Minitel: already 10 years since technology disappeared from our homes

The Minitel arrived in French homes in 1982, and was disconnected ten years ago, on June 30, 2012. The “little beige box” was successful until the internet gradually took over. small his place.

Forty years ago, the French government introduced Minitel online services. They were then disconnected on June 30, 2012 and according to Benjamin Thierry, lecturer in contemporary history at Sorbonne University, with Humanity, part of the digital childhood of the country died out with the Minitel, which then entered the “technological quirks” now obsolete.

A French innovation

He explains that the Minitel was a French innovation born from the power of an engineer State like the Concorde, the TGV or Ariane. It should indeed be remembered that at the end of the 1970s, France was changed by the effort made by its Post and Telecommunications administration to multiply telephone lines.

The country still lacked telephones but the effects of telephone catch-up began in 1975 with 7 million lines installed (compared to 4 million in 1970). The telephone was brought into homes and businesses, while the network was automated and moved to electronics with new exchanges.

“The investments are colossal and the question of the profitability of such infrastructures arises when voice calls are not sufficient” according to Benjamin Thierry. It was then that the French laboratories worked to improve the networking of computers in order to have access to services which would be sources of revenue.

Distribution in homes in the 1980s

And in France, we are moving towards a secure network, centralized and controlled by the administration, where it will be possible to charge for the use made of it. In 1978, terminals with a keyboard and a screen connected to the telephone socket were then tested. The Minitel tests are conclusive and in the early 1980s, the Directorate General of Telecommunications decides to distribute it to the French.

The administration chooses, in parallel with the free Minitel, to set up a tariff for which it will receive 20% of the price paid by the user, 80% of this sum being donated to their suppliers. The threshold of one million Minitels used was then exceeded in 1985 and in 2000, 9 million terminals were in service and revenue reached 1 billion francs.

“Nowhere else in the world does the general public have access to such an offer. You can get information online, manage your bank account, prepare your road itineraries, book train or plane tickets…”

Benjamin Thierry

A closure in June 2012

But in the early 1990s, the network and the Minitel failed to evolve. The graphic possibilities are limited and the connection duration pricing is no longer attractive. In 2010, the Minitel generated 200,000 euros in turnover per month, but the uses of the web are spreading in the country. In June 2012, France Telecom (Orange) finally decided to close its network.

However, in 2012 it was not necessarily “the end of the Minitel” strictly speaking. In fact, according to the Minitel Museum, it was “the stopping of the videotex access points (the PAVI) which answered on 3615, 3614, and put the users in contact with the remote services, connected via the Transpac network (X25) which formed the teletel kiosk and its system of payment for services. » Some enthusiasts are still today at the origin of initiatives to revive the Minitel.

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