In 1889, the National Assembly nationalised the telephone service, and the General Directorate of Mail and Telegraphs published the first list of telephone subscribers, entitled the “Official Directory of Telephone Subscribers”.
The subscribers were listed in alphabetical order. However, no numbers were listed because the operators, the “demoiselles du téléphone”, knew the subscribers by name.
The phone books were distributed for free to the subscribers.
The first book we have found for the Aude department dates from April 1901. At that time there were 81 subscribers in Narbonne, 57 in Carcassonne, 8 in Castelnaudary, 12 in Coursan, 21 in Lézignan, 9 in Ouveillan, and 9 in Sallèles-d’Aude—making a total of 197 subscribers in the Aude region.
The Narbonne telephone exchange was inaugurated on 8 August 1892 with 17 subscribers.
In 1902, phone numbers appeared in the phone books of our department.
From 1891, phone books became an advertising tool.
From 1913 onwards, in response to the growing number of subscribers, phone books were published in two volumes. The first volume listed the subscribers of the Seine, the Seine-et-Marne, and the Seine-et-Oise, and the second volume, entitled “Official Directory of Subscribers to the Departmental Telephone Networks”, listed all the subscribers of other departments.
It was not until 1926 that the directory would become department based.
In 1931, improvements on the phone books were made with the use of different coloured paper to differentiate the various sections.
From 1967 onwards, the editions of the six Parisian departments were published.
In 1968, the business pages were changed from pink to yellow, and in 1970 the size of phone books was standardised to 21x29.7 cm.
In 1985, the phone book took on a more colourful style with local landscapes on the cover page.
In 1978, by government decision, the “electronic directory” was born, and a test began in Saint Malo on 15 July 1980.
On 7 May 1985 the national database was inaugurated. It provided direct access to the contact details of 23 million subscribers. Thanks to the arrival of the Minitel, from 1981 onwards, people could gradually connect to this national database.
Minitel, the precursor of the Internet in France, would be disconnected on Saturday 30 June 2012.
On 29 October 1969, in Los Angeles, thanks to Leonard Kleinrock, a computer “talks” to another computer—the Internet was born. Though used by French people from 1994 onwards, it is only in the 2000s that the Internet begins to boom. From that point on, the Internet and mobile phones became the favoured way of finding subscribers’ telephone numbers.