View Full Version : French computers

December 21st, 2013, 05:00 PM
As i told in my indroduction, i'll introduce you to french home computers in the 80's

There was 2 kinds of machine, the original ones and the licenced products from an other brand (often american).

About 1981 after interact electronic inc (US, michigan) bankruptcy, a french guy bought the right to produce clone computers under the name of victor lambda (no link with “victor”), Shortly a French company micronique evolved new model under the name of hector.
In 1984 i received a hector 2HR for christmas, for more information avout these computers you can visit this website (in french) : http://hectorvictor.free.fr/


Thomson a french company not as her name could let you think, involved (TV, VCR, HIFI, washinh machine...) and also in milary electronic.

In 1982 The TO7 arrived it was equiped with a motorola 6809@1 Mhz, 8 KB ram (32 max), it displayed 320x200 pixels in eight colors, text mode was 40x25, but the «*goodies*» of this computer was the light pen, it has the same kind of keyboard than the zx81 and also a cartridge port. His most important problem was his price (7000 fr) which make today the equivalent of $ 3496 today



In 1983 Matra a french company )well known for the french fast train the TGV but also some cars like the matra «*bagheera*» a sport cara and the «*espace*» a kind of chysler voyager like sold by Renault), in partnership with hachette (a french book/gamrd editor) put on the market the «*Alice*» that was in fact a rebadged tandy MC10


In 1984, former employees of a the french division of Texas instrument created the EXL100 from Excelvision, based on a texas instrument CPU TMS7020 and also a voice synthetisor chip TMS 5220 (that speak french, probably an evolution on the french version of speak and spell), it was ahead for this period, the joystick and the keyboard was already wireless and the graphic mode could display 320 x 250 pixel, the whole for half the price of the TO7, this computer took part of the national education plan called «*informatique pour tous or computer for everyone*» that bringed computer at school but it was not alone...



Thomson built a new less expensive computer (2390 fr) called the MO-5, it had 16 KB rom and 48 KB RAM, but was not compatible with the TO7 or the newer TO7-70, it was the most distributed computer in school with the famous plan.

The TO7-70 an upgraded version of the T07 arrived with 64 KB RAM + 6 KB rom (64+6=70), that was also used in the school plan, the price was 3500 fr in the range of a commodore 64 also available in France.

Micronique also upgraded their computer with the hector 2HR 48 KB ram and the HRX with 64 KB ram and FORTH as language, this one was quite expensive 4950 Fr

in 1985 the Alice 90 (40 KB ram) a 10000 units produced computer, it was still a 8 bit computer and the amiga and the st were not far away, it was the to late computer than can't fight the japoneese MSX and english amstrad CPC computers

For 1986 Thomson continued with the TO8, modern version of the TO7-70 with more ram, high res and better sound.
A semi professional version of the TO8 was made to fight against the Apple //E, it looked like a small IBM PC


The TO9+ added an hard drive and a modem 1200/75 b that make think that i have forgot to speak about the minitel*:

it was a text termnial provided by the french phone operator, that gave access to online content (like the phone directory, meteo, bank account, ans also sex related content).
The terminal was rent, and the cost of communication very expensive.

Excelvision also made the exceltel, that was an excel100 with «*minitel*» fonction.
The minitel service was closed on june 2012

obviously you 've got a version of the excel tel : http://www.acrpc.net/exelvision-exeltel-ii/


i'll improve this subject with pictures later, it is just a first shoot, if someone is interrested in more information or testing emulator, i'll make this more concistent.
If there is big mistake in my english just PM, i'll correct it.

Ole Juul
December 21st, 2013, 09:55 PM
Good article. Thanks for doing all that work. :)

That last picture of the Minitel is very nice. Great looking box. I remember first hearing about those in Dvorak's book on Telecommunications, back in the early nineties. Actually, we had a discussion here (http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/showthread.php?31460-Minitel-goes-offline-this-Saturday) when Minitel went off-line.

December 22nd, 2013, 09:45 AM
the minitel was a good and a bad thing, it gave access to online order and so on, but it was also very expensive to use.

for the cost per minute follow this link

As some people already had access to thier bank account, plane/train ticket booking, order items from paper catalog but online they didn't need internet, the professional providing this kind of services also earn money with it (a part of the communication cost), and were not hurrird to give free access to internet website.

Ole Juul
December 22nd, 2013, 10:20 PM
Interesting how something that was so futuristic can hold the next generation back.

I have a little difficulty getting a grip on that cost sheet. How much would people spend per month on using a Minitel?

December 23rd, 2013, 10:13 AM
well hat was not a so common to have a minitel at home, i had a computer at 12 year old in 1984 but i never got a minitel, it was mostly use in small business, the "owner" of a mintel was in the middle-high class of the society.

some get money with this thing, because they spent time chatting with sexy girls (male student on the other side in fact) on month of over using could cost the price of a computer at this time.
There was children TV show, that has content on minitel of course children didn't make the relation between time on line and cost.

the most known of this service was 3615 ulla http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fmsF6PDXwc
or the 3615 dorothee for the children

One of the most known pionner of minitel era is Xavier Niel who' s know the CEO of Iliad one the most important internet/movile phone provider in France.
he was the "father" of Ulla

here is a chart of number of minitels across years

December 23rd, 2013, 01:37 PM
Good and interesting infomation about french computers!:D
I have some questions;
What tv standard did this computers use? PAL, SECAM?
What was the "victor lambda" an clone of?
How rare is the "EXL Excelvision" in france today?
I have minitel(videotel) from italy! I found it almost impossible to found out anything technical about it! Is it possible to locate a service manual in france? Or is it rare like hen teeth there also? Was the minitel's in france the telephone company's own proprietary? They owned it and took it back if you quit the service? Or could you do what you wanted with it(hack it :p)? It must have been millions of them, but there seems not to be many for sale today!?

December 24th, 2013, 03:15 AM
What tv standard did this computers use? PAL, SECAM?

i know the victor/hector used secam but has an option for pal

for the thomson To7 also

Most computers was secam in France even foreign computers like the atari 800 xl had a secam version, there is a lot of subject in forum about how to go from pal to secam and the inverse.

What was the "victor lambda" an clone of?

Victor Lambda was a clone/evolution of the interact, according to this site : http://hectorvictor.free.fr/index.php?page=5AXi95GpT.1
the victor was still made in usa, in 1981 the Lambda company who produced the victor disepear another company called micronique that still exist today produced the hector computer based on the victor lambda

How rare is the "EXL Excelvision" in france today?

i don't know exactly but i think i was rare in the 1980's, the most important problem of the french computers is there lack of good programs, when a C64 had 6000 to 10000 progs, i don't think an hector which worth 15% of the national market in 1983/84 had more than 300, french games looked "not professional" at this preriod.

About the minitel perhaps you'll be interrested in this : http://wiki.labomedia.org/index.php/Fichier:Minitel_1_bistandard_alcatel.pdf

Most of them had been given back to france telecom (formely PTT with la poste), for the ones that have not been returned they might have finish their way in a trash has nobody knows what to do with a minitel except some geeks

December 24th, 2013, 05:56 AM
Was c64 made for secam? How common in France?
Thanks a lot for the pdf, very helpful! If you ever find a service manual for the minitel, I be interested! I have to learn French!:D
Matra= interesting company, not so well known outside france! Have done alot good stuff (even racingcars!), of which some in cooperation with Simca and Renault! And now to hear that even computers was done, great!:p
About the cartridges to TO7, was this Thomson's own standard or like MSX or something else?

December 24th, 2013, 07:28 AM
there were pal C64 and also secam these one were called procep due to the name of the company that made the modification by adding a daugher board inside the C64, tthey were also about 500 Fr more expensive.

by service manual for the minitel, you mean repair manual with wiring diagram etc ?

MATRA means Mecanique Aviation TRAction, their computers were only rebadged tandy in difrerent computer case.

T07 cartridge was on its own standard, called memo7 m05 and To7/to7/70 are not 100 % compatible

December 24th, 2013, 09:17 AM
"there were pal C64 and also secam these one were called procep due to the name of the company that made the modification by adding a daugher board inside the C64, tthey were also about 500 Fr more expensive."

Interesting, did they came with an AZERTY keyboard?

"by service manual for the minitel, you mean repair manual with wiring diagram etc ? "

Yes, although I find the guide you linked to also very helpful!

"MATRA means Mecanique Aviation TRAction, their computers were only rebadged tandy in difrerent computer case."

Ok, is it more than the color that differ?
Alice, nice name on a computer:D

"T07 cartridge was on its own standard, called memo7 m05 and To7/to7/70 are not 100 % compatible "

Unusual approach by Thomson to use the 6809, not many others did despite it was consider pretty powerful at the time(for 8-bit)!

Are there any Z80 clones/computers another than the sinclairs, common in france?

December 25th, 2013, 12:08 AM
The C64 were only qwerty

Hector was based on Z80, there were also radiola (french division of philips) VG5000 clone of the philips/schneider, but the most distributed Z80 was the british amstrad CPC

December 26th, 2013, 10:45 AM
How about Oric? I recall has seen a special French magazine about it!?

December 26th, 2013, 03:40 PM
How about Oric? I recall has seen a special French magazine about it!?

Oric was originally a British company but when they went bankrupt in early 1985 they got bought out by a French company, who continued production and introduced several new models through late 1987. There were also some Oric clones made in Eastern Europe.

December 26th, 2013, 11:43 PM
It's not originally french but as vwestlife mention, they contribute with the most valuable model, the Oric Telestrat. A nice machine almost impossible to find.

January 6th, 2014, 07:50 AM
the Orics was made by tangerine computers, i remember well theses machines because it was the first 2 computers we had at the secondary school, before the state computer plan.
Numbers of my friends had an oric atmos, anf the famous game 'l'aigle d'or"


The telestrat was formely names oric stratos before it was bought by french company eureka.

March 21st, 2014, 10:47 AM
Hi, all

Few precisions :

1) About Minitel - (France Telecom/Orange) what was the only phone operator in France at the time, changed it's contract by 2010 or 2012 saying that they leave Minitel to their users (saving then high recycling costs). Meanwhile, in june 2012, they've communicated that they had a contract with ENVIE, a compagni specialised in recycling/scraping of electronics goods. For peoples interested, I'll give more details on Minitel (where possible !) in another thread (http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/showthread.php?31460-Minitel-goes-offline-this-Saturday)

2) About "French" commodores
- PET (40xx and 80xx) had some AZERTY keyboards, special char set and special editor ROM (from Procep)
- C64 had 2 flaviours of Secam video (from Procep)
1) Full secam colour RF with a big & hot adaptor board inside the stock C64 (distinguished by a brown Procep stocker on top cover) - More expansive at the time, by 500Fr or 1000 Fr from memory - Mainly suited for users with TV sets without Peritel/SCART (mandatory in France since 1981 or so)
2) Part secam (B&W secam RF + colour RGB) with a small adaptor board inside the stock C64 (distinguished by a multicolor Procep stocker on top cover) - More expansive at the time, by 500fr or less - Suited for users with TV sets with "low compatible" Peritel/SCART of the time that would not accept PAL display properly
- C128/C128D (plastic case) by Commodore France (Procep had stopped at this time). Keyboard as "twin" marks as black QWERTY and grey (and smaller) AZERTY marks. No difference at C64 mode but supports both modes using Caps lock key (ASCII/DIN ?) in 128 mode (don't remember for CP/M) with a custom char set.
- Amiga (not sure for A1000) had AZERTY keyboards. Localosation was done by a CLI command "Keymap f" (from memory) at boot time

In all case, direct imports were possible (and cheaper) with QWERTY or QWERTZ keyboards.

Regards - Hervé

July 10th, 2016, 01:40 PM
bitsavers has the technical manual for Mitra 15 (http://bitsavers.informatik.uni-stuttgart.de/pdf/cii_honeywell_bull/mitra_15/) and I'm looking for interesting software to run on it. Cigale software would be most interesting, it was used to run Cyclades network in 1970's, and that had an impact on modern TCP/IP (p. 36 of "How the Web was Born", https://books.google.com/books?id=pIH-JijUNS0C):

Quoting http://rogerdmoore.ca/PS/CIGALE/CIGALE.html

Nodes are MITRA-15 minicomputers, with 16 K words (16 bits). Except for a teletype, no other peripheral is necessary.