Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ill-tempered Clavier

Add to Google Reader or HomepageNote to self: laptop computers do not like red wine – not even if it is good red wine!

On Christmas Eve, some wine spilled on my laptop. I chose to use the Mexican “no fault” approach of explaining the accident thus without assigning guilt. I could have written the sentence with “I” or “he” or “she” as the subject, but what fun is that?

We worked to remove as much liquid as we could. On Monday morning, I stuffed my not-too-soggy laptop in my backpack and headed for the computer shop. Vaison la Romaine has three computer shops. One is always closed on Mondays and one does not do repairs on-site so I headed to “door # 3”, hoping the shop would be open.

The owner was there but he was not very encouraging as he turned on the laptop. The French rarely take a positive approach to anything. Rather than say that something is good, they will usually say that “it is not bad” but I wasn’t optimistic either. The machine groaned and beeped but slowly came back to life and, after about 10 minutes, the sign-in screen appeared.

At this point, the computer guy stepped away and asked me to type my password (mot de passe) and we discovered that not all of the keys were working. Some seemed to still be drunk and responding slowly. Others were completely passed out and no amount of encouragement could make them work. Computer guy plugged in a new keyboard and asked me to try again.

“Login failed” came up several times as I tried to follow the lettering on the French keyboard. He saw the problem and told me to type as if the keyboard was an American keyboard. Voila! It worked! I was not only able to see my desktop, everything seemed (seems) to be still working. I purchased the French “clavier” and said “Now I have another Christmas present! I get to learn how to type on a French keyboard! He smiled and said: “It could have been worse.”

The computer shop is a small, one-room place – maybe 12’ X 12’. There was a small desk and chair, shelves on three walls, a full-size copier, a small table (under which was a dog bed and his little dog). While I was there, three other clients came and went. One man just needed copies but joined the others in shaking his head and saying “dommage” (too bad!) as he learned from the others about my plight. We were all trying to stand out of the way as the computer guy pulled cables, opened CPUs, made copies, and moved about his tiny space. One person carrying an old CPU said how happy he was that the shop was open. Computer guy said that he had not planned to open. He had just come to the shop to get something and people started arriving.

The French “clavier” and the American keyboard are different. Ellen had read that they distinguish the two by the first line of letters (starting at the top left). The American keyboard layout is called “QWERTY” and the French layout for the clavier is “AZERTY.” Even if you didn’t have Miss Gilliland for typing class in high school, you can probably see that typing the letter “A” is going to be a problem (having switched places with the “Q”). And that is only the beginning.

Typing an “M” is no longer next to the “N” but has replaced the semi-colon. Typing a period requires using the Shift key. I guess the French want the writer/typist to think twice before ending a sentence. Then there are all of the keys for French accents…

The good news is that I still have a computer processor that works and I have a new keyboard/clavier! The bad news is that there is some truth to the expression “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and this old dog’s fingers are not adapting to this new keyboqrd very fqst.


  1. I'm happy to hear you were able to salvage your laptop with just a new keyboard. I have tried to type on my cousins laptops many time with their French keyboards and I always find it slows me down so much. I'm not sure I would ever get it straight.

  2. Modern day explorers! So happy to hear the news!

  3. Sorry to hear about the wine making its way onto your laptop. (Haven't they outlawed drinking and laptopping in France?) Interesting observations none the less.

  4. I was going to offer to send the wireless desktop keyboard I have that I bought a little while ago when I thought I needed to change mine. Turns out the keyboard was not the problem but I kept the keyboard anyway. I guess that wouldn't help though, since you have a laptop. Good luck trying to learn the new system!

  5. Lucky you, back on the Southern French territory which we left last week just the week before Xmas. Had a few days break in Nice, so pleasant and quiet visiting museums, namely the newly founded Pierre Bonnard in Le Cannet+ Marc Chagall and a few others. Loved every minute of it.

    It seems as if the effect of wine is playing tricks, which may be the reason why the French president is not that keen. That's the thing I have in common with him...

    The Arbois wine is well appreciated by English people so if you make it over here ( we just live 45 kilms from Arbois) let us know.