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Furby - Toys of the 90s

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Furby - Toys of the 90s


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This hamster/owl-like creature toy was launched by Tiger Electronics in the holiday season of 1998 (its first public appearance was at the American International Toy Fair that same year) as The fuzzy Furbish-talking owl. With continual sales until 2000 it sold 1.8 million units in 1998, 14 million units in 1999, and altogether in its three years of original production, over 40 million units, and its speaking capabilities were translated into 24 languages.

Furby was a plush, animatronic little miracle. Each was only five inches tall, but he was packed with electronic gadgetry that allowed him to interact with the environment through sight, touch, sound and physical orientation. It danced, sang, slept, wiggled its ears, blinked its eyes, and best of all, moved its mouth and actually talked. His native tongue was the fantasy language Furbish, but, he would gradually learn the language of his new homeland. However, English is learned automatically, and no matter what culture they are nurtured in, they learn English.

Combined, Furby had a vocabulary of nearly 200 Furbish and English words, and with those, could speak up to 800 phrases. When putting his batteries in, the first thing Furby did was tell you his name in Furbish. When he woke up, he might chirp Dah/o-loh/u-tye, which means sun up, in case the owner was not yet handy with the Furbish dictionary that came with each of the six creatures.

Furby reacted to pats on the head, backstrokes, tummy tickles, and rotations that brought him upside down. Cover his eyes and he might answer with a no light! or the Furbish equivalent boo a-hoh. But when you covered his eyes the next time, you might get something entirely different, because Furby was programmed not to respond the same way to his stimuli every time. About the worst you’d hear from your little guy was that he was bored, and of course the best was that he loved you, all of that according to the kind of attention you gave him.

Furbies were also interactive, having the ability to tell when another was nearby, and they were able to communicate with each other via infrared signals, even teaching each other tricks and songs.

Furbies weren’t quite as high maintenance as a flesh-and-blood pet, though they were a whole lot needier than a regular plush.

In 2005, there was a revival of new Furbies, with voice-recognition and more complex facial movements, and other improvements. This revival gave birth to a number of Furby-oriented special interest groups. The most visible of these groups include Furbish-to-English translators and Furby adoption agencies.

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