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snopes 21 June 2012 09:38 PM

Jacques Chirac and the computer mouse
Comment: A long time ago, I remember hearing/reading about then-President
of France Jacques Chirac and his encounter with a computer mouse, and how
it mystified him. This was supposedly in the mid-1990s. I tried
researching the truth of that today and found two articles with
contradictory information about years and details. I'm wondering now if
it was just a rumor painted to make him look out of touch, much like the
George H.W. Bush supermarket scanner non-incident. Any ideas?

erwins 22 June 2012 12:14 AM

Even if it were true, it wouldn't necessarily mean he was especially out of touch. I worked in a business that had public computer rentals during the mid-90s, and for a while we had a couple of PCs that weren't yet updated to Windows --they were running some form of DOS. Lots of people used those computers exclusively. When we finally converted them to Windows, we then had to assist those customers with figuring out how to deal with the mouse. I saw one customer who was obviously not familiar with the mouse pick it up and put it against the monitor.

If you were in a job that didn't require you to use a computer much yourself--which could easily be the case in the mid-90s--then you wouldn't necessarily have any familiarity with a mouse.

gopher 22 June 2012 12:00 PM

Back when I worked for the govt. in the 90'2 we were replacing thoudanss of DOS machines and dumb terminals with Windows 3.1 machines. To get people used to the mouse, something most of them had never see, we got them to play solitaire. It introduced clicking, double clicking and click and drag to people in a very familiar environment.

Kermor 03 July 2012 09:23 PM

It's true. To be precise, it happened in 1996, during the inauguration of the François Mitterrrand Library. A woman demonstrated the use of a computer to him, and she said "And now, you click on the mouse". To which Chirac answered: "What do you call a mouse, precisely ?". I have seen it on TV at the time, but I can't find the video anywhere online. But comedians (especially the puppet show Les Guignols de l'Info) had a field day about this, showing Chirac the mouse (souris en français) a "mulot" (field mouse), and wanting to call Bill Gates to repair his apple computer.

ParaDiddle 04 July 2012 09:46 PM

I find that pointing devices are still mystifying to a significant portion of the population. That's not necessarily a bad thing especially since so many of us carry a pocket-sized computers (more powerful than desktops of 20 years ago) using touch gestures that were considered remarkable as recently as 10 years ago.

When placing a modern computing device in the hands of someone who has spent a career having clerical tasks performed by other devices (or persons) we should expect some gaffes to ensue. I speak daily with 20somethings who wonder why laptop "X" doesn't have an CD/DVD drive or why tablet "Y" does not have a USB connection.* Misunderstanding recent technological trends and developments are not remarkable unless committed by a celebrity.

- P

*The answer to both has to do with wireless connectivity.

Floater 05 July 2012 09:59 AM


Originally Posted by ParaDiddle (Post 1641347)
... using touch gestures that were considered remarkable as recently as 10 years ago.

Touch screen technology is at least 25 years old or so.

jw 05 July 2012 10:54 AM

During the 80's and 90's the French had their own internet system called Minitel, which did not use a mouse. They were convinced that their system would take over the world. I recall at one point a leading French company trying (and ultimately failing) to sell the terminals and operating systems into Ireland.
At one point they had 25million users in France which was phenomenal at the time. The system was well ahead of its time in its ability to handle things like directory information, shopping, banking, hotel reservations, airline reservations, news, weather and information services, but it was run by the beauracratic French government and was doomed to fail and eventually it did.

Understandably then, Chirac may well have been unfamiliar with the workings of a computer mouse. He also dismissed the internet as an anglo-saxon network.

ganzfeld 05 July 2012 01:26 PM


Originally Posted by jw (Post 1641481)
[...] it was run by the beauracratic French government and was doomed to fail and eventually it did.

In fact it was finally shut down just a few days ago.

ganzfeld 05 July 2012 01:41 PM


Originally Posted by Floater (Post 1641475)
Touch screen technology is at least 25 years old or so.

Yes, even multi-touch screen technology is more than 25 years old.

Nick Theodorakis 05 July 2012 05:46 PM

I'v seen lab instrumentation that was controlled via a computer with a touch-screen in the 1980s. An even older pointing technology is the light pen, but that seemed to lose popularity when other pointing devices came out.


GenYus234 06 July 2012 04:01 PM


Originally Posted by ganzfeld (Post 1641514)
Yes, even multi-touch screen technology is more than 25 years old.

But was it affordable enough (and software supported enough) that the average person would have such a device?

ganzfeld 06 July 2012 04:09 PM

In the late 1980s there certainly were touchscreens available for only a little more than what a tablet costs today. They were used for commercial purposes at first, such as point-of-sale devices, not because they were so expensive but because there wasn't any use case for daily use until PDAs, which employed them only a few years later.

Debunker 17 September 2012 03:54 PM

Sorry I'm late on this one, but back in 1983 or so we were using HP150 PCs which had a touchscreen. But we rarely used that feature, it was faster to just use keyboard shortcuts than reach for the screen.

Actually, it wasn't a true touchscreen. There were infrared tramsmitters and sensors in the crt bezel that detected finger location and movement.

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