Blythe was designed at the famous Marvin Glass toy design studios, by Allison Katzman. Very little is known about Blythe pre-production days; initially Kenner was planning 4 different dolls for the Blythe line, each with a different name: Blythe, Karess, Willow and Skye. Their eyes would open, close and change direction but not color.
At the same time as her 1972 release in the USA, Blythe was also marketed for the Japanese under the name "Mahou no Hitomi AiAi Chan" which means "The eyes of magin AiAi Chan" and licensed by Tomy Corp. toys. The doll was basically the same with some discreet differences, like shiny eyelids, softer hair and 7 lines of writing on her back instead of 6. Her packaging and outfits were completely re-designed; to no avail though as AiAi bombed at the Japanese market just as Blythe did in USA. AiAi Chan is extremely hard to find these days and insanely expensive.
The complete AiAi Chan line up minus the "bride" doll.
Two more toy companies sold Blythe dolls in 1972.
Palitoy in England and Toltoys in Australia.
Some of their boxes have different girls on the back.
Their lines of Blythe were indentical to that of Kenner.
The back of a original Kenner box.
The back of a TOLTOYS box
An amazing pink resin cast of an early head mold previously owned by a Kenner employee.
It's unknown why it's been drawn by pencil like that. Could it be that a Kenner person doodled on it while talking on the phone? Did Allison draw on it? Was she planning something amazing for Blythe?
In this early ad, the blonde Blythe used is the same prototype used for all early promotional photos and packaging art. The wig and sunglasses are also prototypes used for the wigs box art. The sunglasses were never produced as pictured.
In the 1970s, electronic games began to emerge as an exciting new form of entertainment that was quickly embraced by the nation’s youth. Arcades were no longer rooms containing pool tables and pinball machines, but now allowed for a rousing game of Pong and a few other modern marvels. The Atari game system even allowed this emerging technology to become available from the comforts of home. With the kids completely enthralled by everything electronic, it was even possible to sneak in an educational game or two under the radar. One of the more successful ones was the Little Professor, a handheld device that taught math to unsuspecting kids.
Texas Instruments, who had long been recognized as a leading calculator manufacturer, came out with the Little Professor in 1976. The front of the device depicted a kindly old professor that appeared to have his nose buried in a book. An LED display at the top appeared to be a window into the professor’s advanced brain functions and allowed users see what the professor was thinking. While it might have appeared to be a calculator, however, it didn’t actually give you any answers. Kids would do the grunt work, figuring out various math problems, then enter the answers into the device which would give them points for a correct answer or display a dreaded “EEE” when they had miscalculated. Packed with 16,000 individual problems, this simple handheld device tested them in the areas of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and offered five different levels of increased difficulty – ensuring that up-and-coming Einsteins had their work cut out for them if they wanted to please the old man.
Kids loved these devices and they sold quite well throughout the 70s and 80s. In fact, Texas Instrument still manufactures a newer version of the Little Professor to this day, having given the professor’s brain an update or two, along with a new digital display to replace the old LED readout. The company also managed a few other popular educational toys along the way, including the Speak & Spell and Speak & Math – each taxing the brains of little ones – all under the deceptive guise of fun with technology.
For it only takes a bit of ingenuity to get kids to enjoy learning on their own. Distract them with a bunch of buttons and flashing lights and they might just aspire to become that rocket scientist you always dreamed they would be, or at least not get that deer-in-the-headlights look when trying to calculate your change at McDonalds. Thanks, Little Professor, for making the world a better place for everyone.