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Networking IT

The End of Minitel 39

Posted by Hemos
ZeldorBlat writes "The French Minitel service is closing it's doors at the end of today. Started in 1982, Minitel provides several services now widely available on the web including phone listings, train ticketing, and many other third-party content. Many prefered it to the web for it's simplicity and perceived security. The system is to be replaced with Le Compte Achats, available to businesses only. The notice can be found here."
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The End of Minitel

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  • I remember when Bell Canada tried to introduce a similar service - Alex - a dedicated terminal w. 300 baud modem - to try to take piggyback on the popularity of free BBS systems and pay systems like Compuserve. Of course, even the cheapest modems at the time could do 1200 - 2400 baud, and 9600 baud if you had the bucks.

    It was overhyped, overpriced (30 cents/minute), and not missed at all.

    • by hey! (33014)
      Forgive me, but that doesn't make any sense at all. It's like saying you had a bad experience with a Ford minivan, so it'd be good if Chrysler stopping making the Caravan.
      • by tomhudson (43916)

        You're forgiven ... since yu probably never saw it.

        Bell Canada tried to copy the Minitel scheme, which was already long in the tooth by the early '90s. For a while they also tried to get into the fax business, before finally hitting upon satellite porn . Bell Canada then quickly became North America's top hard-core porn distributor before getting exposed http://www.friends.ca/News/Friends_News/archives/ a rticles03300101.asp [friends.ca]

        Bell Canada procures its porn from Colorado-based New Frontier Media, which trad

  • I remember using public minitel terminals in Switzerland back in the 90s... it was called Videotex AFAIK. They were pretty popular, and they actually represented a good chance to meet people: there was this room next to a big bank with a few terminals, and we used to meet there with friends. I mean, I even convinced a chick to call me on the public payphone next to the terminals... And I was 14. I guess geekiness is something you're born with :) Anyway thanks for the good fun Minitel, RIP!
  • The French Minitel service is closing it's doors at the end of today.

    Now if only we could make the same progress with Miniluv, Minitruth, and Miniplenty.
    • by SEE (7681)
      Now if only we could make the same progress with . . . Miniplenty.

      Sorry, France is still vigorously defending the Common Agricultural Policy.
  • That's too bad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:29PM (#17422496)
    but I guess it was too expensive to maintain, so it had to happen.

    The Minitel systemi is slow, old and expensive, but it has one great redeeming quality that the internet doesn't have: it's basically a huge star-shaped network, with the only agent between the dumb terminal (the Minitel proper) and the service provider being France Telecom: FT operates the trunk lines, the last-mile lines (it's just the POTS) and the servers that manage the whole thing. So, what's great about that is, unless someone is tapping your phone line, or some well-placed FT employee is a thieve, there is no way in hell anybody can steal your personal information. As a result, it's an extremely secure way of doing business "online". What's more, you don't need a computer, Windows, anti-virus software and whatnot, so it's great for technophobic people.

    But I should say "was", since it is no more. Too bad...
    • So, what's great about that is, unless someone is tapping your phone line, or some well-placed FT employee is a thieve, there is no way in hell anybody can steal your personal information. As a result, it's an extremely secure way of doing business "online". What's more, you don't need a computer, Windows, anti-virus software and whatnot, so it's great for technophobic people.

      So what makes it so much better than visiting HTTPS sites on Internet Channel for Wii?

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        So what makes it so much better than visiting HTTPS sites on Internet Channel for Wii?

        I'm going to take a guess here, and assume that you've never used/seen a Mintel? Forgive me if that is not the case.

        A minitel, unlike a Wii, has a keyboard. The Wiis software keyboard is as easy to use as a regular one, especially if you have to type a lot in -- it's fine for entering URLs, but I wouldn't want to use it for writing email, for example (yes, I have a Wii). A mintel also does not require a seperate screen,
    • by jusdisgi (617863)

      So, what's great about that is, unless someone is tapping your phone line, or some well-placed FT employee is a thieve, there is no way in hell anybody can steal your personal information.

      Nope. The fact that FT operates the whole network only means that man-in-the-middle and sniffing attacks are no longer possible. Insofar as "doing business online" still involves you giving personal information to the third party (which is to say, FT does not operate in the merchant credit services capacity) then that t

  • too bad (Score:2, Informative)

    by Fezzik (7916)
    I remember using Minitel maybe 10 years ago when I lived in Paris briefly. It was nice because it was very, very focused. There were no banner ads, no flashy graphics, just plain text and enough buttons to get the job done. There's no technical reason we couldn't have the same thing on the Web, but because there is so much more you can do, we get sites like Amazon's (not to pick on them; they're all bad) with 500 options that take forever to load on slow connections and nobody really wants anyway. And d
    • by pe1chl (90186)
      The web was the same, before the "website designers" entered the scene.
      Many early webpages were plaintext, with only the occasional picture like a company logo or a nice-looking bullet.

      Indeed, this was almost a requirement in the 14k4 modem days. It can still be done today, but apparently it does not sell in most markets.
  • Wrong ! (Score:5, Informative)

    by alexhs (877055) on Monday January 01, 2007 @01:42PM (#17423008) Homepage Journal
    FTFNotice :

    To allow you to access to the Minitel services you need, in 2007, we suggest another of our products : Le Compte Achats.
    Minitel services haven't been closed, web-based "minitelfr" allowing access to Minitel services from the Internet has been. Minitel like BSD still is dying but not dead yet.
  • by doug (926) on Monday January 01, 2007 @01:57PM (#17423140)
    The reason it was popular was that the users will billed per minute and some of that money went to the content provider, with the rest going to France Telecom. French business didn't like switching to web pages because they are a pure expense, while minitel pages generated some revenue. When I lived in France (mid to late 90s) my friends preferred web pages, but that simply wasn't an option in many cases.

    I'm not saying that minitel doesn't have security mechanisms, I'm just saying that its popularity was due to economics.

    Personally, I'm glad it is gone. I thought it was slow and clunky a decade ago, and I can't imagine that I would like it any more today.

    - doug
    • by phayes (202222)
      Another major reason the minitel was widely used was that the french government bankrolled it (to the tune of over a billion francs). You could get one free from FT in exchange for agreeing to forgo receiving an annual telephone book, but using it to find numbers could sometimes be an exercise in frustration due to the rigidity of the software used. When using it to look up numbers it cost essentially nothing to use, but the per minute charges on the other services (like the 3615) added up fast and were bil
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Lost Engineer (459920)
        This is -1 offtopic, but apartment has one 'p' in English. In French, it has two. Since I got regular spelling tests in French but not English from middle school on, I spelled it wrong for years. Thank goodness for spell checking in Firefox 2.0. No I'm not using it right now, so don't ream me for spelling errors.
        • by phayes (202222)
          When posting after midnight on Jan 2 after living more than 20 years in France, misspelling apartment is no surprise. FF flagged it as misspelled but given that I often post in french where it flags almost every word, I've gotten into the habit of ignoring FF's spellchecker. I need a spellchecker that can tell when I'm writing in english & when I'm writing in french...
  • OFQ (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by thrillseeker (518224)
    H: This is my Universal Translator. It could have been my greatest invention, but it translates everything into an incomprehensible dead language
    C: Hello.
    UT:: Bonjour!
    H: See? Utter gibberish!
  • Comments above suggest that this article suggests a more than may actually be occurring. Still, it does appear that we are beginning to approach the end of Videotex and the elaborate graphics compression schemes that supported it. That can only be a good thing. All Videotex was created with the tools that enforced the mindsets of what, today, we would usually think of as badly designed web pages. The "features" of these pages:

    • they weren't resizable
    • they had very limited resolution graphics
    • text was mos
    • All Videotex was created with the tools that enforced the mindsets of what, today, we would usually think of as badly designed web pages. The "features" of these pages:

      • they weren't resizable
      • they had very limited resolution graphics
      • text was most often transmitted as a graphical representation rather than as real text
      • pages had to be created in a compatible Videotext editor

      As compared to the "features" of flash pages:

      • they aren't resizable
      • designed for a monitor which by Murphy's Law has a resolution
      • by dfoulger (1044592)

        Nonresizable web pages with fixed fonts drive me crazy too. I was never a fan of flash until recently. The web desktop programs, most of which are done with flash (and several of which appear to be resizable) are converting me. My son, who programs UI's in meta-languages that produce flash UI's based on XML and code, has been a big fan for a while, but there are lots of badly done web pages whose worst feature is their flash requirements. That's particularly true for people with slow connections.

        My pe

    • by pe1chl (90186)
      This is unfair critisism. In the days when Videotex was designed and rolled out, it was very rare to have a pixel-addressable graphic display, especially in an inexpensive device.
      All video displays of those days have a fixed arrangement of so-many-characters by so-many-lines, where the cells of the matrix are displayed using a "character generator", a lookup table that displays a certain character in a pixel grid within the character cell. This reduces the amount of memory, and also reduces the amount of
      • by dfoulger (1044592)
        I don't think it is an unfair criticism. Videotex rolls out more or less in parallel with the arrival of Personal Computers, a number of which featured graphics that were better than Videotex without any of the contortions that Videotex standards used. I will give credit. They were trying to make the best of very slow dial-up connections (often as slow as 110 bps back them; sometimes a third that speed) and to leverage already ubiquitous televisions. From that perspective they probably succeeded in maki
        • by pe1chl (90186)
          The display standard used by Videotex and Teletext was defined in 1974. The first services that used it appeared around 1977.
          That predates the development and release of the personal computers that you compare it with (which appeared end 1977 and in 1978).

          Of course, larger scale rollout of videotex and teletext happened only by 1980, and by then it would have been done differently when development only had started at that date. A lot happened in those six years.

          In those days we were all focussed on gettin
          • by dfoulger (1044592)
            In fairness, the development of PC's starts in 1974 too; earlier if you accept the arguments of some in IBM. The Altair kit appears in early 1975; Bill Gates' Basic implementation follows fairly quickly. Apple starts shipping fully built machines a year later. I don't want to make a big deal out of that ... and it certainly isn't my attempt to make light of your work, which is the beginning of a long series of efforts aimed at delivering graphics to, depending on how you want to view it, home machines an
  • 3615 Finis (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:27PM (#17423812)

    I remember when Minitel was first introduced, and, in 1982, it was pretty hot stuff. Lots of people were playing with videotex in the 1980s (remember Telidon [ieee.org]?), but only France seemed to find a use for it. I knew people who used Prestel [wikipedia.org], but all they ever seemed to do with it was send pr0n.

    I have used Minitel when visiting France for its original purpose, putting the phone book online. It worked.

    ...laura

  • by melonman (608440) on Monday January 01, 2007 @04:02PM (#17424118) Journal

    Minitel was slow and basic, but, in terms of domestic market penetration, it achieved in the 80s what the Internet didn't achieve for another 20 years. By giving out the terminals for free (initially, and then asking a peppercorn rent), and by convincing customers it was a telephone, not a computer, France Telecom got the entire nation using text-based comms, for everything from directory enquiries through weather forecasts and company reports to porn (I never did work out how that worked on a teletext screen, but there you are...) There are still plenty of Minitel users who have never taken to any of the PC or set-tpo box alternatives because they seem more complicated.

    • by renoX (11677)
      > to porn (I never did work out how that worked on a teletext screen, but there you are...)

      I think it was mainly sex chat and apparently it worked quite well: it was one big source of revenue for FT and in France at the time, all the ads billboards were covered with nearly nude women doing advertisement for 'Minitel rose' (so many that it was a little annoying).

      There was also some text porn and a few ASCII arts of course..
      Some people spent *a lot* of money on these 'sex site'.
  • The End?? (Score:5, Informative)

    by 4D6963 (933028) on Monday January 01, 2007 @05:37PM (#17425084)

    Hold on, the end of the Minitel? Nothing less? Because when I look at the main Minitel [minitel.fr] page there is no such thing. Plus it seems to me that if the Minitel network would stop working I would have heard about it quite a lot from my family, on TV and I'm sure we would have returned the terminal to France Télécom, not to mention that the Slashdot article would have been edited.

    It rather seems that the news is rather about some particular online (on the web) service, not the end of the network itselves.

    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      not to mention that the Slashdot article would have been edited.

      I obviously meant the Wikipedia article

  • From wikipedia:

    "In the 1990's, US West, (now Qwest), launched a Minitel service offering in its service areas called "CommunityLink." The service, a joint venture of US West and France Télécom, utilized Minitel-emulator software for the IBM PC, Commodore 64, Apple II and other computers. The service was fairly short-lived,"

    I _knew_ I saw a kiosk selling Minitel in Mall of America. I knew it. I was aware of Minitel so it caught my attention enough to look at the screen and have the guy exchange s
  • Isn't that the more appropriate headline?

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