Computer nr 3 vs La Machine
On 4 July 1968, France Gall performed Computer nr 3 (prononcer compiuta nouma drei) on a German television broadcast and took third place in that first Deutsche Schlager-Wettbewerb competition of Teutonic blues. The French babydoll in turquoise miniskirt and sober hair held by a barette, jiggles in the midst of flower bouquets and sings a candid eulogy for Computer number 3, a super-calculator capable of finding the man of her dreams «the right one among millions». As the refrain says, «Der Computer weiß genau/für jeden Mann die richtige Frau/und das Glück fällt im Augenblick/aus seiner Kartei» - the computer knows exactly/the right woman for every man/and instant happiness/comes from its files. No more loneliness, if today she finds herself in love, it is thanks «to technology, science and electronic brains», in the terminology of the time..
The premonitory ritornello, with its smart orchestration, signed by hit singers Georg Buschor and Christian Bruhn, is interrupted by a male voice (that of the mischievous computer) cooing «height: 1.82m, neck: 39 cm, size: 46. Stop! Age: 22 years, black hair, profession: representative, distinguishing mark: money in spades!». For the listeners of the time who had not met on Meetic or Facebook, this type of intelligent computer, capable of finding your soul mate, was still the stuff of science fiction. Like HAL 9000, the artificial intelligence which piloted the spaceship in 2001, a Space Odyssey – the film was released that same year on the screens – and which would also give up its breath in song.
In 1968, the microprocessor did not exist, computers occupied entire rooms, like the most famous model of the time, the IBM 360, the direct inspiration for HAL. But in December 1968, just a few months after France Gall's televised performance, Douglas Engelbart was about to forever change the entire course of the world of computers and of the world at large with a revolutionary demonstration. Re-christened Mother of all demos, it heralded the advent of the personal computer. Engelbart thought of extracting the computer from the business world and placing it in the hands of each and every one. In the course of an astounding 90 minutes, he not only presented the first computer mouse (in wood at the time, popularized later by Macintosh) but also the virtual desktop, copy and paste, hypertext, electronic mail and videoconferencing.
He was one of the first to suggest that computers would help improve human intelligence. On the same occasion, he outlined his vision of an experimental network of computers, foreshadowing Arpanet, a direct ancestor of the Internet. Thanks to «computer», our lonely little hearts will be always connected in the future. Almost half a century later, Luce Brunet sang La Machine, in duet with the radical rapper Orelsan, who signed the piece. Like France Gall when she sang Computer Nr 3, she is 21 years old. Also like the Lolita of yéyés, she wore brightly-colored skirts which stopped above her knees. And like the winner of Eurovision 1965, she became famous thanks to Nouvelle Star 2010, a television talent quest. But in contrast to the former, she is a «digital native», «belonging to a generation where everything is done, ready, connected», as she herself put it on Ozap.
The glorious future announced by Computer nr 3 was short lived, the belief that computers were the answer to all problems was shattered. The «never alone again !» has become (a painful) reality. Fearfully re-christened «La Machine», the computer has little by little gained control over our lives and our hearts. While France Gall's computer was capable of tabulating physical appearance, profession and the state of the bank balance, nothing now escapes the panopticon-eyes of «the Machine»: name, age, status, manias... what the other does holds no secrets. «My name is Luce - I know - Brunet - I know - I'm twenty years old - I know - Perpignan - I know - Single for the past three months, Poked 223 times - I know - I get back home often at 4 o'clock, I collect flower panties - I know». The Machine «knows what you're up to, (I) know what you will do later».
In September 2011, Mark Zuckerberg presented Timeline, Facebook's new profile page: «the story of a life on a single page» according to the slogan. hanks to the social network which has caught some 800 million in its web (one out of every two net surfers), we will soon be able to know not only what you like but also what you have «read, seen, heard, eaten, bought» etc…
«Who has stolen my identity? / The machine / has transformed me into a file / The machine / How to get back to reality?» worries Luce who continues to have a Facebook account (under a false name) with some hundred friends. «It's too late / You're trapped in the machine», replies Orelsan who «does not do geek rap» and who has come to be known thanks to Myspace. To the question «if you had lived in her time, whom would you have tried to seduce?» posed by Next magazine, the rapper from Caen replied «France Gall. I liked her music and her Miss-Goody-Two-Shoes side.»