In France, The Minitel Lives On!

Dennis Faas's picture

In the mid-1990's, 14 million homes in France had a government-sponsored microcomputer called The Minitel.

The Minitel left much to be desired in terms of technological capabilities, as the system offered a black-and-white screen with slow connection speeds. The system was eventually replaced in favor of the forthcoming Internet.

A French Internet service provider, Neuf Cegetel, has taken their inspiration from the Minitel and developed a brand-new computer based on a similar low-cost model.

The new computer will be aimed directly at those who are unwilling or unable to purchase a high-end computer for themselves. (Source:

But unlike the Minitel, the new system uses the same open-source software beloved by many engineers and programmers.

In an interview with several media sources, those at Neuf Cegetel expressed their desire to create a product that would be as simple and cheap as the Minitel, while being sold based on the individual needs of the consumer.

For USD $53.30 (€39.90), customers will receive a black-and-white computer that will appear roughly the same size and shape of a toaster. For an extra $42.40 (€29), customers will receive a keyboard, mouse and small camera. For an extra $112.40 (€99), customers will receive a 14-inch color monitor. (Source:

The keyboard itself uses color codes to indicate the characters that appear. The keyboard will also have separate keys for the @ and € symbols.

Consumers may also request that the computer be periodically inspected by Neuf technicians to resolve any impeding problems. The computer itself will notify Neuf technicians of any problems like overheating, which may or may not be initially detected by the user.

France has always been regarded as one of Europe's most dynamic Internet markets. In France, three major private companies are currently competing to lay fiber cables to homes. (Source:

Faced with having to finance this costly infrastructure, those laying fiber to the home (like Neuf) have to maximize the number of customers using these lines.

If one-third of the people in the building do not own a computer and see no reason to get broadband, the situation becomes a serious financial issue. (Source:

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