What is a “Minitel”?

This Minitel is exhibited at the Musée de la Poste in Paris.

The Minitel was part of the everyday life of the French during the 1980’s, 1990’s and even at the beginning of the years 2000, when the Internet started to become a mass phenomenon. In other words, the “Minitel” was a French Internet widely used before the Internet!

The Minitel was a pioneering online service launched in France in 1982. Users interacted with the system via a keyboard and a small, built-in screen. The Minitel was notable for its wide adoption across France and remained in use until its shutdown in 2012.

The device itself was free but the French had to pay for the time they spent using it.

It provided users with access to a variety of services through a terminal device, including phone directories, ticket booking, messaging, online banking, online pre-registration at French universities…

At the beginning of the Minitel, the phone directory was free for 3 minutes, then you had to pay according to the time you spent on it. The 3-minute complimentary service became a paying service from 2007.

The service operated on a network of telephone lines and was provided by the French telecommunications administration called “PTT” at that time.

This system was influential in the early development of online services and digital economies.

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