By: Ronald Leung
The fifth-grader with a smartphone is actually quite a common sight nowadays. While the merits of exposing a child to regular doses of radiation is debatable, the function of the device is usually more for entertainment and gaming rather than social networking. It’s easy to download free games right onto a smartphones so it’s obvious why kids are so drawn to them.
But really, do the ‘90s kids have anything to be jealous of? We were the era of glorious black-and-white pixelated egg-shaped Tamagotchis with hundreds of different varieties to buy and play. The most extreme friend usually had twenty or thirty Tamagotchis all strung up on a keychain and would pull them all out on a regular basis during recess to feed/play/take care of each and every virtual critter for a good thirty minutes. It’s not surprising that even marriage and family was introduced, and owners were allowed to “link up” with each other to pair their Tamagotchis and even raise children. A great small stepping stone into the complex jungle of social hierarchy, don’t you think? With over 76 million units sold, Tamagotchis are still going strong! Don’t be surprised if you see your younger cousins sporting one with flashy lights, 3-D graphics and 8-bit colour. Times change quickly my friend.
On that note, is it a surprise to hear that the original Sony Walkman actually used audio cassettes? Yes, you know what I’m talking about – the little plastic rectangles filled with swirls of black tape. It certainly seems like an eternity ago that anyone actually used those things. Perhaps you can find some in the children’s section at your local library. Quick to adapt to the times, Sony released a CD Walkman which, believe it or not, was the most fetch thing in the ‘90s. My, my! Not only could the rings of thin plastic be stored easier than chunky black boxes of tape, they also were much easier on the eyes. Instead of boring print on the cassettes, you could be dazzled by a shimmering ring of colour on the back, and whatever interesting image was on the front. Don’t laugh now – Sony Walkman actually fundamentally changed the way people listened to music by allowing them to carry music everywhere and use lightweight headphones. You could call the Walkman the ancestor of your trendy Apple product.
While Sony created a must-have product for many years, individual toys come and go every holiday season taking the crown for the “Must-Have” gift for the year (I’m looking at you Tickle-me-Elmo). The Furbies took to the throne in the winter of 1998. In fact, demand soared so ridiculously high that resale prices went over $100 and often over $300 in auctions. On that note, what animal is a Furby supposed to be, exactly? It’s like a square shaped bird with very big ears and no wings. The closest suggestion I’ve heard is a hamster/owl splice which explains the over-large eyes, furry hide, and bulky body. One of the reasons why these strange creatures were so popular was because they had robotic “intelligence” – they were able to “communicate” with other Furbies in a fictitious language called “Furbish” that slowly involved more and more English words as they grew. I suppose children do really enjoy toys that talk back and hold some sort of interaction.
Really, our childhood wasn’t so bad. Don’t even get me started on Beyblades, Pokemon, and Spongebob Squarepants. Kids these days, they don’t know what’s good. If you ever have time, try visiting the toy section in a giant department store – you’ll likely spend a great deal of time repeating the phrase “Oh yeah, I remember this!” Well, at least hopefully you will. It’s doubtful you’ll find an audio cassette Sony Walkman but at least there’ll be some modern version that will jog your memory. Hold your head high, child of the ‘90s. As short as our childhood was, it was glorious.