I was nine when the Furby was released in 1998, and overly obsessed with the idea of an electronic pet (that could learn!) in need of my care. Those commercials I’d see between episodes of Rugrats had me convinced the thing was alive and that I absolutely had to have one. I vividly remember talking to my mother all about it, like a Furby-technology expert, while walking through the mall on my way to “adopt” the white and speckled one that I would pick out (IT LEARNS MOMMY! And you feed it by pressing it’s tongue…?).
My brother ended up with a Furby that day as well. We were enamored with how they talked to one another (in their own language called Ferbish! Neat!), that they would laugh if you touched them and how they would recognize when you picked them up.
We shared a room with bunk-beds, and when it came time for us to go to sleep we tucked in with our new electronic friends who fell asleep along with us! Cute!
Or so we were tricked into believing.
If a light was turned on, a heavy vibration was felt or if you as much as looked at the thing, the Furby would wake up with a freakish scream and the sound of cheap motors churning. And if it was just mine that would jolt back to life like a resurrected zombi hamster, it would wake my brother’s up along with it.
There wasn’t an on-off switch insight.
Our Furbies spent the first nights locked in the blackness of our closet. After that, their battery packs were taken out and were rarely put back in.
The Furby went through some changes in 2005, but it’s been announced that a completely revamped Furby will be coming out late September, fit for the technology-savvy nine-year-olds of the 21st century.
Modifications include LED eyes that reflect the mood the Furby is in, more body movement, better ability to learn English and an app that allows you to “feed” it food and translate what it is it’s mumbling about after you try and smother it with a pillow.
But there sill isn’t an on-off switch. I’m not sure this generation of children deserve the torment. Or maybe I’m stronger because of it.
[Below: ABC looks at the new Furby]