Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Minitel and Libraries in France; for Libraries in France, Minitel Represents a Challenge as Well as an Opportunity

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Minitel and Libraries in France; for Libraries in France, Minitel Represents a Challenge as Well as an Opportunity

Article excerpt

For libraries in France, minitel represents a challenge as well as an opportunity.

The association of the terms "Minitel" and libraries" raises the question of what part a Videotex terminal plays in the library automation program, and whether it has contributed tO the development of new functions and trends in automation or whether it is merely a peripheral part of the automation process.


First let us consider what the term "Minitel" means. The terms Telematics, "Minitel," TELETEL," and "Videotex" are used synonymously in France, although they have different meanings. "Videotex" describes the standard of screen display, "TELETEL" is the name for the network standard - well as the generic name of the whole system, "Telematics" relates to the marriage of informatics and telecommunications thus including more than just Videotex. applications), and "Minitel" is the name of the terminal given by French Telecom to any telephone subscriber.

TELETEL opened in 1983 and now offers more than 10,000 services by public or private companies. Four million Minitel terminals have been distributed free of charge to date and 300,000 are rented for about $14 (U.S.) per month.

The Minitel terminals e comprised of a screen display of 25 lines by 40 columns videotex standard), a modem for exchanging information with the network, a keyboard with eight function keys (erase, cancel, return, previous, next, repeat, guide, and general index), and an OPtional printing device. The first Minites were very simple but have been improved over times Now, even the simplest Minitel terminal is bistandard. suPPOrting both TELETEL Videotex and ASCH data communications standards. Me most advanced offer automatic dialing, a small memory, and remote loading.

The network is operated by French Telecom. The switched telephone network connects to TRANSPAC (packet data network) through concentrators (PAVI) that convert the Videotex standard to TRANSPAC standards. The network is open to anyone developing a service; French Telecom provides the code names and lines to the service provider. It also collects the tariffs for the customers' use of the system via the telephone bills and hands over a portion of the collected amount (at least 60 percent) to the service provider called by the user.

There are different levels of charges, according to the service used. When a user wishes to connect to a service, he or she first dials the number required (e.g., 3614) and connects the terminal before typing the mnemonic name of the service. Assistance may be obtained from the electronic guide to services available on TELETEL 2.

The electronic telephone directory (number 11) is free. TELETEL 1 (3613 at $1.25 per hour) and TELETEL 2 (3614 at $3.50 per hour) were, until recently, used by professionals registered by the service providers, or were reserved for public services administration, etc.), which were free. The user pays for the network to PTT, and for the service when it is fee-based. TELETEL 3, known as KIOSK, charges for both the network and the contents, but no password is required.

in 1987, KIOSK-style charges were extended to other numbers from 3617 to 3621, giving everyone direct access to the service of his or her choice. Charges range from less than $10.50 to more than $95 per hour.

The reason for Minitel's success lies in its technical and economic simplicity combined with its wide range of services' there are currently over 10,000, with even more being planned by software companies, private or public educators, and other organizations. They fall into the categories of transactional services (such as reservations systems), consultation or communication services (mail boxes, chattering services, etc.), and games - Databases of all kinds may thus be used by professionals or private end-users. Scientific databases are nOw accessed from Minitel terminals as frequently as from standard ASCII terminals - Libraries in France

In order to appreciate fully the importance of Minitel in French libraries, it is necessary to understand something of libraries in France. …

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