|Man, has technology changed in thirteen years.|
A lot of people who participate in the American Girl Fandom fall into one of two major camps: people who had access to the dolls and/or books as a child and have either continued to stay attached or returning after a hiatus, or adults who got into the company in because their children2 found out about AG and thus they latched on to it and persevere after their child has put away their own dolls. This leads to both camps having a crisis of age when they realize they're no spring chicken anymore and times of their childhood are now historical. Julie was a special litmus test on the fandom: with rumors of and then release in 2007, many women who grew up in the 70s began to lament that the 70s couldn't be historical, because it meant that their childhood was historical. I have even seen the ludicrous3 claim that historical fiction must be at least fifty years old to actually be historical. Which is bullshit. History happens every day, and every day over is another day in the books of history. I made a joke in a book I'm working on when my characters argued that history was anytime before reliable indoor plumbing, but it's just that: a joke. Serious claims that history can't be the 70s will make me laugh right in your face and call you out. Accept the fact that you/your parents are older than twenty-nine and live with it.
One of the major things that scream that history is always ongoing is technology. While early centuries of technological advancement were in less large jumps, the last twenty to thirty years alone have had an explosion of technology--and just looking at the 20th century shows the major changes, Live music playing went to sound recordings went to phonographs went to record players to 8-tracks to cassettes4 to CD to mp3s; from short silent film to talkies to color, radio to TV to streaming boxes, hand drawn animation to CGI--from movies only being able to be seen in theaters to being able to download and stream a movie that just came out a few months ago when I need background noise. And when it comes to computers--whew. When I started on a computer, I typed hunt-and-peck style on an Apple IIe at my grandmother's house when I was four years old. Now I communicate with that same grandmother online over the internet.
American Girl has not released much in the way of doll tech. Whether this is to avoid dating themselves--too late, moddies have dated ways already--because parents whinge that dolls don't need all that tech to play with, or because it's cheaper to ignore it, they don't really give their modern a lot of technological play items. But a few of the Girls of the Year have had some technology. And they started it off with Lindsey Bergman and her Laptop and Bag. After her release in 2001, she plodded along for about two years before retirement in 2002, doing so poorly that AG was debating that maybe this modern limited line wasn't going to be a big thing. Lindsey had a very tiny collection--she didn't even have a change of clothes--and for accessories, all she had was her laptop set and her scooter set, with the laptop set going originally for $32. The set not only came with a laptop styled organizer, but a shoulder bag, two faux CDs, diary, and pencil. The laptop design was later reused (with different colors) for the Backpack and Laptop in 2002, thus starting the trend of LE stuff being released in a new form. I have the backpack and one CD from that, which will get a look over in a Bits and Bobbles review.
While I will never pay the costs for a Lindsey (can't say I like her all that much personally) I had been peeking about for her laptop, or at least a doll sized one. Last month I managed to luck out on a set for only $29 with shipping, and was delightfully surprised to find that it was new in box and had never been used. eBay costs vary; anywhere from retail cost to triple that or more, and it doesn't show up very often. Since I don't have Lindsey, Kanani will be our adorable presenter as needed.
|Kanani will be your tech girl for this dab into the past.|
|Shoulder bag. They didn't really think this through.|
The bag has a very unusual shoulder strap design. Instead of being attached on the sides with a simple adjustable shoulder strap, the strap is attached with a wide grey-trimmed blue band that attaches on the front and back. I don't recall if this was a style of messenger bag in the early 2000s; I have insisted all my shoulder bags have side straps.
|Velcro on a stress point. Not well planned.|
|Red. Well, Semi red.|
|Blue was much easier to see.|
The bag gets a C. While I love blue and grey color combinations, the lack of padding is weak and the awkward strap design (with a velcro closure at a point you don't really want to fail) make hanging it on a doll awkward and unrealistic. The strap should have just been on the sides. If a shoulder strap design ain't broke, AG, don't fuck with it.
|Laptop. Lindsey's family had some money.|
Before I go into detail of the laptop--and what it does--I want to show what the set looked like when I took it out of the box. There's not a lot of in-box pictures of this set.
|Laptop and instructions.|
|Pretty sweet set-up for a laptop.|
|Still tabbed. Fresh.|
|I didn't break the screen. At least, I don't think I did.|
|Data Strip. Don't pull it out.|
History time with Neth! The reason that QWERTY keyboards have the layout they do is because back when keyboards were for typewriters and not for computers, hitting a key meant that a typebar would swing up and hit the ribbon, inking the paper and thus making your letter appear. However, typing fast could made some bars jam into each other--a fun habit of mine as a kid was to smash all the keys on the typewriter I used to play with at home and tangle the bars. Contrary to urban legend, the QWERTY layout was designed to make it faster to type since the typist could worry less that the keys would catch into each other. (That's also why we have CAPS LOCK and Shift. Shift would literally shift the typing carriage up or down--depending on design--to have your capital letters and some punctuation marks; Shift Lock would keep a shift in place so you didn't have the hold the keys the whole time you were yelling on paper, since the Shift is intended to be held with the pinky finger.) Long story short, Kit had it rough and she would have treasured a laptop of her own. If you modernize Kit, give her some tech.
So, what's the technology inside? This AG laptop functioned as a working electronic organizer. Back in the day before people carried a portable computer more powerful in a pocket than my first ever computer running Windows 3.1,8 if you wanted to keep an on hand record of people's contact data, you had these things called address books. You would write down a name, address, and phone number on the pages in hopefully alphabetical order, and if you needed to look up a contact, you flipped through the pages until you found the name listed. Very low tech. We were practically living in Felicity's era. Then when I was in about middle to high school, electronic organizers became a thing that wasn't too expensive to get. I actually had one for a few years, a piddly little thing that cost me about 20 bucks. Now instead of having to write names and addresses down, you could type them into the electronic organizer (once you turned it on and reached the right mode, and if it let you do more than a phone number), and then if you wanted to look up a contact, you could search by name. Wave of the future, then. Now if I want your contact I can just type it into my smartphone or have you e-mail it to me. Technology, like history, moves on.
Now let's go into what this can do. Warning, it ain't much compared to today but at the time it was pretty sweet.
|Hello there, two-digit date times. I haven't seen you in years.|
|This laptop has the Y2Ks.|
|Date and time. set proper.|
|Organizing them names.|
|Kanani has not given her real data.|
Look at that lack of letter shifts. You type in caps, bitch, or you don't type at all. No dashes in the number either--spaces yes, dashes no. And those were optional. This is why, until the advent of reliable cell phone storage, most people still stuck to address books. Early tech wasn't very sophisticated.
That's two functions. So what's number three?
|Who's ready for ten digits of mathematical fun?|
|Hidden fourth function? Not really.|
|Kanani thinks it works well.|
A+. It's well designed for the tech of the time--and with a functional component, it's pretty neat for an eight-to-ten year old girl to give to her doll and use for herself.
|Math and History: Now in CDs.|
|History learning time!|
|I can see your insides.|
|Diary, now with reflection flare.|
|Cover print. Kinda.|
|Inner page and cover.|
|AG stars. Everywhere.|
|Pencil. Can't write without one.|
|Yes, pencil, you do.|
|Tucked in place.|
Overall Feel: I adore this set--especially because in a weird way, I know I'm the first to use it. The bag is pretty shit overall, but the rest is fine on its own and the laptop (and CDs) even carried through to another set. I really don't think AG will ever do a semi-functional laptop like this again, which is a pity; I think a new laptop with maybe some set in apps would be neat. The problem is that with the level of technology nowadays, it wouldn't be able to be sold for the $30 cost and might be as much as $100, which is near the cost of a doll. So I think this might be the best we'll get until tech becomes low enough or they release an LE/set that is computer heavy again.
Cost Value: Getting the set for below retail was a bargain. The original cost was average for a low-level electronic organizer at the time; it didn't do much, but the fact it did anything is pretty awesome. I wouldn't pay more than $45-50 for a set if that--and I'd need visual proof that the organizer either worked or hadn't been used for $50. If the organizer doesn't work, don't pay more than $20 for a complete set.
Datedness: Yes--but mostly because of the technology. Smartphones can do all three things it can do, load the internet, and let me play Fruit Ninja and end bar trivia brawls and debates in the car by pulling up Wikipedia. As a display piece, once you remove that horribly styled bag, it would work for a modern girl as long as you're accepting the fact your doll does not have a MacBook. It's pretty chunky for a laptop compared to Enviro-Lanie and dated tech in design, but it does stuff instead of just having screen clings, so there. The diary and pencil are timeless.
Set Usefulness: Moderate to high. At the time, a doll sized pocket organizer would have been nice tech for a eight to ten year old girl. Not many kids have electronic organizers nowadays; they would likely have cell phones or tablets that do the same thing and more, and would cost more in the process. I debate getting my gang faux-tablets, but an old school laptop is also good for displays. The bag is the low point and outside of this review, I won't be using it. I have a backpack that works better. For display--which most of my readers are doing--it's fine.
Appropriateness to Character: Knowing this would mean I'd read Lindsey's book, and I haven't read her book to full quality, so I don't know. Lindsey didn't really have an overarching theme like "dancer," "artist," "gymnast," or "didn't we already do dancer with someone better at it, WonderBread?" So this may apply to her. A ten-year-old with a laptop in 2001 would have been living pretty well.
Final Grade: A-. Old tech, but good display tech. Now stop claiming that the 70s aren't history when this time next year there will be teenagers walking around who were born after the WTC Attacks.10
|Technology moves on.|
1 Something Awful. I've found a unique community there.
2 Mostly mothers learning from daughters, but I try not to be cissexist.
3 Misspelling "ludicrous" is one of my huge pet peeves, right up there with the "its/it's" and "affect/effect" split. "Ludicrous" is an adjective meaning "out there", "outrageous", or just plain ridiculous. "Ludacris" is a rapper whose music I often enjoy. The words are not interchangeable. Now move, bitch, get out the way.
4 If you really want to date yourself, watch Kids React to Technology: Walkmans.
5 Hers--part of her accessories--just had three screen clings. Way to downgrade.
6 Those that do in-store demos generally only do one or two things before the demo tab is removed.
7 Fun fact. In some places in Europe, the keyboard is a QWERTZ because they use more Zs and most Latin languages use more Ys. There's also AZERTY.
8 Yes, I mean a smartphone.
9 "Mistakes happen, that's why pencils have erasers" doesn't work so well when your pencils don't have them.
10 Scary, isn't it?