Year: 1978 – 2012
Initial Price: #service
The Minitel was a Videotex online service accessible through telephone lines, and is considered one of the world’s most successful pre-World Wide Web online services.
The service was rolled out experimentally in 1978 in Brittany and throughout France in 1982 by the PTT (Postes, Télégraphes et Téléphones; divided since 1991 between France Télécom and La Poste). From its early days, users could make online purchases, make train reservations, check stock prices, search the telephone directory, have a mail box, and chat in a similar way to that now made possible by the Internet.
In February 2009, France Telecom indicated the Minitel network still had 10 million monthly connections. France Télécom retired the service on 30 June 2012.
Minitel allowed access to various categories of services:
- phone directory (free)
- mail-order retail companies
- airline or train ticket purchases
- information services
- message boards
Minitel used terminals consisting of a text-based screen, keyboard and modem. Simple graphics could be displayed using a set of predefined graphical characters. Aftermarket printers were available.
I got mine from a flea market, it operates but without the proper network you can`t do much with it. There are plenty of projects over the internet with people that use Arduino boards to simulate the network and even browse the net.
Minitel used the existing Transpac network for commercial users; its popularity caused problems for its existing commercial users. After a severe disruption in June 1985, France Télécom divided business and Minitel traffic. When connecting, the Minitel integrated modem generally dialed a special number connecting to a PAVI (Point d’Accès VIdéotexte, “videotext access point”). The PAVI transmitted information to the servers of the appropriate company or administration using Transpac.
In France the most common dial number was “36 15”, while “36 17” was used by more expensive services. Minitel services names were often prefixed with this number to identify them as such. Billboard ads at the time often consisted of nothing more than an image, a company name, and a “36 15” number; the fact that a Minitel service was being advertised was then clear by implication.
Minitel used a half-duplex asymmetric data transmission via its modem. It downlinked at 1200 bit/s and uplinked at 75 bit/s. This allowed fast downloads, for the time. The system, which came to be known as “1275” was more correctly known as V.23. This system had been developed for general-purpose data communications, but was most commonly used for Minitel and equivalent services around the world.
Technically, Minitel refers to the terminals, while the network is known as Teletel.
Minitel terminals use the AZERTY keyboard most commonly used in France (as opposed to the QWERTY keyboard more common in the English-speaking world).