3617 ACADEMIA: A college board for French students before CollegeBoard’s website
Minitel, the term used colloquially to refer to the public videotex system in France, was the most successful precursor to the Internet since its debut in the early 1980s. Terminals were distributed to millions of French users and the platform was accessible and available to anyone who wanted to use them. One service Minitel offered, in particular, was 3617 ACADEMIA.
3617 ACADEMIA was the place for students to check the results of their Baccalaureate exam, an extremely difficult college entrance exam which basically determined whether they had to repeat their final year of high school in order to retake the exam to receive a passing score. Until its closure in 2004, it was the most used dial service (LEBLÉ 2012). It is hard to discern whether ACADEMIA was used for anything other than checking scores as well as released test answers so students could self-score before receiving their final results (The Answers to the 3617 ACADEMIA Exams, 2006). Some sources state that 3617 ACADEMIA was also used by students to register for universities that required online registration.
While it was impossible to locate information about the creation of ACADEMIA as a dial-up service, I was able to learn more about how expensive using the service was, which can offer us some details regarding the culture that the production of ACADEMIA created for its French users. In 2006, the cost of using 3617 ACADEMIA was 0.86 euros per minute (The Answers to the Exams on 3617 ACADEMIA 2006). This implies the level of usage this service received, in the sense that this dial-up wasn’t used very often but did get a lot of hits during a specific time at the end of school year (where BAC exams were administered in June/July) (The Answers to the 3617 ACADEMIA Exams 2006). Typically, students probably went on this site once to check scores, and once again maybe to send those scores to universities they were applying to (Minitel: The Online World France Built before the Web).
While we are unsure about how ACADEMIA was produced, who created the service and how they set up the system to work with French high schools, we can discern a few things regarding the means of production regarding this service. First, we know that this was a service created for students pursuing higher education as well as for high school administrators, university admission officers, as well as test administrators and test makers, since students would take the Bac, test answers would be released after two hours of the exam’s completion, and students would view their scores and see how well they did. Especially since these Baccalaureate exams were determinative of where a student would go for university (similar to SAT scores now), one must assume that universities also had access to 3617 ACADEMIA with accounts tailored to their specific needs as university admissions officers. Considering how we can draw many parallels to how Minitel services worked back then and how and what we can do on the Internet now, I will assume that 3617 ACADEMIA could also be a platform for students to apply to university, since CollegeBoard is the SAT website where you can view your SAT scores and send them to universities for which you are applying to.
One user on a discussion forum about Minitel nostalgia noted that their family received a free Minitel from the post office, but he never used it until many years later when he had to check his Bac exam results (Minitel: The Online World France Built before the Web). This gives us so much insight to how students used Minitel for their academic careers as well as how often they used 3617 ACADEMIA.
LEBLÉ, Vincent. “Les Incontournables Du Minitel.” lanouvellerepublique.fr. la Nouvelle Republique.fr, June 29, 2012. https://www.lanouvellerepublique.fr/loisirs/les-incontournables-du-minitel.
“Minitel: The Online World France Built before the Web (2017): Hacker News.” Minitel: The Online World France Built Before the Web (2017). Hacker News, September 30, 2021, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24439744.
“The Answers to the 3617 ACADEMIA Exams.” Ouest-France Multimedia, June 11, 2006. https://advance.lexis.com/document/?pdmfid=1516831&crid=c4e80f38-46b0-4535-9dd8-27f93567af79&pddocfullpath=%2Fshared%2Fdocument%2Fnews%2Furn%3AcontentItem%3A4K59-FBT0-TX7H-S2KW-00000-00&pdcontentcomponentid=298603&pdteaserkey=sr1&pditab=allpods&ecomp=yzvnk&earg=sr1&prid=dfdad89d-a517-4aa1-8262-929257edaafa&pdbcts=1633016394056.
“The Answers to the Exams on 3617 ACADEMIA,” June 10, 2006. https://advance.lexis.com/document/?pdmfid=1516831&crid=bf271675-56f8-46d0-bfd6-58fec3ebd001&pddocfullpath=%2Fshared%2Fdocument%2Fnews%2Furn%3AcontentItem%3A4K59-FBT0-TX7H-S2KW-00000-00&pdcontentcomponentid=298603&pdteaserkey=sr0&pditab=allpods&ecomp=yzvnk&earg=sr0&prid=e3cf1f9e-454f-4889-85e7-9fe3b5951127.