“Reply All” looks at the Minitel
Reply All, produced by the guys from TLDR is the second show from Gimlet Media, just did an episode on the Minitel.
I still have my last Minitel terminal, I think, somewhere in my cellar. It was a fairly sophisticated model with a built-in phone. I remember how excited the French were when this US bank, based in Denver if I recall, started using the Minitel. “Even the Americans have adopted our wonderful Minitel!!”.
Paper phone directories are still distributed, but in much smaller numbers. Every year there are like six left in the lobby of my building which has about 50 apartments. It’s true that the French had a very effective service with Minitel, so Internet took long to catch on. RAVEL, the online service high school grads are required to use to sign up for university, remained Minitel-only for ages. That said, France now has much better, faster, and cheaper Internet than the US. High-speed broadband Internet, cable TV, landline for 30 euros a month.
The main for-pay services used the phone number 3615, and I spent a lot on chatrooms of the Minitel Rose. Even today, “3615 blablala” is a joking way of referring to a service, a bit like using hashtags in speech. “3615 KINENVEU” was a regular feature of a daily comic sketch on Canal Plus’s evening magazine show.