Access to Minitel via Telnet

Bonjour! Please forgive me posting in English. There are Minitel fans in England too!

I would like to connect to a Minitel service via an IP port - is this possible? We have a few Videotex services in the UK that allow this - the biggest is Telstar, and I can connect to that via glasstty.com:6502

I have built a system that emulates a modem using a Raspberry Pi and an analogue telephone adaptor. (there is more detail here - Here Be Dragons ) - my collection of Minitel machines can use it just fine, but UK Videotex is a slightly different format, and the pages get messed up. It would be lovely to have a Minitel server they could access. Can anyone help me? Thank you from England!

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Hi, Herebedragons and welcome to this forum !

To answer shortly to your first question, I do confirm that it is definitely possible to connect to Minitel services from IP. [will provide you details later on this]

We would be very happy to have some details about Videotex’s current state of art in UK, I was not yet aware about GLASTTY.COM (6502 port is really nice !) but was aware about some few other Prestel preservation tentatives (don’t remember links at the instant).

That is absolutely interesting, I’ve already found something about a V23 soft modem on Linux but never tried out it (no time !).

Just had a first quick look at your second link that is absolutely valuable as it seems to contains all needed informations to setup properly an Asterix PABX with an included softmodem.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
About Minitel and IP (and a bit of history)

Historically, as you may know, Minitel were « created » to exclusively use V23 modems, only in « calling mode ». They had no support for dialing, users had to pick up their phone and dial a specific phone number to reach a kind of portal (teletel). This portal allowed you to enter a service name. Once entered, the portal was managing communication with the selected remote server (hosting the service) over X25 protocol on Transpac network, including billing in both ways. By the time, some more « powerfull » Minitel terminals were distributed (as main steps : M1b with V23 answer mode and ANSI/80 columns mode, M2 with DRCS, dial and ring detection functionality, Magis club with photo, card reader and TVR (V27ter) support).
This portal and Transpac X25 network were definitively switched off by june 2012, 9 years ago - end of the story …

In fact, not really. As you could dial manually a phone number, you could potentially reach, with a Minitel, any standard phone number. Some ‹ hackers › have home-built many BBS-like ‹ micro-servers › in the 80/90 that were running on all kinds of home computers with (mostly) only one acces at a time. Technically, nothing prevents this kind of servers to remain operationnal ‹ forever › after june 2012 - show must go on !

If I revert quickly back by the end of 90’s, Internet reached out and very fast analogic modems were in the wild. Some largely diffused Minitel emulators such as Hyperterminal (included in Windows until Vista (?)) and iTimtel (that still works well on W10) introduced the possibility to call a Minitel service from a regular PC using Telnet protocol - Nice, this is not a « real » terminal but anyone can display Minitel data from IP in emulation. I don’t know if many servers were offering this kind of access at the time ; currently I only know one server (operational on semi-ramdom schedule) that will accept a Telnet session what is called EDTA from Alexandre Montaron.

Since relatively few time, some Minitel servers have been restored. Those servers are using WebSockets that is a big technical improvement over regular Telnet. They are exploiting the javascript Minitel emulator extracted from MiEdit (created by zigazou). Some of those servers are also reachable over modem (and VoIP), they mostly directly use ATA and real Modem, with the noticeable exception of HACKER that uses Asterix and a SoftModem.

==> You can find the actual list of Minitel servers under « SERVICES MINITEL OUVERTS » on http://museeminitel.fr page.
==> There’s a montly virtual meeting, scheduled the first sunday of the month, by 8:30 PM FT on HACKER.

In addition to my previous post, I introduce you some personnal ongoing Python projects related to Minitel and IP that are (going to be) available on GitHub.

  1. Serial to WebSocket caller
    Allows a physical Minitel to call a WebSocket server (get rid of VoIP).
    Two modes are possible :
    « Direct » : Needs a Minitel with a ‹ PeriInfo › DIN5 and a special serial cable adaptor
    « Modem » : Needs an Hayes compatible V23 answer capable modem and a basic phone line simulator but permit the usage of a Minitel without ‹ PeriInfo ›
    (By default, will call the internal WebSocket gateway described bellow)
    (Status : Works - needs more debuging, cleaning and documentation)

  2. WebSocket gateway
    Will accept calls from WebSocket or Telnet
    Will call a WebSocket Minitel server
    Able to communicate with ‹ Teletel › Minitel server for redirection purposes
    (By default, will call the internal ‹ Teletel › Minitel server)
    (Status : Works - needs more debuging, cleaning and documentation - Needs ability to call Telnet servers)

  3. Minitel Videotex server
    Will accept many calls from WebSocket
    Present Videotext Minitel data
    Modular concept allowing the creation of any imaginable application
    One specific ‹ Teletel › module manages communication with the WebSocket gateway for redirection (uses centralized yellow pages repository)
    (Status : Works - needs more debuging, cleaning and documentation)

  4. WebSocket to Serial receiver [planned]
    Will accept WebSocket session and redirect to serial port
    Simulate M2 behaviour for ring detection

Thank you very much for your detailed response!

We have a few Videotex services available in the UK over telnet. Glasstty is currently the only one you can call via a phone (details on his website). Two more major sites are:

pegasus.matrixnetwork.co.uk (port 6502) - This emulates CEEFAX, which was the UK’s Teletext service. It works on Viewdata terminals too.

nx.nxtel.org (port 23280) - This is the online service for users of the new Spectrum Next computers.

Thank you! It took a fair bit of work to get it going, but it seems to work quite well now. Any questions, please let me know.

So these use Websockets, is that correct? Will I need your Websocket to Telnet gateway? I can’t wait to get my machines connecting to a Minitel service at long last!

Thank you again, Tony

If you’d like to see the UK viewdata services online, you can access them here:

https://vd-view.azurewebsites.net/

Cheers, Tony

Thanks for this … need to have a look (but I don’t have any CEEFAX/Prestel emulator at hand)
@cquest : May be, we could add them to the main page ?

No doubts about the needed to get it running ! My questions will come in few time/days when I’ll get an opportunity to test what’s described.

  • First question coming in mind is about the choice of the hardware to host Asterix. I have at hand both RPi and a full VmWare ESXi 6.7 environment running H24 … My initial approach was to setup an official Asterix appliance but I never went far on this way. I would prefer to have it running from an appliance on VM than on the RPi [should be easyer to maintain up to date] - Any comments about feasability ?
  • Second question is about the ATA - I’ve at hand a Linksys (chineese clone) that I’ve used some times ago in VoIP Minitel server tests - I was not very happy with it and I’ve abandonned this solution as I’ve found it not very reliable. Will your Asterix solution also need an ATA [or just a SIP account] ?

Yes … and no.

In this list, you’ll have links to the WebSocket page of servers. You’ll can use them directly as they all include a proper emulator.
Also in this list, you’ll have also some phone numbers. You can dial the numbers, replacing the heading zero by +33 to reach France and it should work with a Minitel/modem (notice that excepted for Hacker, only one user at a time can call the line).
My gateway is mostly usefull to access WebSocket only Minitel servers with a real Minitel. I may help you to setup what’s needed on a RPi.

Regards - Hervé

Hi Hervé!

https://vd-view.azurewebsites.net/ is a web emulator that can be used with all those services.

Asterix should run on any Unix system. I chose the RPi because I wanted a portable solution that I could take to retro events.

Note: Proquar’s Softmodem is really basic. For example, it doesn’t seem to handle more than one call on the same machine. I’m sure that could be fixed, but I haven’t had the time. So if I want to run multiple viewdata terminals, I simply use more than one RPi!

The Linksys works just fine. However, the Linksys only understands pulse (DTMF) dial tones. I’ve used the Grandstream instead because it also understands pulse dialling - and I have a couple old terminals that only use pulse dialling

Ah, okay! I don’t have a phone line in my office, so I can’t call those numbers. I must get one! So at the moment, there’s no servers I can connect to via telnet via the RPi?

That sounds like what I want! Or am I not understanding it correctly?

I think we are very close!

Cheers, Tony

Understood this choice

That point is problematic to me. I want to handle many incoming calls, but I can’t multiplicate RPis - at worst, I could multiplicate VMs but it’s a huge waste of ressources.

My question was not so clear … and this ‹ modern › telephony world is a bit strange to me. You’re using the ATA to originate VOiP calls (dial), and those calls are received by Asterix’s SoftModem on the RPi, isn’t it ? From this perspective, effectively, it should work mostly correctly.

In fact (just had yet a very diagonal reading of your page), how many SIP accounts do you need to achieve 1 call ? [Guess 2 - one for the ATA and 1 for Asterix … but what if you wanted many calls received from Asterix ? [SIP Trunk ?] ]

Excepted EDTA, with really random schedules, none that I know of that will accept Telnet calls.

If you absolutely need to use Telnet (*), yes … If you wants, we’ll can have a phone call next week to try this.

(*) To be really transparent, I’ve only added Telnet support to allow the usage of ‹ legacy › emulators [IE: iTimtel/Hyperterminal] that have/had some Telnet ability but no WebSocket knowledge.

Regards - Hervé

Agreed, this is a problem! It’s not a huge problem for me, as all I ever wanted to do was see my old terminals actually do something useful, and be able to demonstrate it to other people. I’m not an expert on telephony by any means - getting this working involved a lot of guesswork and cutting-and-pasting configs I didn’t really understand!

I don’t see why the softmodem can’t handle more than one connection. It’s based on an older codebase meant to handle incoming faxes, and it doesn’t make sense for that to only handle one call at a time. I suspect it’s been hacked to do it what it does - and possibly uses some global memory where it should use memory per call. It will answer multiple calls, but the data gets corrupt, with data from one connection appearing on the other - hence my feeling it’s using some global memory space that it shouldn’t be. It’s on my list of things to look at … one day!

I’m only suggesting Telnet because that’s what the other UK servers use and it’s what I’m used to! I’m in no rush, but if you have something I could try, I would be very happy to test it.

Kind regards, Tony

You may try home.teletel.org:9000 to reach directly my RPi gateway from Telnet, that will drive you to the local test server (LH or LOCALHOST) and all other (known) WS servers [HACKER/TEASER/AE/3615/SM] … You may also try teletel.org/index-teletel.html to view the expected result from WS.

Hi! I’m on holiday at the moment, so it’s not easy to see, but that looks like it might be working. I get a slightly garbled screen on my Exelvision, but it does sometimes scramble the first screen. I note it doesn’t seem to respond to key presses. When I’m back next week I’ll test this properly with a real terminal and get back to you! Many thanks!

Hi again! I’ve got my Alcatel connected now, but I only get « Welcome to PyMoIP [telnet]/WS gateway » - do I need to do something at this point? Cheers, Tony

Ah, it seems to be working again! So … it looks like I’m connected, which is wonderful! But it doesn’t seem to respond to any of the keys (or ‹ Guide › or ‹ Index › etc). Also, possibly, the end of the page is being cut off (fin CX/FIN).

Nice !

Just seen you arriving from 217.155.18.130 …

I was working on the Gateway code and there were some very small timeouts … So far, you’re arriving with Telnet on home.teletel.org:9000 isn’t it ?

Will restart it with decent values in order to let you enjoy in few minutes - For your information, function keys should work as expected … Cursor keys and other ESC/RC keys aren’t used as normal Minitel keys.

_register_tcp() Started for pid 2 from 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:27:17
_incoming_tcp() ConnectionClosed for pid 2 from 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:27:23
_register_tcp() Ended for pid 2 from IP 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:27:23 (was started at 2021-07-09 13:27:17)
_register_tcp() Started for pid 3 from 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:27:53
_ws_connect_to_server() TIMEOUT_WS_SERVER for pid 3 from 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:28:53
_register_tcp() Ended for pid 3 from IP 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:29:03 (was started at 2021-07-09 13:27:53)
_register_tcp() Started for pid 4 from 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:56:34
_incoming_tcp() ConnectionClosed for pid 4 from 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:56:55
_register_tcp() Ended for pid 4 from IP 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:56:55 (was started at 2021-07-09 13:56:34)
_register_tcp() Started for pid 5 from 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:57:05
_ws_connect_to_server() TIMEOUT_WS_SERVER for pid 5 from 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:58:05
_register_tcp() Ended for pid 5 from IP 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 13:58:05 (was started at 2021-07-09 13:57:05)
_register_tcp() Started for pid 6 from 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 14:01:17
_ws_connect_to_server() TIMEOUT_WS_SERVER for pid 6 from 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 14:02:17
_register_tcp() Ended for pid 6 from IP 217.155.18.130 at 2021-07-09 14:02:18 (was started at 2021-07-09 14:01:17)

Done - Sessions are now limited to 1 hour … (not 1 minute)

Notice : Your Minitel is a Cv1 - It seems to be a very early M2.

Once you’re on this 3614 page, you can reach HACKER, TEASER, AE, 3615 services - You may also reach my internal test server (with LOCALHOST or LH code)

Regards - Hervé

Well - I can see you trying to connect but I don’t understand what’s going on…

Received things as SEP/SEP/S/SEP/ … I don’t know exactly what keys you’ve pressed and how you’re trying physically to connect. Could you describe your actual setup in details ?

Also seen keys as 0x1a, 0x0d, 1, 2, 3, [Guide (Help)] …

  • GUIDE (Help) is not yet implemented ==> Should drive you to a special « MGS » server

You should enter a service code [HACKER, TEASER, AE, 3615, LH] then press the [ENVOI (send)] key.

You may try the [SOMMAIRE (index)] key from the télétel page if you wants a preview of the (now hopefully virtual) billling.

Hervé

(partly) understood what’s hapenning …

My videotex server is receiving ‹ SEP ›/S (0x13 0x53 in hex) … what means that the modem has connected or disconnected … I just don’t understand how I can receive this from your Telnet session ?!

From it’s perspective, the server is legitimate to disconnect you when receiving a such sequence as it can suspect that you’re using a Minitel in local with a serial cable … Pressing [Connexion/Fin (Local/Line)] will send twice this sequence to the serial port (DIN5) but not/never to the modem.

Also, codes as 0x1a are likely to mean parity errors …

« Télétel server » should receive a [service code] followed by [send key] such as ‹ HACKER › followed by 0x13 and ‹ A › in upper case (0x41) [what are the codes sent by the SEND key].

Okay, looks like it’s all my fault! Apologies for so many confusing connections. I have some code that helps me fix some problems with UK Ceefax data, and that was corrupting the Minitel data. Remove that and voila! It all works perfectly. Tested it on both my Exelvision and the Alcatel. Wonderful stuff!

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Hello, welcome :slight_smile:

Minitelement,

Apollo12 :slight_smile:

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Nice Exeltel and the monitor matches it perfectly !

(I also own an Exeltel).

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Yes - That’s very nice.

Well - May be you could describe your current setup/settings ? From what I’m guessing presently, you’re trying the following

[Physical terminal] (analog V23 originate call) ==> [ATA] (SIP protocol) ==> [PBX] (Asterix + SoftModem supporting V23 answer mode) ==> [TELNET] to home.teletel.org:9000

Regards - Hervé