Monday, February 15, 2010

Computer Engineer Barbie

I am baiting some of the readership with this post.  I know how some of you have strong opinions about Barbie, software, and stereotypes about both.  This will be both a rant and a rave, and I invite you to comment at will.  You are fully warned that Hatie-ness will not be tolerated.  If you must diss the doll, please do so constructively, as if she were actually standing here.  (awkwardly on her toes and likely to fall over). 

Let me also add that this is a commissioned post, from S@L, who sadly does not blog outside of her brain as much as we would like, but she has remote staff for that sort of thing.

With preamble out of the way.... discuss.

One thing Mattel knows to be true:  Smart girls do still wear glasses.  And.. their machines are pink.  Mattel had a contest to name Barbie's next career, and it seems that "computer engineer" won.  This is what happens when you ask the public.  I am actually surprised that "top chef" didn't win, though of course Barbie has already been a chef.  According to Mattel,  Barbie has had over 100 careers, and Mattel's website will give you a seizure, so instead I'll direct you to Wikipedia, where they are conveniently categorized.  (Barbie became President in 2000.  Insert your own joke)

Mattel held a contest where News Anchor (though clearly she is a reporter, not an anchor) and Computer Engineer won over architect, surgeon, and environmentalist.  "Environmentalist" may have stumped the designers, and Barbie already was a surgeon, veterinarian, a dentist, and nurse.  Medical stuff is more fun.  You would think architect would come with some cool accessories, too, but they don't have interesting outfits.

Which brings us to the Computer Engineer.

I have to say that this is not a phrase one hears around the computo-mills in which I work.  A Computer Engineer would be someone who designs computers.  Perhaps that is Barbie's work.  Perhaps she is meant to be a Software Developer, who designs computer applications.  Hardware/software; potayto/potahto.  It doesn't matter.  She is not dressed like either.

Part of what makes Barbie look like woods-trash made good is the usually cheap and garish quality of current designs.  I am sure Mattel has extensive studies about what little girls respond to.  I think they also respond to Pixie Sticks.  Doesn't mean we should serve them for dinner.

Look at this craftsmanship on a sheath, knit wrap and pillbox hat.  1962.  Barbie's couture was once made of fabric, with snaps and zippers.  (this piece is called Sorority Meeting.  Just to bother you.)  Today, the chemical peel effect and infusion of fuschia cheapen everything.  Can't you just feel Computer Engineer Barbie's weird sweater-vest thingie?

Computer Mills tend to be cold -- they were designed to run steam-powered looms, after all -- so she would be wearing a fleece, a sweater, some corporate swag.  It's really fine with me if it says Mattel right on it.  For a while, the mark of cool was to wear your corporate swag from the failed dot-coms where you used to work.  These were like the service ribbons of our little army.  But Barbie's choice will not keep her warm, and is white, which is going to be stained by the lunch she eats at her desk.

The shirt is supposed to, I expect, represent the har-har Dilbert humor shared around the cube farm.  Programmers do occasionally wear them -- they would be t-shirts, and very understated obscure references like "It is pitch dark.  You are likely to be eaten by a grue."  I understand Mattel may not want to pay royalty on someone else's t-shirt.  They might have done better to make up their own.  But the truth is this:  I have never seen a woman wear one of these, and if she did, it would be black.  Faded black.

Barbie is dressed-down, in slacks.  Accurate.  SPARKLE slacks... no.

The computer is pink, but then everything Barbie owns is pink.  I missed when this happened exactly, though my Barbie's princess phone was indeed pink.  In our day, there was a pink/orange motif, and at some point orange disappeared.  The computer screen has some binary code on it, which someone will eventually decipher, and heaven help us, it will turn out to say something like "math class is tough."  Or the geek they asked to come up with something sent back "No Girls Allowed."  Either way, it will funny.

Sidebar:  in the 80s, there was a popular trend of wearing shirts with Japanese characters on them as graphic design.  Japan had all the money and we wanted to turn into them (we really thought so..).  One day at lunch, the Japanese dance professor who ate with us couldn't contain himself any longer and asked Jules "what does your shirt say?"  She said, "You tell me," and of course it turned out to be Japarish.  (I think that is the opposite of Engrish.  I have strayed)

The Bluetooth is a cool accessory.  Each release must have at least one accessory small enough to choke the dog and be lost within 14 minutes of opening the box.  It is in the requirements.  Barbie is really dressed more as a Product Manager, but even then she has too much bedazzle.  Looking at one of these Collectors' websites, I actually found what Computer Engineer Barbie would really be wearing.

In fact, that hair is back too.

I could write an entire blog just about that video. Maybe later.


  1. Actually, I'm pretty sure the headset technology Barbie uses is called "PinkTooth."

    Just sayin'...

    Good news is that Barbie doesn't have her own reality TV show. Would hate to see her drunk, slapping Ken in the face and showing her hoo-ha as she gets into her pink limo.

  2. I want to see that hair as Barbie crawls around under her desk trying to find where the phone line connects to the processor - or some sort of computer-speak like that. And, I definitely want a pink tooth - too smart that Charlene!

  3. Thank you for blogging this. I am delighted. :-)

    I wondered whether Matel would really be surprised that Computer Engineering Barbie won over Architect Barbie in a contest hosted ON THE INTERNET?

    Our own company thread on this bit of news was long and filled with geek jokes that pinnacled with this one that appeared to have brought down the house: "They should have named her Barbie 128."

    My favorite part of her outfit is her watch. No one at The Mill wears a watch because they can groc (ha) the time on one of their 3 computers or their smartphone or their iPod.

    Thank you, again, for the laugh.

    - S@L


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