Books have become a mark of the advancement of the human civilization. The gift of literature and the ability to share it, have greatly advanced mankind, enabling us to grow our knowledge to interact within the world. Due to this, databases have become so incredibly important that they were institutionalized in almost every city across the globe. Whether it is a library or a kindle, the ability and drive to share literature has remained constant throughout human history. With the advancement of civilization, we also see advancements within the way we share books. The Minitel was an early French computer that view as the first, prehistoric version of our modern internet. A channel within Minitel, 3617 Electre, was one of the world’s first digital databases and a true step towards the future for the people of the late 20th century.
Many of us have not stepped in a library to rent a book in a long time. We have a multitude of choices to acquire the book that we need. That can range from the use of Kindles to Apple and many other companies’ “books” app, or even finding free pdfs of said book online. However, this wasn’t too common until about 10-15 years ago. Back then, we’d find ourselves in libraries. This begs the question, “How did this transition happen?” The answer is simple, with the advancement of technology, literature also advanced. Now, many of us have Macbooks, Dell computers, ASUS and et cetera. In the 80’s and 90’s this was not the case. A household computer wasn’t common everywhere, except for one place. The French government, to help further technological advancement in the country, started installing Minitel’s in people’s homes. Now, this wasn’t like the normal computer we see today. Minitel’s didn’t run on the “internet”, rather they ran on telephone lines already established throughout the country. The goal of this was to help consolidate information, such as phone books, in one place, reducing the cost of distribution. However, people quickly found other uses of the service. They discovered that the Minitel could quickly connect people with resources much faster than they would physically. This became the prototype of our modern internet. From dating to leisure to business, the Minitel provided the French people with quick access to a multitude of services. For instance, rather than going to libraries, people were able to get books and other forms of literature through the Minitel on 3617 Electre. Whether you were looking for “books dealing with the cultivation of yellow tomatoes, the place where all the publications on the small peoples of Siberia in general and the Khantis Mansis in particular”, all could be found on the Electre server (Camé 1995). Even furthermore, the server also gave out information on different CD’s and other discs that someone might need. This information on media products helped the company branch out and set the tone for the future of e commerce.
The Minitel was a revolutionary device not only in the age of the internet but in the age of technology as a whole. This small device would go on to set the state for the modern day computer and revolutionized the way we go about our daily lives. A student looking for a book wouldn’t have to search hours on end for the right one, now with 3617 Electre on Minitel, the vast collection of literature in the world could be accessed right through one’s house. The French computer’s affect was not only in France, rather, it showed a new and bright future for computers and the future of the internet.
- Cadou, Olivier. 1995. “Electre Multimédia.” Accueil, November, 1995. https://bbf.enssib.fr/consulter/bbf-1996-01-0064-009
- Camé, François. 1995. “ “Chronique Minitel : 36 15 Blues Trompette. “‘3615 Cinélibé’” Et “‘3617 Electre’”.” Libération, March 24, 1995. https://www.liberation.fr/ecrans/1995/03/24/chronique-minitel-36-15-blues-trompette-3615-cinelibe-et-3617-electre_126046/
- Wikipedia Contributors. 2019. “Minitel.” Wikipedia, October 27, 2019 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minitel
Mailland, Julien. 2017. “Minitel, the Open Network before the Internet.” The Atlantic, June 16, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/06/minitel/530646/