Minitel Terminal Becomes Mini Laptop

A French Minitel terminal becomes a Raspberry Pi-powered mini laptop.

In 1980, France took a step into the future when the telecom companies introduced the Minitel system — a precursor to the Web where users could shop, buy train tickets, check stocks, and send and receive electronic mail through a small terminal. Minitel still had 10 million monthly connections in 2009, but the service was discontinued in 2012.

The keyboard of a French Minitel terminal is wired up to an Arduino Pro Micro.So, you can imagine how many Minitel terminals must be floating around at this point. [Gautchh] picked one up at a garage sale a while back and converted it into a battery-powered laptop for taking notes in class. Luckily for us, [Gautchh] recently open-sourced this project and has given us a wiring diagram, STLs, BOM, and a good look into the build process.

[Gautchh] started by gutting the Minitel, but saved the power button and the très chic power indicator that looks like a AA cell. The new 10.4″ LCD screen is held in place with four 3D-printed corner blocks and a bit of hot glue, and the original keyboard (which we’d love to clack on) is now wired up to an Arduino Pro Micro. The main brain — a Raspberry Pi 3B — is easily accessible through a handy little hatch in the back. Well, it looks like we’ve got a new ebay alert to set up.

In the mood for more AZERTY goodness? Check out this gallery of French computers, or a more traditional take on a Minitel with a Raspberry Pi.

17 thoughts on “Minitel Terminal Becomes Mini Laptop

  1. I swear you people shouldn’t be allowed to touch old CRT hardware. Why put in that awful, chintzy LCD when the pi is perfectly capable of outputting composite video? I drive CRTs with them all the time. I just don’t get it.

  2. Long ago I had a Minitel terminal at home and I also worked on some Minitel services.
    White the Minitel service was ahead of its time, the terminal was not so great.
    On the performance department the screen & the modem were close to what you could expect at this time and for that cost but the keyboard… was crap : too hard keypress, noisy, unstable, slow, etc.
    Actualy the Minitel was more a success when it was emulated on a PC.

    Can’t undestand why he kept the case (designed for a CRT) & the keyboard on this great project !

  3. Banking, messaging and buying tickets was a negligible parts of Minitel economy. The bulk was the so-called “Minitel rose” (“Pink” Minitel) which was essentially ASCII pr0n, conversation bots, classifieds and IRC-like messaging.
    At the peak, over 10% of the French households had a Minitel.

    1. It was just a dumb terminal. A 1200 / 75 bauds modem directly connected to a keyboard and a display. The software was run on the server over the POTS line. Kinda like a VT/100 terminal.

      Inside, there was a 8051 like microcontroler with a TS9347 video driver to draw the 40×25 char screen.

      On some models there was also a serial port, and there was some control chars (and key combinations) that you could use to revert the modem speed and act a a modem and becom your own minitel server (like BBS I think).

      Later models used to have up to 9600bps modems and even color screens. But they were quite rare.

      But at this time, in France, you have to pay the phone calls by time even for local calls, so this could easily be quite expensive. Most officials minitel services were on overpriced number (like the infamous 3615).

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.