March 5th…….

Furby, the stuffed animatronic “it” toy of 1998, was the first plaything that actually became smarter as you played with it. Furby came out of its box speaking “Furbish,” a goo goo gaga baby talk, but over time would “learn” human language (in this case English)—a process resembling language development in humans. This development was simulated, of course: Furby came preprogrammed with all the words and phrases it was ever going to know.

Nevertheless, a rumour spread that Furby’s language- learning mechanism relied on hearing and imitating its owner—a fact that, if true, meant the must-have cyberpet of the late-nineties was actually a recording device. With Soviet espionage fears still lingering, the U.S. government naturally grew paranoid. On January 13, 1999, the National Security Agency announced a ban on all Furbies inside its headquarters for fear the furry little gremlins—whomever they were working for—might go blabbing national security secrets to the whole world.

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