Melted Minitel terminal rescued from fire, listed for $500 — seller says it's a piece of art

Melted Minitel 2
(Image credit: eBay France)

An Alcatel Minitel 2 terminal rescued from a fire is up for auction on eBay France. The melted case of the vintage piece of technology makes it clear the item is useful only as a conversation piece, or perhaps an object of art. Its steep starting bid, approaching $500, might also attract only the most dedicated of collectors.

The Minitel was an online service provided by France Telecom from 1982 until 2012. Begun in 1980 as an experiment to reduce the cost of printing telephone white pages, it developed into a way for users to make online purchases, book train reservations, search the telephone directory, send email, and more. It worked much the way the World Wide Web does today and was the world’s most successful online service until the World Wide Web took that distinction.

The terminal available for auction is an Alcatel model of the Minitel 2, manufactured in 1993. This model succeeded the Minitel 1B, which can still sometimes be found at garage sales. The terminal included a CRT monitor capable of monochrome text, although color models were later available at an additional cost. The base model Minitel was provided free of charge to France Telecom customers in exchange for them not receiving paper copies of residential telephone directories.

One variant of Alcatel's Minitel 2 (Image credit: Le Minitel et Alcatel)

The unit being auctioned off is described as being saved from a fire, and the truth of that is certainly evident. While its CRT and keyboard remain intact, the case is melted almost beyond recognition. One of the images shows a sliver of a document the seller believes may have been printed from the terminal. Aftermarket printers were available for the terminals.

The Minitel 2 up for auction is located in Argenteuil, France, sold by eBay user renbat-23. The seller has many other listings running on the auction site, most of which are antiques or works of art. Renbat-23 describes the melted Minitel as a piece of art, and the random patterns of melted plastic do offer some interesting and possibly even aesthetically pleasing shapes.

The starting bid for the item is 450 euros ($482), and there were no bids on the listing at the time of publication. The auction ends Sunday, June 23 at 1:32pm CEST.

Jeff Butts
Contributing Writer

Jeff Butts has been covering tech news for more than a decade, and his IT experience predates the internet. Yes, he remembers when 9600 baud was “fast.” He especially enjoys covering DIY and Maker topics, along with anything on the bleeding edge of technology.

  • Neilbob
    Lets see if the analogy about a fool and his money turns out to be correct...
    Reply
  • PlutoDelic
    Nah, that's one of those very real looking cakes.
    Reply
  • abufrejoval
    Somehow that reminds me of the Elephant Man, I went to see with David Bowie playing the lead character on stage in New York in 1980 or 81.

    I also remember those Minitels from friends in Paris, whose kids just loved to play around with them.
    Reply
  • LabRat 891
    abufrejoval said:
    Somehow that reminds me of the Elephant Man, I went to see with David Bowie playing the lead character on stage in New York in 1980 or 81.

    I also remember those Minitels from friends in Paris, whose kids just loved to play around with them.
    Now that you mention it... kinda looks like The Elephant's Foot, too.

    Reply
  • redgarl
    I thought it was an octopus at first...
    Reply
  • Yebemather
    H. R. Giger called and wants his artwork back.
    Reply
  • PEnns
    It would be right at home in an Aliens movie. Maybe Prometheus II.
    Reply
  • Johnpombrio
    Reminds me of when a TI oscilloscope burnt up when sitting on top of our HP scope. Oh, the irony.
    Reply
  • emike09
    Let the haters hate. I like it. Wouldn't spend that much on it, but I wouldn't mind it as a conversation piece.
    Reply
  • fireaza
    Looks like the sorta thing that would get H.R. Giger all hot under the collar.
    Reply