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Startup: Kill It! Kill It With Fire!


Some of the dumbest ideas can make millions, as Tiger electronics demonstrated in 1998, when they released the Furby. For those who don’t remember, these infernal little pet robots could do thinks like blink, pretend to be cute, and speak “Furbish”. Sounds kinda lame, especially for 35 bucks, but they sold over 40 million in 3 years. Put two Furbies together and they would even have a cute little furbish conversation. The things were so “smart” that they could even learn English over time. That feature astounded people until it was revealed that they were just full of pre-programmed English phrases, and were designed to simulate learning by slowly replacing Furbish words with English over time.

Towards the end of their popularity, I stumbled across one and was curious, having never actually interacted with one. The owner said, “take it, it’s yours.” I thought it was a rather magnanimous gift for about two weeks until I realized that it’s primary skill was watching me sleep, which is just creepy. The last straw was when I was jolted awake at 3 AM by a half-English, half-Furbish request to play now. We played a very quick game of drop-kick-the-Furby-across-the-yard and I never touched it again.

New and improved Furbies were re-released in 2005 but, mercifully, never really caught on.

  • fodder650

    The Furby will always remind me of one thing, my Grandmother. She loved these little things and it made no sense. She even had Furbies has her computer wallpaper. So it's just what I associate.

    A few weeks ago I started up a 8 year old PC I had lying around. XP launches and there I am facing a furby on screen. I really felt like i was seeing a ghost. Funny how a computer can do that.

    • TechieInHell

      Now I feel guilty for insulting the memory of your grandma, but they still creep me out.

      • fodder650

        You didn't insult her at all. It helped me remember her again for a day.

  • OA5599

    McDonalds offered plastic non-electronic Furbies as Happy Meal toys for a "limited time only".

    <img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_OWxhJNbtfdM/TRRNkd1TdyI/AAAAAAAABDU/GetSeDHzdBE/s1600/DSC09823.JPG&quot; width=500>

  • The Professor

    Those things look like a genetics experiment gone horribly wrong.

  • aastrovan

    They resemble the critters in the movie "Gremlins".

  • These remind me of that college exchange student I dated (Rawer!) at the time. She loved them for some strange reason and we ended up with two.

    If you stuck them up to your ears on each side of your head you could make them say "ooooOOOOooohhh!" in stereo, which was about the creepiest fucking thing I have ever heard.

    One residual of the Furby craze is that I have an incredibly artistic aunt that I jokingly started calling aunt Furby, which she adopted as her online persona. To this day she still uses a modified version of it on the intertubes to keep a low profile.

    And yeah, that 4am robotic "PLAY WITH ME!" in the dark will seriously creep you out. Not sure what happened to them. It might have involved a firepit.

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      http://www.blortland.com/planet/SmishStory.html

      In '95 or '96 my friend and I were goofing off and and typing random names into the web browser. He stumbled on blortland.com, it was a real thing. I see there is more there now, an interesting lady made that site, a cancer survivor, good for her. Anyway I tried to use radioactivesuperblortman for all sorts of early online handles, but it was often too long.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      Nothing beats creepy voices in the dark. When I first got my new phone, I set my incoming-SMS tone to "Could you come over… here?" as spoken by a turret.

      This was initially a wonderful thing to wake up to at 02:30.

  • We bought one at the office to take apart and figure out its cost structure. This is no joke: my employer makes tens of millions of products every years and any design or manufacturing trick that could save a penny on a high runner is worth some engineering time.

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    Userfriendly had a short storyline where Erwin the AI got downloaded into a Furby starting about here http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=19990112 My favorite is where he used his beak on Steph

  • RahRahRecords

    here's one I modified for an art show. It's on my wifes facebox page so I don't know how to embed it here http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1015011552159
    poke it. It's worth the look.

  • chrystlubitshi

    one of my ex GFs had left her little furby neglected and un-cared for in the closet of her mother's house when she moved away for college. After a hurricane which had shook the house enough to shift the contents of said closet, the little neglected guy woke up; as daylight peered through the shutters. The owner of the house (at one time, my mother-in-law-to-be) searched her home frantically for the creepy* noises she was hearing during the days that she was home, and would wake her occasionally during the night–through the vents.
    ((*Note, the batteries had been on a long slow drain, so the voice was slowly dropping and was not anywhere near the normal chipper tone, and time intervals were not kept regular either))

    Eventually…. My ex went home for a long weekend/holiday break. Upon arriving, she was instructed to sleep in the guest room, as there was something weird going on in the house, and the dogs had pretty much narrowed it down to the area where her room was. she walked straight in to the room the first time she heard the noise herself. opened the closet, and pulled the batteries out of the furby, then laughed at her mother for the rest of the weekend for being afraid to go in the room for 4 months to check it out.

    creepy little bastards they are.

  • cletus

    Funny how almost all the comments include how creepy they are. Never had one myself or experienced the creepiness, but "Lunar Park" by Brett Easton Ellis (american psycho author) has a "Terby" in it that had me pretty spooked while i was reading it.

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