Bring A Minitel Terminal Back To Life WIth An ESP32

Most of us who are old enough are likely to have had our first experience of an online service some time in the 1990s, either through the likes of Compuserve or via an ISP. For our French readers the online experience will have come much earlier, as a forward-thinking telecommunications environment led to every household in the country receiving a viewdata terminal. The Minitel system as it was called was a runaway success, and was only finally turned off as late as 2012. Many of the terminals survive to make a great basis for projects, and it’s one of these that [Louis H] has taken and enhanced with an ESP32.

One of the special things about this project is that unlike so many other Minitel conversions it doesn’t involve tearing into the terminal itself. Instead the PCB plugs into the socket on the back of the unit and emulates the line for the terminal to talk to. It can then be used as an SSH terminal over WiFi, or as a serial terminal for the ESP32 itself for example running a MicroPython firmware. If you can handle the French AZERTY keyboard there is no easier way to drag a viewdata terminal into the 2020s, as you can see in the video below the break.

Chez Hackaday, we love these nostalgic gems from the 1980s. Indeed we like this classic French public network so much that we’ve featured it quite a few times. Here for example is a similar project using an Arduino.

11 thoughts on “Bring A Minitel Terminal Back To Life WIth An ESP32

  1. I have a minitel 1B in my attic (the one with color display and “high res” screen).
    Back in the early 90s I’ve used my hacked HP28S calculator as a VideoTex page recorder/player for Minitel (it was then billed by the second and not cheap).

    I work in the city where it was invented, and work in the company who invented it :)

    1. Interesting, I didn’t know about these DIN6 connectors. But I wonder how you can tell it is not compatible if no investigation has been done. In worst case, a small adapter might do the job ;)
      If anyone has information on that, it is welcome !!

      1. DIN6 on those items was a “very recent” finding as they’re mostly unfindable in Europe. As a general matter, your (very nice, well received but yet untested) hack is 100 % safe on French terminals (99.999 % of total production that is well documented) but we have (yet) no clue about rare foreign Minitels.

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