Remember the Furby? This colorful electronic pet made it’s big break into the toy scene in the fall of 1998 and was a huge hit for all children. It was the toy of the century. The history, however, of the precious Furby goes much beyond the superficial.
There are in fact three separate stories, since it’s creation was made by a team of three. The team included Caleb Chung, Richard Levy and David Hampton. It was a long journey for them to get to where they are today, especially since the journey has not stopped, with the toy haven been relaunched in 2016.
Hampton, according to the New York Times would spend his childhood playing around with electronics, and then began to fix broken radios in the area. By the age of 13, he already was working at a TV repair shop. Not long after, he built a ham radio and then enlisted in the Navy in order to study electronics. He spent several years doing many different things, learning several languages, and eventually he created his own design company.
Chung did not have any official electronics education and came from a low income family. He explains though that he was always thinking outside the box, which explains how these two guys came together to create the super cool Furby in the late ’90s.
The Furby however was not a completely original idea, it was in fact inspired by an earlier version of an electronic pet, The Tamagotchi, seen by Hampton and Chung for the first time in 1997 in New York at a Toy Fair. Hampton noticed that the Tamagotchi was not something that could be petted. And this is exactly why they decided to design the Furby, the electronic animal that you could pet.
The initial name for the toy was the Furball and spoke all of the languages that Hampton did. They took Richard Levy onboard when it came down to licensing their product. Levy is reported to have a degree in cinematography and television, rather than electronics. However he still had a passion for inventing toys and games. With his diverse experiences, he was the ideal fit for the Furby team, and due to his work the team score a licensing deal in 1997 with Tiger Electronics.
Shortly after Tiger was bought over by Hasbro who provided the trio with the materials to develop the product. In October of 1998, Furby made it to the shelves of FAO Schwarz, the famous New York toy store for it’s grand debut, and had 35,000 Furbies ordered with a week. After three years, over 40 million Furbies were sold.
However similar to many fads, the Furby did not last for too long. By 2007 is was no longer seen on the shelves, which some blame the over-saturation of the product.
Several years later, they attempted to get the Furby back in business by giving it new powers. This calm and friendly version that came out in 2012 was a success, and could adjust it’s personality to the way it was treated. It also is compatible with smartphones and has LCD eyes.
Throughout the years, we’ve seen many new versions of the Furby and attempts to keep it alive. But there are some that still want the original, vintage Furby. Even eBay has a complete guide on how to purchase vintage ones. Every generation has a new version of this legendary toy, but Furby will always have the number one place in our hearts.