Cloudflare TV

How Minitel put France online 40 years ago (and a glimpse into Threads)

Presented by João Tomé, John Graham-Cumming
Originally aired on 

Welcome to our weekly review of stories from our blog and other sources, covering a range of topics from product announcements, tools and features to disruptions on the Internet. João Tomé is joined by our CTO, John Graham-Cumming.

In this week's program, we don't have any blog posts to go over. Instead, we start by discussing “Threads”, the new Twitter alternative from Instagram/Meta. That said, we mostly take the opportunity to pay homage to a piece of Internet history: Minitel.

Before the World Wide Web transformed the Internet into a medium for the masses in the 1990s, Minitel pioneered as a French computer network. In the 1980s, it provided millions of users in France with access to a range of services, including email, online purchases (ecommerce), including train reservations, general search, game playing, chat, and even a form of online porn.

It was 43 years ago, on July 15, 1980, that Minitel was first experimentally rolled out, in Saint-Malo, France. It gained widespread adoption in 1983, 40 years ago, when the French government distributed free terminals to every French telephone subscriber. Minitel was discontinued only on June 20, 2012, which upset some people in France, including farmers (we explain why). It was considered a cultural phenomenon and had an impact beyond France, reaching other countries.

John Graham-Cumming has a few old Minitel devices to show and some stories to share. And last but not least, we pivot from Minitel to the newest Indiana Jones movie. The first Indy movie was released on June 12, 1981, when the Minitel project was just getting started.

MIT’s Minitel dedicated site:


Transcript (Beta)

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