Shake the Dust Off Your Minitel Terminals with the MiniPlay, an Arduino-Powered Game Cartridge

"This cartridge will make me rich," creator Louis H. notes, "but in a past that never existed…"

Gareth Halfacree
2 months agoRetro Tech / Games / HW101

UPDATE (2/28/2024): Maker Louis H. has followed up on the MiniPlay, a compact Arduino-compatible cartridge that turns a vintage Minitel communications terminal into a game console, with the MiniDev — which, as the name implies, is aimed at developers.

"I made it in order to ease programming work," Louis explains. "[The] user can change the game or even create new games with nothing more than a USB Type-C cable connected to a PC with Arduino IDE installed."

The cartridge shares the same DIN-plug form factor as the MiniPlay, though the Microchip ATmega328P has been replaced by an ATmega32U4.

The MiniDev is now available on Louis' Tindie store at $45.

Original article continues below.

Partially-anonymous maker Louis H., also known as "iodeo," has designed a device that brings a whole new lease of life to vintage Minitel terminals — by turning them into game consoles.

"Assuming the Minitel was a video game console, the MiniPlay would be its game cartridge," Louis explains of the compact device. "I'm always thinking about reusing the Minitels as they are so much of them going to trash in France. One day, I had the the idea to reuse it as a retro game console. And having a cartridge for that use case makes it so real!"

If you've got a Minitel gathering dust, why not add a MiniPlay to give it a new purpose as a game console? (📹: iodeo)

Launched back in 1982, the Minitel system saw keyboard-based terminals with cathode-ray tube (CRT) displays communicating over dial-up lines to central databases for everything from film times and stock quotes to — as Louis points out — interactive games. The birth of the internet put paid to those dial-up services, though, and now Minitel machines are effectively useless — to all but hackers and tinkerers, of course.

"When you think about it, Minitel games already existed but you had to pay expensive call rates to play them," Louis muses, "so this cartridge would have been super cost-effective for users. For sure, this cartridge will make me rich, but in a past that never existed…"

The MiniPlay is a compact device that slots into a compatible Minitel terminal's DIN port, holding a single game on a Microchip ATmega328P microcontroller — developed, for ease, in the Arduino IDE. "Each game corresponds to one cartridge color," Louis writes, "starting with [a] 2048 game in orange. More games to come!"

Assembled MiniPlay cartridges are available on Louis' Tindie store at $21.50 each; the source code for 2048 and an upcoming Pong clone is available on the project's GitHub repository under the reciprocal GNU General Public License 3.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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