Week 1, Fall 2021

Fall 2021

Week 1: Course Introduction

The Internets That Weren’t: England’s Victorian Internet, France’s Minitel, and the Soviet Internyet

While early public data networks and bulletin board systems were creating a patchwork of connection for what would later become the web, the Soviet Union and France envisioned systems that would offer complete experiences in a nationwide network. The Soviet experiment would hardly get off the ground, but France’s Minitel would roll out many services that would later appear on the web, such as personal chat, online banking, and most iconically sex lines.

To explore more on Minitel, visit http://minitel.us/.


Julien Mailland, “Minitel, the Open Network Before the Internet,” The Atlantic, June 16, 2017.
Benjamin Peters, “The Soviet InterNyet,” Aeon, October 17, 2016.


Further Reading

Tom Standage. The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers. Bloomsbury, 1999.
Julien Mailland and Kevin Driscoll. Minitel: Welcome to the Internet. MIT Press, 2017.
Benjamin Peters. How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet. MIT Press, 2016.


“Victorian Internet,” All Things Considered, October 19, 1999.
“The French Connection,” Reply All, January 17, 2015.
“Networking for a Nuclear War, the Soviets,” Advent of Computing, July 28, 2019.
“History and the Soviet Internyet,” Late Night Live, April 14, 2020.
“Human Insecurity,” The Secret History of the Future, October 3, 2018.
“Dots, Dashes, and Dating Apps,” The Secret History of the Future, October 7, 2019.


“Minitel: The Web before the Web,” Computer History Museum, CHM Live.