Cute French-speaking kids try to make sense of gaming technology from the 1980s

[Video Link]. Not sure who produced this, but it's super cute and it's making the rounds. [via Flavorwire, also seen on MeFi, Le Monde, Cyberpresse]

(thanks, Russ Marshalek)


  1. When I was their age (in the 80’s), I visited my grandparents who had a rotary phone. We only had touchtone at home and I had no idea how to use the rotary version.

    Just goes to show that the rotary phone wasn’t a very intuitive design.

    1. Hmm, is that an observation of the intuitivistitiousness of the design, or of your own intuition?

      I grew up with a dial phone so it’s not fair to say it was easy for me to figure out.

    2. Well… no worse than a grid of numbers…
      Both are very unintuitive for contacting a person you know by a name, not a number (or making a phone call to an address by dialing a number with no connection)

      It seemed less intuitive to you because you were taught another system, there’s no difference in difficulty in teaching the two systems to someone with no experience of either system.
      No need to thank me, I’m just here to rain on your parade ;)

      I do usability analysis on a regular basis, BTW.

  2. What’s really interesting it that some of the kids think they are holding something that is actually OLDER technology than what they’re looking at. They think the cartridge is a deck of cards, and the hd floppy is a cassette tape. And I LOVE how the record player evokes a dj’s scratching.

  3. Turntables were around for decades before DJ’s started scratching them. And this kid just does it within seconds of seeing one for the first time (@2:32). Born after his time.

    1. He’s a natural, too. See how gently and adroitly he does it?

      On a side note, I lurrrve listening to people effortlessly speak French.

  4. I think the embryo turntablist has seen someone else do it before. Not only does he scratch, he’s got the head moves as well.

    Also, the school in question is in Montreal and one of the world’s top turntablists — Kid Koala — is Montrealais. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was on the air pretty regularly in Quebec.

  5. Cyberpresse produced this (Cyberpresse is the web counterpart of La Presse, Quebec’s biggest french-speaking daily).

  6. My kids wouldn’t have the problem that these kids had, since our house is full of rotary phones, floppy disks and 45 RPM records.

    The captionist got it wrong, calling the 5-1/4″ floppy an 8″ floppy. I was just fondling some old 8″ floppies, and those things are HUGE! Not that I have anything that will read them. Five disks, five different OSes (68K Forth, Z80 Forth, TRS-80, CP/M, RT-11).

    1. Oh God. I’m really sorry I have to point this out, but was the double entendre of this phrase intentional?

      “I was just fondling some old 8″ floppies, and those things are HUGE!”

    2. Being shown something 5.25″ that the shower thinks is 8″ will be a common experience when they get older.

      –sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  7. The kids were pretty good at figuring out how things worked/what they were if they were presented with the whole thing- the old handheld video game thingy and the cartridge, for example.

    I’m sure they would have figured out the floppy disks if presented with an equally ancient computer. Something that wasn’t necessarily true about adults.

  8. Oh man I could listen to little kids speak French all day. Even better when they sprinkle the odd English word in.

  9. after watching this on the computer I tried to show it to my wife using the new Apple TV and the little annotations in English don’t appear! booooo….
    of course ads also do not appear in YouTube videos on the Apple TV. yea!

    but for now stuck watching on the ‘puter. Thanks for the link though, this was great fun to watch and share.

  10. Ah, but a pusbutton number grid design isn’t intrinsically “intuitive” either. People from certain cultures understand it faster, because they apply their learned knowledge about button pressing, something modern humans in the developed word literally learn in their crib.

    The mechanics are a little easier to figure out, but not impossibly so. Especially since back then analog device with dials – think clock, think safe, think thermosthats – where much more common. Even light “switches” were of the rotating kind.

    The biggest design “flaw” (a necessity, apparently) is that you have to lift the handle first and then dial the number – it’s not at all obvious.

    Kids in 20 years will be used to talking to the phone. They might not even have the concept of a phone number.

    Your grandkids will probably visit you and will post 20 years later “I once used my Grandparents’ IRobot Phone to call my mother – wasn’t a very intuitive design.”

  11. I often hear developers say it’s so intuitive, it doesn’t need a manual, or that the should save money on documentation and spend it on usability. They should watch this video.

    1. I really fail to see your point. While ”intuitive” is kind of vague and often ill-understood, it is possible to design in such a way that it doesn’t need much documentation. This, however, requires that developers actually spend money on usability – which many simply don’t do.

  12. Why did they just give them the Coleco cartridge? How are they supposed to know what it is when they can’t tell what it does or where it goes?

  13. Actually, I noticed that the kids figured out how to use the dial fairly quickly. Dials are fun to use. A drag when you’re in a hurry to get a hold of someone, but a very satisfying tactile activity.

    I have a heavy black rotary phone that I use when the power’s out. Just because I have a long history with that phone and I love it. And it doesn’t require an extra power plug like modern land-line phones.

    It was probably built in the 50s, maybe even in the 40s. I inherited it from an old tech job at UCBerkeley (the dept. was going to be closed and everything thrown out anyway). The thing is absolutely indestructible. And we wired it so that it could be used as a speaker phone (using an XLR jack. We ran it through a stage monitor.) It wins all speakerphone competitions hands-down simply by how fun it is to use.

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