Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010


How could kids not like a toy whose name is short for fur ball and whose big eyes have blinking lids? When the Tiger Electronics toy debuted at the International Toy Fair in 1998, it quickly became the year's must-have plaything. Priced at $35 apiece, Furbies flew off shelves when they were released just before the holidays and easily fetched more than three times that amount on the Internet. Youngsters liked the fact that the Gremlin-like creature conversed in its own language — Furbish — and "learned" to speak English via the embedded computer chip that enabled it to repeat words it heard. In 2005, after 40 million units of the original toy had been sold worldwide, the company released a new version with advanced voice-recognition software and the ability to respond to questions. Such features made the Furby an unwelcome guest in the offices of the National Security Agency because of the chance the toy could repeat confidential information. Meanwhile, airlines classified the toy as a personal electronic device and banned it from flights. Rest assured, though: Furby is not a terrorist.