Monday, February 15, 2010

Barbie becomes Computer Engineer


Author: Gareth Halfacree
Published: 15th February 2010

The cause of equality in IT careers got a boost this month from a somewhat unlikely source: Barbie.

As revealed on the official website (warning, it's a PDF), every little girls' favourite vacuous blonde's 126th career is that of Computer Engineer - complete with "a shiny laptop" on which to do some 1337 code hacking.

Interestingly, the change of career appears to have given Barbie myopia, as she now comes equipped with "stylish pink-frame glasses" which she hasn't needed in any of her previous 125 careers - but stereotypes aside, Computer Engineer Barbie comes equipped with everything a modern geek girl needs: "a Barbie® smart phone, fashionable laptop case, flat watch and Bluetooth earpiece," alongside the aforementioned laptop making her "ready to conquer the day's tasks on the go or from her desk."

For those who are afraid that Barbie's journey into the world of computer science would mean she would have to give up on her noted sense of fashion, good news: Computer Engineer Barbie comes dressed in "a t-shirt featuring binary code and [a ] computer/keyboard icon along with a pair of black knit skinny pants," designed to be "representative of a real computer engineer."

Better yet, those deciding to buy Computer Engineer Barbie get "a special code to unlock exclusive online game content on," in order to "further experience the reality of being a computer engineer" - which is to say, playing on-line Flash games.

In all seriousness, the latest Barbie to come out of the Mattel factories has the thumbs-up from some pretty influential people in the computer science industry: no less than Nora Lin, the president of the Society of Women Engineers, believes that "as a computer engineer, Barbie will show girls that women can design products that have an important and positive impact on people's everyday lives, such as inventing a technology to conserve home energy or programming a newborn monitoring device."

The Computer Engineer Barbie is currently available for pre-order directly from Mattel, and will be hitting shops towards the end of this year.

Are you pleased to see Barbie getting a more modern career choice, or is the plastic wonder doing more harm than good to the cause of women in engineering? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

Quote from the pdf:

You voted and we listened! Consumers around the world
voted for Barbie® Doll’s next career and we are pleased
to announce that her 126th career will be Computer
Engineer! The winning careers were announced at New
York Toy Fair on February 12th.
Having Barbie® as an ambassador for female computer
engineers can help inspire a new generation of girls to hone in on
their computer skills and become a part of this growing profession.
“Girls who discover their futures through Barbie will learn that they – just like
engineers – are free to explore infi nite possibilities, and that their dreams can
go as far as their imaginations take them,” said Nora Lin, President, Society of
Women Engineers. “As a computer engineer, Barbie will show girls that women
can design products that have an important and positive impact on people’s
everyday lives, such as inventing a technology to conserve home energy or
programming a newborn monitoring device.”
To ensure the doll accurately refl ects this occupation, Barbie® designers
worked with the Society of Women Engineers and the National Academy of
Engineering to ensure that accessories, clothing and packaging were realistic
and representative of a real computer engineer. Looking
geek chic, Computer Engineer Barbie® wears a
t-shirt featuring binary code and computer/keyboard
icon along with a pair of black knit skinny pants.
Computer Engineer carries a Barbie® smart phone,
fashionable laptop case, fl at watch and Bluetooth
earpiece. With stylish pink-frame glasses and a
shiny laptop, she is ready to conquer the day’s
tasks on the go or from her desk.
For girls to further experience the reality of being a computer engineer, the doll
also includes a special code to unlock exclusive online game content on Barbie.
com. Computer Engineer Barbie is now available for pre-order at and will be available at retailers nationwide in
Winter 2010.
Please visit for more information and images.
Media Contacts:
Michelle Chidoni, Stefani Green
310-903-3412, 310-252-6514 ,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Isle of Man schoolgirl becomes an anime star in Japan

Rebecca Flint, 14 – aka Beckii Cruel – is an internet hit among anime fans and her debut album is tipped to top Japanese charts

Rebecca Flint, 14, performing as Beckii Cruel

Rebecca Flint, 14, performing as Beckii Cruel

Like most 14-year-old girls, Rebecca Flint likes to dress up and dance. But unlike most girls, she records and posts her performances on YouTube.

The results have made her an internet phenomenon in Japan, home of the anime cartoon characters she imitates. More than eight million people have watched Rebecca performing as Beckii Cruel, dancing to bouncy J-pop (Japanese pop music) and anime theme songs in the attic of her home on the Isle of Man.

Her success has led publishing giant Tokuma Japan to sign up Beckii, teaming her with 18-year-old French college student "Sara Cruel", from Lyon, and a 16-year-old student from Portsmouth known as "Gemma Cruel". The trio – Beckii Cruel and the Cruel Angels – release their debut album in Japan on Wednesday, when it is expected to reach the top of the charts.

Beckii's looks have created a sensation in Japan, where she has become a "moeidol", a female worshipped for her small face, large eyes and slender limbs, similar to those found in anime characters – the Japanese animation-style heavily influenced by manga comic books.

Anime has a huge following in Japan across all sections of society. Taro Aso, a former prime minister, is a self-confessed anime obsessive, reading up to 20 comic books a week.

"The perceived virtual existence and borderless nature surrounding Beckii are a catalyst for stirring fantasies," said Toshiyuki Inoue, an IT journalist, summing up the popularity of moe artists.

Kaori Sakurai, a freelance writer, said that the otaku – anime geeks who worship teenagers like Beckii – will often avoid pretty girls in real life, fearing that they would simply dismiss them. But they have been won over by Beckii, who appears as just another fan like them.

Beckii's popularity in Japan rocketed after her YouTube videos were picked up by popular Japanese website Niko Niko Douga. Her Japanese DVD debut, This is Beckii Cruel: Too Cute to be Real, was released last November and debuted at number eight in Japan's DVD charts. Beckii, who already features in Japanese TV commercials for chewing gum, performed live for the first time at Akihabara, home ofotaku culture in Tokyo, last October.

The daughter of a policeman and a former dance instructor, Beckii first became interested in Japanese cartoons and comics three years ago when she picked up a translated copy of Fruits Basket, a Japanese girls' manga created by Natsuki Takaya. Since then, she has been voraciously reading manga and watching anime, while also studying Japanese.

Beckii's idea to film herself in "cosplay" – derived from costume play – followed and an internet star was born. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese teenagers indulge in "cosplay", with conventions regularly held around the country. Tokyo Dome, home of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, is a regular weekend hangout for teenagers dressed as their favourite anime or manga characters.

At a recent press conference in Japan alongside her father, Derek, Beckii said she was aware that her age and the nature of her videos would attract some unwanted attention. "I'm well aware of the dangers of the internet; my school back home on the Isle of Man is good at educating us on that," she said.

Beckii has had her own webpage since she was four – her older brother, Ryan had his at six. Ten years on from setting it up with her father, who says he has educated his daughter on the dangers of the internet, she now has the second most subscribed website among Japanese musicians. The expectation surrounding the release of her album this week suggests her incredible rise to fame shows no signs of slowing down.

Anime usually refers to a style of animation originating in Japan, influenced by the manga (Japanese comics) style and typically featuring characters with large eyes, big hair, exaggerated facial expressions and elongated limbs.

Cosplay (right) is a term originating in Japan based on the words "costume play", and involves dressing up as anime or manga characters.