inspired by the Minitel, a French gadget that networked together French households via the telephone line.

Owners of the device, designed by France Telecom, could access information such as weather and travel details, well before the internet.

According to Gerard Thery, who was involved in the launch of the Minitel in 1982, Jobs bought a Minitel. Thery told Economie Matin: "Jobs bought one and took it to bits to see how it worked," reports Reuters.

The Minitel was originally designed by France Telecom as an online directory and in its heyday was used by 25 million people in France. Users could shop 'online', make train reservations, search the telephone directory, have a mail box, and access chat rooms.

France Telecom retired the service on 30 June 2012.