Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Telic Alcatel Minitel - running as a USB Raspberry Pi Terminal

A short while back I was surfing good old eBay, when I stumbled over a Minitel machine.
After doing a bit of checking on wikipedia, I found out that it was an old 1980s machine that was the Internet before the Internet....but they only switched off the service in July 2012!
It involved you dialing up a phone number, connecting your phone to the device and then using the keyboard and special orange function keys to navigate around.
It looks to be like a Prestel / Teletext / Ceefax / CompuServe type of "internet".  Remember those days :-)  If you're from the US, then think early days AOL (before the free CDs).

Anyway, I happen to have won a bid and the nice snug little device arrived at my humble abode waiting for me to do something useful with it.  First of all, I was surprised that it actually worked!  It powered on and everything!  I say, "everything"...as it just sat there with a blinking cursor and didn't really do anything at all.  Oh and there was no manual.

I did however spend some time surfing the good old interwebs and found that some smart people had converted their Minitel devices to be USB Linux Terminals.

The gauntlet was thrown.  The challenge was accepted.  A couple of 1am night times were had.  But, I got there in the end!  Oh, and I used a Raspberry Pi 2 as well.  Extra geek points awarded.  I "was" going to do something with an Arduino, but I wanted to keep the device in as original spec as I could (yes, I did just say that).  I wanted to re-use the keyboard and monitor with no extra hacking.

Oh, did I also mention that I could not find ANYONE who has done this with a Minitel 1 device?  Read that again, a "Minitel 1", not a "1b" or any other version, a "Minitel 1".  That is correct the one WITHOUT the FNCT button!
So, all you people that post replies on forums stating, "just press FNCT T+A, FNCT T+E, etc...", yeah, it doesn't work on these devices as there is NO FNCT button!  I did however find out what you do have to do.... see the in-depth article for more details!

1 comment:

  1. Ah this is exactly what I had been looking for. No Function button on my Minitel so I am hoping that I can somehow follow your path. Thanks for giving me hope, I will keep you posted.