ELL is a preservation lab built on the idea that a working collection provides the opportunity to study a work in its original format and with the technology as close to that which the work had been typically experienced when it was first released. We do not reject emulation and migration, but rather see all three of the approaches to digital preservation as important to long-term sustainability of a work. Key to our collection approach is documentation. In essence, we preserve to document––and we are moving as quickly as we can so that the computers and software we need are still able to work. Thus, our collection of hardware and software is just as important as library of works we have been building over the years. So, whenever we get our hands on new items we are missing or find more of what we already have (& so have back up stock), it is a bit like Christmas.
Yesterday CMDC alum and ELL supporter Jeff showed up with a car full of computers, peripherals, and software––all of it much needed and appreciated. All are treasures that will help us in the job of making the library accessible and our work of documenting the works in the library possible.
What really caught my eye was the toy Mac desktop computer sold by the American Girl Company. It originally came with a desk and chair for the doll to sit at while she worked on her computer. And, yes, it does turn on with the help of two triple A batteries and the switch on the back of it. When the keyboard is tapped, a story about a trip to the planetarium unfolds in four lexias. (A fifth lexia consists of the title.) Clicking the mouse allows the user to make a picture of the Big Dipper referenced in the story. The interface replicates that of a Mac circa 1996, the time in which the toy was sold.
Obviously economics may have played a large role in a partnership that would result in selling more dolls and more doll accessories. A cursory look at the items available for purchase reveals furniture to adorn one’s doll’s living quarters, gadgets for her to use when she prepares meals in her doll kitchen, a horse and sleigh to carry her through the wintry snowy landscape, and even luggage for her faraway fantasy adventures. But a computer? How about two? American Girl also offered their doll an Apple laptop so that she could port her work to school and back.
The height of women’s involvement in computer science peaked in 1984, according to the article, “When Women Stopped Coding.” By the time the American Girl computer was available, the numbers were in decline. Ironically, the personal computer, which was targeted at men and boys for the purpose of playing games, is blamed for this phenomenon. The arrival of this computer toy for girls is, it seems, an anomaly, one that may have been intended in some way at building interest in computers in young girls. Did it work? Hard to know. But when I posted the photo of ELL’s new acquisition to friends on Facebook, one female colleague known for her work with computers, responded quickly that she had one when she was a child.