28th Jun 2012, 06:12
This story on the BBC website reminded me of the clunky old Beltel which Telkom SA rolled out as a predecessor to the internet. I remember being very impressed by Minitel on visits to France, and when I worked there we even had one in the office. At the time I never knew why my colleague spent hours 'checking his bank accounts' with a rapturous expression on his face, but I now realise he was probably looking at 3615 CUM or something similar.
Clearing out a friend's garage a year or so ago, I even found one of the old instruments.
BBC News - Minitel: The rise and fall of the France-wide web (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18610692)
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6th Jul 2012, 23:11
In pre-internet days they were remarkable aids to business. I remember picking up my Minitel at the Telkom store in Randburg Mall.
As a dealer in property I was given access to the Government portal and could investigate and review the Deeds Office transactions and archives.
I seem to remember it came along in the mid '80's, certainly by 1988 I was into an IBM PC with 44Mb hard drive and 640Kb RAM yeah!!
SA Telkom probably got the Minitel at a sell off price as a thank you for SA Defence Force buying more Mirages, but I'm just being cynical.
7th Jul 2012, 11:35
And then there was Prestel........:hmm:
8th Jul 2012, 21:43
Ah Minitel, the frenchies never got any kudos for that system all those years ahead of the rest of the world, the other being the 'chip and pin' on credit/debit cards (carte bleu) AND the ability to pay from your table using a hand held device back in the late 1980's :8 I used to have a basic beige coloured minitel terminal in my apartment in Paris back in the 90's and was only restricted by my inability to grasp the language, as by typing 3615 and then the company or service and voila! the information was there. A simple and effective service to those that needed it. Ahhhhhh, 3615Nostalgie ;)
8th Jul 2012, 22:22
I think most people never realised that you could access many minitel type services from a telex machine.
Using something like a BT Cheetah telex it was possible to log into the prototype internet (pre HTML: all text driven) and access online databases such as STN. It was slow, but quicker than the alternative of hooking up a very basic early computer via a 9600baud modem and dodgy phone line.
Only problem was cost - at so much per character a long report could be expensive, and Ihats where the French, for a few years, won out
9th Jul 2012, 07:21
And then there was Prestel
Which makes prestel/minitel a case study in the british inability to commercially exploit their inventions.
Both systems used the videotex system invented at the Post Office Research Station at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk.
The French made two key decisions:
1. The value was in the service not the hardware; and
2. The Killer App: The phone book was only available online, but was free. This meant:
a) most people had to learn to use the system
b) they didn't feel ripped off or scared of the cost;
c) represented a substantial cost saving (x million printed phone books x Y years)
Prestel: 90,000 users
Minitel: 25,000,000 users
9th Jul 2012, 07:41
+1 on the marketing but they never stopped printing the phone book, still have them....
I worked for the EU at the time as a contractor on technology take up. The old 'Post Office' mentality of 'you'll get (technology/equipment) when I say so' caused Europe to be years behind in what subsequently became the Internet.
The Internet standard (TCP/IP) was implemented in US by DARPA in the late 70s but the PTTs, as they were known, insisted on the X series standards being implemented in Europe.
Add to that the politics of character sets between the Europeans, how to deal with accents and umlauts, and we slipped further back.