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Minitel: The Online World France Built Before the Web

A decade before the Internet went mainstream, French citizens were interacting via Minitel, a computer network open to anyone with a telephone

11 min read
Minitel terminal
SSPL/Getty Images

It was the late 1970s. Former French presidents Charles de Gaulle and George Pompidou had recently died. The Arab oil embargo caused energy prices to quadruple for a time. Marseille remained gripped by drug lords. And France had to face the fact that its telephone network was one of the worst in the industrialized world. Fewer than 7 million telephone lines served 47 million French citizens, and the country’s elite felt that the domination of U.S. firms in telephone equipment, computers, databases, and information networks threatened their national sovereignty. Or at least it damaged their cultural pride.

In an influential 1978 report to President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, titled The Computerization of Society, government researchers Simon Nora and Alain Minc argued that the solution to France’s telecom woes lay in “telematics”—a combination of telecommunications and informatics. They outlined a plan for digitizing the telephone network, adding a layer of interactive teletext video technology, and providing entrepreneurs with an open platform for innovation.

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GPT Protein Models Speak Fluent Biology

Deep learning language models design artificial proteins for tricky chemical reactions

3 min read
Two protein structures labelled ProGen Generated and 25% Mutation.

By learning the "language" of functional proteins, the AI learned to prioritize its most structurally important segments.

SalesForce

Artificial intelligence has already shaved years off research into protein engineering. Now, for the first time, scientists have synthesized proteins predicted by an AI model in the lab, and found them to work just as well as their natural counterparts.

The research used a deep learning language model for protein engineering called ProGen, which was developed by the company Salesforce AI Research in 2020. ProGen was trained, on 280 million raw protein sequences from publicly available databases of sequenced natural proteins, to generate artificial protein sequences from scratch.

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