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Tamagotchi - Toys of the 90s

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Tamagotchi - Toys of the 90s


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One entertainment breakthrough of the 90s worth of mention is the Tamagotchi, a handheld digital pet introduced in the United States in 1997.

The ideal solution for a starter pet, based on the old method used by parents when their kids wanted a pet, that "if you can learn to take care of an ant farm or a gerbil, then maybe we’ll talk about a real pet". But instead of making innocent insects and rodents suffer at the hands of neglectful children this cyber-pet would take their place in this kind of experiment.

The idea of teaching kids the responsibilities of having a pet without any of the messy consequences of having a real one, belonged to a Japanese housewife named Aki Maita, as she got the idea for what would become Tamagotchi as she watched several bored children on a lengthy train journey. Maita decided to develop a tiny electronic device, small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, which would create a virtual reality version of a pet.

Maita presented her creation to Bandai toy company, which eagerly took the license for the toy, dubbing it Tamagotchi (which stands for "egg watch").

The finished toy was shipped in a colorful plastic shell. With a pull of a plastic tab on the side of the shell, a virtual pet was “hatched,” bringing a small, bird-like creature onto the tiny machine’s digital display screen. Depending on the care and the attention given by the owner to the pet, it could either become an attractive, well-behaved animal or a mutated, ill-mannered monster.

Like real life pets, it needed plenty of attention, with lots of needs that it made them known by beeping a sound, which grew louder when it was ignored by the owner; in case the sound was disabled, it got the attention of the owner by flashing a light. Once listened or seen the requests of the Tamagotchi, the the owner could fullfill the pet’s needs by means of a series of buttons, used to feed it, play with, teach it a few things or even reprimand it.

The Tamagotchi had its times and schedules, without caring of the owner's ones, and had requests at any time it felt like.

In case it was ignored  it could become mischievous, ill or even die if neglected for too long.

The average lifespan was 10 to 18 days, depending on the care your pet received.

First introduced in Japan in 1996, were it became an immediate success among children and adults; it was introduced in the United States in the spring of 1997 where it also was an amazing market hit as children and adults alike became obsessed with the tiny electronic-pet.

For instance FAO Schwarz alone sold 80,000 units per week. They were everywhere and even got banned in certain public buildings like in some schools due to the distraction caused.

There were also imitators, including Gigapets by Tiger Electronics or licensed characters like a tiny digital Yoda.

As of 2009, there have been released over 44 versions of this toy and have been sold over 70 million units. However the fad of the 90s eventually slowed down its popularity worldwide, but still was adapted to other media and concepts, from computer games to Hasbro’s POX, which replaced adorable pets for infectious alien viruses.

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