Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010


These days, Tamagotchis — the handheld virtual pets that took the toy world by storm in the '90s — seem almost laughably low-tech, made primarily of cheap plastic and old-school LCD screens. But some 70 million of the ovoid time wasters have been sold worldwide since they debuted in Japan in 1996. According to Bandai, the Japanese company behind the craze, the name is a portmanteau of the Japanese word tamago, which means egg, and the English word watch, as in timepiece. Tamagotchi pets require constant attention, including feeding, playtime, grooming and training. Neglected pets go hungry and pretty much die — or, in more kid-friendly parlance, produce a "game over" for their keepers. Some young owners were driven to care for their pets around the clock, even in school, prompting administrators to ban them. (And thus a whole generation of latchkey Tamagotchi pets was born.)