Introducing Julien Mailland

By Edo Steinberg

One of the first things you notice on entering new faculty member Julien Mailland’s office, other than the lack of furniture, is the old Atari console near the entrance. He also has an old Minitel, a French computer with an alphabetically-arranged keyboard, rather than the usual “QWERTY” keyboard.

Julien Mailland with a Minitel and California Golden Bears t-shirt.

Julien Mailland with a Minitel and California Golden Bears t-shirt.

“I’ve been interested in old computers for a very long time,” Julien says. “I’ve been playing with computers since the 80’s. When I was a kid, in 1981, the French government gave every household in France a free computer that would go online. I was online before a lot of Americans went online.”

Growing up with networked computers sparked an interest in Julien. “I think we can learn a lot in terms of today’s online system, and how computers shape societies and how we can shape them in turn, by looking at the history of computers and computer networks. If you look at debates about internet regulation, like net neutrality, some people seem to think it is a new topic that should be approached from scratch, but these debates have been going on for 20 years, or in the case of the Minitel, 30 years. I think it’s interesting to put current debates in a historical context to gain insight.”

Julien has compared policymaking in the United States and France, and has been on teams that looked into policymaking in other countries, as well. “I try to do comparative work as much as I can,” he says. “We can learn a great deal about ourselves by doing that.”

Old computers aren’t just a research interest of Julien’s. They are also one of his hobbies. “I have a lot of gaming consoles,” he says. “I also have Atari computers that I used to program. I played around a lot with Minitels. Work and fun are nice when they go together.”

Julien showed his students 3.5-inch floppy discs containing games from his Atari. Surprisingly, today’s young undergraduate students are familiar with floppy discs, despite the fact that these storage devices became obsolete at least a decade ago.

Closer look at Minitel (Photo courtesy of Julien Mailland, taken from http://www.minitel.us)

If you think all Julien does all day is sit around and play on computers, you are very mistaken. “I am way too interested in college sports. I’m a longtime supporter of UC Berkeley’s California Golden Bears,” the school where he was an exchange student in 1997. His office is decorated with bobble-heads of the team’s coach and mascot. Julien also played racquetball while pursuing his doctoral studies at the University of Southern California.

Although he lived in the second largest city in the United States for the last five years, Julien doesn’t feel that moving to Bloomington has been much of an adjustment. “Los Angeles is very much a collection of tiny suburbs, so even though you’re in a big city, because it is so spread out, certain areas are like small towns.” Bloomington also reminds Julien of Berkeley.

One difference, though, is people’s friendliness. “I come from Los Angeles, where people aren’t known for being nice, so it’s a nice change.”

Good luck, Julien, and welcome to the department!

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