Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

SSE Working Paper Series in Economic History,
Stockholm School of Economics

No 2017:2: Videotex in Sweden 1977-1993

Erik Lakomaa ()
Additional contact information
Erik Lakomaa: Institute for Economic and Business History Resarch, Postal: Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: A monopolist may be more restricted than a company subject to competition and also be less profitable – e.g. due to demands that it provide certain services at a loss. In this paper the Swedish Telecom monopoly, Televerket’s, Videotex projects are used to analyze this phenomenon. From the late 1970: and until the early 1990s, telecom operators across the world developed and deployed Videotex-systems; new public information services usually based on dumb terminals, of which the most well-known was the French Minitel. The systems were at the time of deployment regarded as the technology of the future but they almost universally failed commercially. In this paper, using a case study based on extensive archival sources from the Swedish Telecom monopoly Televerket, and using novel digital research methods, the origins and the introduction of Videotex systems are analyzed. It is also argued that the systems initially made sense in the context of contemporary computer development and market organization, but also that most of them would rapidly have been discontinued had it not been for the monopolist logic of telecom operators. Finally, I introduce the concept of the monopolist’s curse, to explain why this was the case.

Keywords: Videotex; Sweden; history of computing; monopoly

JEL-codes: D42; N01; N84; O33

19 pages, October 29, 2017

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