First introduced in November 1996, it is known as the original virtual reality pet. Looking like a small egg attached to a key chain (or bracelet), a Tamagotchi is actually a tiny handheld LCD video game with touch-screen user controls and a software program that displays the image of an animal. The object of the game is to simulate proper pet care and maintenance (so your virtual pet grows). You must interact with it on a regular basis; interaction includes such parental responsibilities as feeding, playing games, scolding, medicating, and cleaning up after the darn thing. If insufficient attention is paid, the creature disappears or "dies."
The popularity of this device has been phenomenal. For example, in June 1997, Tamagotchis were so popular that Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us could not keep them in stock; within 24 hours, the FAO Schwartz flagship store in Manhattan sold out of its first shipment of 10,000 units; an armored Brinks truck delivered 3,000 Tamagotchis to its sister store in San Francisco, and those were gone within 5 hours. Originally made by Bandai Toys of Japan, there are now several other manufacturers making similar interactive toys.