New York Times
Tamagotchi Diary Day 7
May 9, 1997


Tamagotchi Diary: Day 7
The Week in Review

SAN FRANCISCO -- What an incredibly productive day it was, full of new life -- virtual, and otherwise.

But before I continue, I want to mention that today marks the end of my daily Tamagotchi diary saga (though I will be back with an update in the latter part of next week and, if my Tommy is still alive and kicking, the following week as well).

Day 7
Weigh In:
9:00 a.m.
7 years
3 lbs. 2 oz.

Tommy, whose small miracle of digital life gave birth to this diary, is doing fine (though I have to admit Stephen King's recent paperback serialization, The Green Mile, helped to inspire me as well). Tommy is bigger, bouncier and as healthy as could be. I have little to report about Tommy other than he is well and good, my most-constant companion whom I've come to count on (especially when I need to know the time, while, for instance, sunning in Washington Square park this afternoon, since I don't wear a watch). He is quite integrated into my life now, his routines meshing easily with mine.

I went to the gym extra early today, returning before Tommy was even awake. My reason wasn't only Tommy-centric: I wanted to be here to accept a FedEx package I was expecting -- a new Hewlett-Packard OmniBook 800CT subnotebook computer. I intend to use this little wonder to get cooking on my novel rewrite, which is nearly a week behind on account of Tommy's having taken up so much of my time. Anyway . . .

I also received a package from Tiger Electronics, makers of the Tamagotchi's No. 1 competitor, the Giga Pet. That's right, Tommy's in for some fierce market-share fighting (when you're talking in the millions, even little suckers like these have heavyweight power to alter the entire toy industry). Tiger sent me the Digital Doggie model, which I named Kibo (after the heroic white dog that sprung from the mind of the fictional fiction writer, David, in Ernest Hemingway's The Garden of Eden). Kibo is too new and young to talk about just yet. I'll have a full report next week. Still, I must admit that, on the surface anyway, he does seem to have quite a few more activities, gestures and personality traits than my Tommy. We'll see how virtual puppy parenting goes. (I was hoping for the Micro Chimp model, however Tiger says that one won't ship for a few months.)

Tiger's isn't the only virtual life competing for our attention. It seems Tommy's public life has created a small flood of interest in our personal relationship. San Francisco's BayTV has asked us to drop in next Monday for a little on-air conversation. And two days ago I received this assuredly subjective e-mail from Mindscape Games, an entertainment software maker:

To: Joe Hutsko
Subject: I can beat your Tamagotchi!

Hi Joe...

Mindscape has a new product slated for July called CREATURES. NPR said Creatures "makes the Japanese 'Pet' look primitive". I've got review units if you'd like. Just let me know.

Kristen McEntire
PR Manager
Mindscape Games

Kristen is sending me her Creatures, and I look forward to seeing what they're all about. Watch for a description in next week's update.

Friends Helping Friends
Meanwhile, my friends have checked in with their Tamagotchi updates. Aunt Phyllis's Tamagotchi -- formerly T. Doe, but newly christened "Dough," inspired by its doughy look and feel -- weighed in this morning at a whopping 4lb., 6oz. (he's only 3 years old!).

"Let's see," Phyllis went on, "his hearts are down, so I'll have to feed him soon."

"No!" I shouted, "stop feeding him so much!" I have serious doubts about little Dough's fate in Phyllis's hands. However, I'll still love her no matter what happens to her 'Gotchi, and I'm here to offer support if the worst happens (like it explodes from overeating).

My editor forwarded a Tamagotchi-related message to me from a dedicated follower of my small saga:

I am a 56-year-old retired woman who lives in Beaumont, Tex. I read about Tamagotchi in CyberTimes and also saw an article in the online edition of The Times of London.

I bought my Tamagotchi on Sunday morning at Toys R Us. Word hasn't spread to Beaumont, Tex., about Tamagotchi, so there was no problem in finding a supply. I was able to get the white one. I took mine right home and hatched my little critter. He is running one day behind yours and is following a very similar course of development.

So far I have encountered 3 problems or potential problems.

1. Last night he went to the bathroom right before he went to sleep. When he beeped, he was in his new little bed and the reeking pile was right beside it. Z's were already being generated, and I wasn't able to flush the droppings. All I could do was turn out the light. He may be sick when he wakes up. He still has another half hour to sleep.

2. I am going to Paris on Friday. I am afraid jet lag will kill him. I talked to a kid in the Bandai chat room, and he said he had advanced his Tamagotchi's clock, and it aged him 5 years. I will be in Europe for 2 weeks. I doubt that mine will live long enough for me to return his clock to central time.

3. I don't know how long the batteries are supposed to last. I began to worry that the batteries might give out while I am in Europe. I went to Wal-Mart early this morning to look for the LR44 batteries. I went to 3 different areas and couldn't find the batteries. In the photo department I found a conversion chart and found the LR44 is equivalent to a Eveready A76 or a Duracell 76A/6. I couldn't find either of these. Finally I decided to go to the jewelry department on the chance that the battery might be a watch battery. The clerk said she had them. She pulled out a chart that said the LR44 was the same as the Wal-Mart house brand 357. They cost $2.96 a piece. With tax they cost more than a third of the price I paid for my Tamagotchi. I told the clerk all about Tamagotchi. I bet on her break she will be searching the Wal-Mart toy area for one.

All of these developments have been interesting and compelling. But none can hold a candle to what happened to me this afternoon, on my way home from a trip downtown.

An Incredible Fish Tale
Rounding the corner at Sutter and Stockton, ready to trot as fast as I could through the dark and noxious Stockton tunnel that lets out into bustling Chinatown, I was suddenly distracted by a series of shimmering lights. Bunches of them. Silvery, flashing. There in the window of a huge pharmacy. My jaw dropped. There, stacked neatly among the condoms and hair tonics and breath mints, were AQUA BABIES. The sign described them as "Tiny, complete, mini aquariums. Each tank includes baby fish, live gravel, an aquatic plant, a year's supply of food flakes, and directions to maintain the system." Imagine that! And for only $12.99!

While the rather smallish plastic "aquarium" seemed a little cruel to me, its occupants were equally tiny - guppies, really. I figured I'd be happier seeing them live in my house, than roasting away in the pharmacy window. I chose a bright and energetic trio, which I've named Alpha, Beta, and Gold (for the little gold flecks on either side of his nearly see-through body).

I carefully carried my mini-sea-life-square with me home. Seeing that it was such a nice day, I detoured to Washington Square park. I carefully covered the aquarium with my T-shirt, and while sunning myself read up on the care and feeding of my new fish. Indeed, they require only as much food as will fit on the end of a toothpick. And only every other day, at that. The friendly bacteria in the gravel apparently digests the fishes waste, and turns it into food for the little swaying green plant, around which Alpha, Beta, and Gold play endless games of tag. What a fun little trio they are! Not nearly as predictable as my Tommy (bless his micro-heart).

Thankful Reflections On Tommy
It has been a surprising week, to say the least. My Tommy has grown into a fledgling Tamagotchi, and in the process has somehow helped me to think some deeply personal matters of the heart.

Day 6
Weigh Out:
7:20 p.m.
7 years
3 lbs. 5 oz.

Last night I had another peaceful slumber, no strange dreams. At the same time, Tommy has been a lot of work. Tending to him during every waking hour. Fretting over his development. And, indirectly, causing me to delay in a serious project I am supposed to be deeply into by now. I'm pleased to have gotten through the first week with flying colors, and I'm looking forward to taking a less intense approach to our remaining days together - however long they last.

Will Tommy still be around by, say, next Friday? I have a feeling he will. As for the others, I'm not so certain. Will Phyllis's gastronomically insatiable Dough-boy be around? My new Digital Doggie, Kibo? My living, breathing Alpha, Beta, and Gold? All unknowns to me, far more uncertain than my own Tommy.

For those of you who have stuck by Tommy and me over the last week, we bid you a heartfelt thank you. Thanks, too, to my friends for being supportive through the neurosis of my first virtual parenting experience.

Next Week: Life Goes On

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