Karen Belz
September 16, 2013 7:00 am

Back before cell phones were seen as a school distraction, educational institutions of the world had another technological battle to face. Its name? Tamagotchi.

Tamagotchis are a small alien species that deposited an egg on Earth to see what life was like, and then depended on human players to feed, nurture, and care for it. In fact, they were one of the first virtual pets to hit America. Created in 1996 in Japan by a woman named Aki Maita, the term “tamagotchi” is believed to come from the words “tamago”, which means “egg”, and the English word “watch”. Many believe the name is supposed to translate to “lovable egg”. When units of these egg friends hit the shelves in 1997, you’d be a fool not to have one.

Aki based her research on the Tamagotchi by making trips to the crowded shopping areas of Tokyo, and reading a lot of magazines that were focused on the teenage female. “I only came up with the idea, developed the concept and took charge of the marketing program. It also took a technician and public relations person to make it into a product,” she said. Aki started working at Bandai, the company which manufactured the product, in 1990 as a data entry worker. Initial development on her product started as early as 1994. Its success boosted Bandai’s sales enough to cancel its merger plans with Sega Entertainment, and at least a dozen copycat products followed its launch. (Giga Pets? I’m talking about you.) Over 79 million original Tamagotchi units have been sold since.

What made them so appealing was the fact that a blob of pixels actually depended on you entirely – and if you neglected it (or, were in the middle of math class at the time), the blob could get sick, or even worse – die. Tamagotchi can pass away due to a lack of care in just a day – and after enough protest, Bandai caved and created a pause feature, as well as a way to mute the device to create less of a distraction. The positive spin was that they were often credited to giving kids a sense of responsibility – and were much less heartbreaking when the goal wasn’t met than say, a goldfish.

While the Tamagotchi and virtual pet phased died just a few years after it began, the company is still churning out new, updated editions of them. For example, your Tamagotchi today might have the opportunity to botch a job interview. According to Women’s Wear Daily, Bandai just signed a deal with Los Angeles-based clothing company Mighty Fine, giving them licensing rights to Tamagotchi L.i.f.e.’s first line of clothing and lifestyle products this month. L.i.f.e. stands for “Love Is Fun Everywhere”, and here’s the L.i.f.e. mission, according to their website:

Would you be interested in a Tamagotchi comeback? Did you have virtual pets as a kid?

Image Credits: wikipedia.org (featured)

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