Already hugely popular in Japan, Bandai’s Tamagotchis – or “virtual pets” – were all the rage in the US in 1997.
Attached to a keychain, Tamagotchi was a piece of plastic with a digital interface that let the “pet’s” owner care for it and even watch it hatch.
Retailing for between $9.99 and $12.99 the little electronic pets required you to take care of their needs by pushing specific buttons lest they “die” from neglect and were moving out of New York’s FAO Schwartz at a rate of around 80,000 a week.
Smelling a good thing, the Tiger Electronics and Playmates companies released respective knock-off versions known as Giga Pets and Nanos.
Educators, parents and sociologists all wondered the same thing: Are Tamagotchis teaching kids responsibility or are they just stressing them out?