It is a little known fact that all the firmware programming and design for the Divas was done by a small
central California company called Logic Plus. I know this because for a year I worked at Logic Plus.
By the time I got there, the first production run of the Diva dolls was already complete, and the
fearsome creatures were widely available in toy stores across the USA.
I had encountered a Diva Star when they were still "secret", however. When I met my boyfriend
he was already working at Logic Plus, and one chilly evening (about a year before I started working
there) he brought me to see his place of employment. We walked up a creaky staircase and, in a
little converted-apartment office across the hall from Alcoholics Anonymous, I encountered two
of Matt's co-workers and a table spread with wires, circuit bits, and various other electronic
debris. On this table, like a ghastly centerpiece, was a grinning, bald, green-skinned plastic
doll. She had gigantic feet, thin, tiny legs, and a Medusa-esque tuft of wires coming out of the
back of her polymer exoskeleton.
"What is THAT?" I inquired.
"Don't tell anyone about this, Anne. It's a new toy we're working
on." explained Matt.
"We call it the Creature."
There came to be four Diva characters eventually, and they are as follows:
- Alexa: Everyone's favorite mall chick! Superficial interests, valley-girl talk.
- Nikki: The "sporty" Diva. Think pink soccer balls.
- Summer: Little Miss Nature. Long red hair and flower-child affect.
- Tia: The techie urbanite. Laptops, boom boxes, and attitude!
The Divas "know" what they are wearing! They come with a selection of snap-on plastic clothes,
each piece having a different resistance value. Electronics within the doll sense the resistors
in the clothing and the doll will say something like, "Thank you for putting on my pink dress!"
The Divas "play" with you! They are programmed with their own version of Simon Says, in
which "Simon" is replaced with the name of the doll. My absolute favorite Diva quote has to be:
"Alexa says, take off my pants!"
I am not kidding. These dolls are being sold to thousands of adoring children and teaching them
the naughty art of Strip Simon Says!
Anyway, at the beginning of this tale, I mentioned that the prototype borg-Diva was green. Well,
that was because they used the cheapest possible material for many of the test dolls, and apparently
green plastic is cheaper than flesh-tone. Eventually the green robodoll was retired, but she lives
on in a simulation program written in Visual Basic to test the phrase handling of the doll's
firmware. A talking, leering Diva head peers out at you from the screen, like some alien stepchild
of Max Headroom.
The first production run of Divas also featured something called Intergirl Chat. While this
may sound like a pr0n talkline, it is actually IR-based communication between dolls. In those
giant sneakers fused onto the dolls' feet are infrared transmitters and receivers. If you have
two dolls facing one another, little foot-beams result in the dolls "talking" to one another.
"I just LOVE shopping!"
"I'm so glad you're my friend!"
And so it goes.
Overall, the Diva Starz have been quite successful. Mattel has produced a number of less
expensive Diva Starz incarnations, with few electronic features (or none at all, in which case
they are nothing more than big-headed Barbies).
I had the delight of working on the International Divas. Dolls were programmed to speak
French, Latin American Spanish, and Castillian Spanish. My assignment was to help
organize a giant Excel spreadsheet consisting of all the phrases the French doll would say, and
under what logical circumstances she would say them. This was challenging because I don't speak
more than two words of French.
I sleep well at night knowing that now even little
French and Spanish girls are getting the opportunity to learn Strip Simon Says!