© Daniel Karmann/dpa/Corbis
Do you want a pet but you're not ready for the full responsibility of caring for a living, breathing creature? Then perhaps a virtual pet is a good choice for you. The virtual pet craze launched in the United States when the Japanese Tamagotchi digital pets filtered into toy stores. But things really got crazy when the Furby launched in 1998.
The run on Furby toys reminded old timers of the days when parents stormed shops in search of Cabbage Patch Kids back in the early 1980s. Everyone had to have one. And what were they? The Furby was an electronic toy that would initially speak its own language but gradually learn English as you interacted with it. It could also converse with other Furby toys and used motion sensors to detect when it was being touched or moved around.
Eventually, some enterprising hackers skinned and gutted Furbies to find out what makes them tick. With a few tweaks of the microprocessor that powers a Furby's electronic brain, hackers found they could expand the vocabulary or give it voice-recording capabilities.