Minitel was invented in Brittany, a county in France and was launched in the year 1982. It not only forever solidified itself as a shining symbol of France’s telematic future during its peak use in the 90s but also as the world’s most successful online service prior to the invention of the internet. Minitel was a videotex online service accessible through telephone lines, by connecting to remote services via uplink, users were able to access tens of thousands of services similar to how the world wide web works today. (PR Newswire, 1989) Minitel gave service providers considerable freedom over their systems, a feature that would become a staple of the internet. It also had a novel payment system built into the network that lowered the barrier to entry, this encouraged start-ups and entrepreneurs to produce more content which attracted more users. (PR Newswire, 1989)With an open platform, Minitel was a place of digital experimentation, innovation and excitement. One example was 3615 Michelin, a computerised travel assistance from Michelin’s Bureau des Iteneraires.
To access the Michelin service, one had to dial in 3615 Michelin on a Minitel. A simple menu pops up to give four different service choices: (Mailland & Driscoll, 2017)
- Itinerary planning based on Michelin maps
- Accommodation and sightseeing information from Michelin Guides
- Tire guide
- An electronic comment card for feedback
For the itinerary planning component, one had to input point of departure, destination and stop overs among 40,000 localities. With the data input, Michelin offered an efficient and safe compromise between distance, time and simplicity. Even offering alternate travel routes such as: a route focused on going on or off highways, shortest routes, scenic routes and even a route with the most tourist attractions. The second component, for accommodations and sightseeing, accessed information from the Michelin database. It provides information on hotels, restaurants, camping sites, tourist attractions and ferry services. The first two components were highly interactive, users were able to switch back and forth between them comparing maps and information from guides. The third component allowed travellers to know exactly the Michelin tires that they need for their vehicles. By indicating the make, model and type of vehicle, the Michelin service was able to recommend tire type, inflation pressure, fittings, markings, speed index and more. The fourth component allowed users to send comments on sites and facilities back to Michelin’s data files.
Overall, the Michelin service allowed anyone to create their own travel itinerary with the addition of accommodation and sightseeing information to allow easier travel within France. In creating the Michelin service, it served to encourage travel within France which would ultimately profit Michelin – a tire company. The ease of access to travel information promoted tertiary industries and small businesses across the country. Travellers no longer had to spend as much time planning their trips, instead they could easily link to Minitel and use Michelin’s travel service. By providing information and infrastructure for travel, Michelin hoped to convince people to buy cars, drive throughout France, and ultimately buy Michelin tires. (PR Newswire, 1989)
PR Newswire. (1989, August 1). Need help? Call 3615 Michelin. Retrieved from Nexis Uni: https://advance.lexis.com/document/?pdmfid=1516831&crid=abf91698-416d-4be4-bf06-766113a67101&pddocfullpath=%2Fshared%2Fdocument%2Fnews%2Furn%3AcontentItem%3A3SJF-C4T0-002T-62YM-00000-00&pdcontentcomponentid=8054&pdteaserkey=sr0&pditab=allpods&ecomp=yzvnk&
Mailland, J., & Driscoll, K. (2017, june 20). Minitel: The online world France built before the web. Retrieved from IEEE Spectrum: https://spectrum.ieee.org/minitel-the-online-world-france-built-before-the-web
Isalska, A. (2018, October 25). The ingenious story behind Michelin Stars. Retrieved from BBC: https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20181024-the-ingenious-story-behind-michelin-stars