Harvard Hero Moment #6: Talking dolls. You were my first #heromoment in tech

Alix Vonk

30 Sep 2019

Having been in tech for longer than I care to mention here, I’ve seen too many innovations to choose a particular personal stand-out moment. From sending my first text on a feature phone to getting my first Hotmail account post university I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a generation that really did experience tech innovation in its prime. My personal Hero Moment then has to be one of my earliest encounters with tech without even really being able to understand the notion of ‘tech’. It was the late 80’s and I was seven, my one ask of Santa was the newest Cabbage Patch Kid talking doll.* I must’ve been good that year – he delivered. Her name was Maggie, she had a purple dress and brown curly hair. The tech was fairly basic and so to be honest if I think back, I can still hear the motors whirring as she moved her little mouth –  it didn’t matter though, because it encouraged my imagination. I understood she wasn’t real, but the magic came from what felt like the infinite number of cheeky (seemingly random) phrases she came out with and how she knew to gulp when her toy cup got put up to her mouth. If I really think about it, maybe this was me starting to grasp what we as humans are able to build, the endless possibilities and the surprise and delight innovation can bring to all ages.

Using tech responsibly

Maggie was the first in a long line of Christmas and birthday gadgets that followed in the years to come, Casio My Magic Diary, a Palm Pilot and a Swatch pager to name a few. Granted these aren’t really comparable to the raft of smartphones and tablets that some fear children are too engaged with now. But kids + tech isn’t a new thing, for many years we’ve happily co-existed. For a few years now society has been in an overwhelmingly negative narrative around tech and kids. I’d certainly agree that nothing replaces real connections built outside in your best friend’s backyard but as with most things in life, everything in moderation. For me, products like Cabbage Patch Kids show that used in the right way, tech will help the next generation find new ways to be creative and play through technology. I can’t help but feel that Maggie was (in her own way) partly responsible for where I ended up. Successfully happy with a career in tech. Thanks Maggie. *If you weren’t lucky enough to experience the talking Cabbage Patch Kid first hand please do enjoy this early ad:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUDAgNpS37A