Goodbye Minitel

By Deane Barker on August 6, 2012

On the Farms of France, the Death of a Pixelated Workhorse: This is something I knew very little about.  I heard the name from time to time, and knew it was some online service in Europe, but this article explains how much of a pioneering thing it really was in its day.

The Minitel, the once-revolutionary online service that prefigured the Internet in the early 1980s, allowed the French to search a national phone registry, buy clothing and train tickets, make restaurant reservations, read newspapers or exchange electronic messages more than a decade before similar services existed almost anywhere else in the world. The network is now largely relegated to the realm of nostalgia, though, with its dial-up connection, black-and-white screen and text that scrolls out one pixelated character at a time.

Over the years, usage has condensed to be primarily among farmers in a particular region in France.  In the mid-90s, half of the population of the country used Minitel in some form.

Wikipedia has some images of the terminals, along with this tidbit:

In the early 1990s US West (previously Qwest now CenturyLink) launched a Minitel service in the Minneapolis and Omaha markets called “CommunityLink”. This joint venture of US West and France Télécom provided Minitel content to IBM PC, Commodore 64 and Apple II owners using a Minitel-emulating software application over a dialup modem.