Traffic Information Before the Internet: MINITEL 3615 iTi
Today, most people use maps software such as Google Maps to get navigation information from place to place, and use services like Yelp to figure out the best places to eat. However, before the internet, the options available were much less convenient, mainly having to use physical maps and newspapers to figure out directions and find information on local restaurants and hotels respectively. However, with the introduction of MINITEL to nearly the entire French population, citizens of France had access to an information-system long before the internet as we know it today was born. And to coincide with the plenty of services offered on MINITEL was MINITEL 3615 iTi, which allowed access to traffic and routing information across Europe, along with being able to plot out good restaurants and hotels on your way to your destination (Nott 1994).
Originally launched by the French government in the 1980s, MINITEL was provided for free to nearly all citizens of France, allowing them to access a plethora of services through a text-based terminal in their home. With the rapid and widespread access to MINITEL, many companies began to offer services through MINITEL. Even with all of these companies offering services through MINITEL from cat ailment information to car statistics and everything in-between, that didn’t stop France telecom, a state-owned entity, from launching their own MINITEL services, including MINITEL 3615 iTi. Based on the accounts of Les Echos from SOCIAL – Ile-de-France: mise en place d’un dispositif de transport de substitution, 3615 iTi was launched at least partially to allow citizens of France to travel who don’t have easy access to transportation (such as cars). However, iTi accomplished far more than guide car-less passengers to public transit, as it also guided everyone on optimal routes throughout Europe, acting as a sort-of predecessor to MapQuest.
MINITEL did not last forever, however, and MINITEL 3615 iTi would eventually fall by the time MINITEL would shut down in the 2010s. However, even with 3615 iTi’s shutdown, it still lives to this very day, where according to both their website and as reported by Sud Ouest in Charente Edition, the people behind iTi went on to create Mappy, a more polished version of Google Maps specifically geared for France and its public infrastructure.
Overall, MINITEL plays an important part in the history of the internet. Like the BBS systems that ran alongside them, MINITEL systems offered a gateway to a connected world, even far greater than their bulletin-board counterparts. And with that gateway came a plethora of services, including the traffic-helping 3615 iTi that evolved into the Mappy we know today.
Ouest, Sud. 2015. “Mappy met à jour ses vues d Angoulême.” Charente Edition, June 2, 2015.
Nott, Tim. 1994. “Minitel made the world my huitre; France Telecom’s information service.” The Independent (London), May 20, 1994.