How ChatGPT and Other LLMs Work—and Where They Could Go Next

It has been more than 25 years since the first Tamagotchi cracked out of its egg. That’s right, a quarter of a century. If you’re a ’90s kid, you either owned one yourself or spent every recess looking over the shoulder of someone who did. But while the toy has pretty much disappeared from schoolyards these days—replaced by smartphones—many of its key features had a significant impact on the video game industry and live on in major games today.

The Tamagotchi, which was first released by Bandai in Japan on November 23, 1996, had only a 32×16 pixel screen and three small buttons. Each of these buttons served some simple function, like feeding your Tamagotchi (which was both the name of the device and the little creature you were tasked with taking care of), turning off the lights in its room, or playing a game with it. Functions also included cleaning up your Tamagotchi’s poop—at times so frequently that you could not help but worry about the health of its colon.

Fail at these simple tasks and your Tamagotchi suffers a gruesome, neglectful death. After a bunch of ear-piercing beeps and a little wiggle, the Tamagotchi disappears into cyberspace—forever. What remains is some stars and text saying how young the Tamagotchi was when it passed. (From diarrhea, probably.)

Despite the creature being only a 10-pixel blob, school students were willing to earn themselves detention for checking on it during class rather than deal with an ill-timed death (the Tamagotchi’s life was not pausable). In the United Kingdom, there were pet cemeteries that went so far as to dedicate sections of their lots specifically to the digital pets of children whose neglect resulted in the Tamagotchi’s death. It all makes you wonder: Would millennials have ever learned to care for their offspring if not for the persistent grief of losing their beloved Tamagotchi?

This “continual play” feature, which the Tamagotchi was one of the first to utilize, was revolutionary in the video game industry. In the years that followed, it became a key feature of many hugely popular games.

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