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  Subject:   EE380: The Birth of Furby

  Date:   Wednesday, March 10, 1999

  Time:   4:15pm -

  Location:   NEC Auditorium, Gates B03 [look for it in a campus map][new]

EE380 Computer Systems Colloquium 

                  Winter Quarter 1998-1999 

                         Lecture #10 

Date:       Wednesday, March 10, 01999  

Time:       4:15-5:30 pm

Location:   NEC Auditorium (B03)
            Gates Computer Science Building

SITN:       See SITN Schedule for details...

Internet:   Live on the Net!  See instructions on the Web page

Title:      The Birth of Furby: Building a Furball with an Attitude

Speaker:    Dave Hampton
            Founder (and chief design-elf)
            Sounds Amazing!

                       *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  

"ONCE UPON A TIME -- February of '97, to be precise -- Sir Dave of 
  Hampton journeyed to the mystical Dark Kingdom of Niewe Yoarke, 
  to partake of the Grande Annual Toye Faire.  There he met a self-
  proclaimed "virtual pet" named Tomagochi, an ogre from a distant land 
  who soon cast a spell over the children of the Kingdom, forcing them 
  to feed, pet, and care for him and remain at his beck and call.  
"Sir Dave -- himself a free-lance toy designer -- thought the cruel 
  Tomagochi was too sterile and too "flat": its young users had to enter 
  Tomagochi's own world of pushbuttons and pixels, and learn the rules 
  Tomagochi laid down, in order to receive their virtual rewards. 
"'Far better', said Sir Dave, 'for such toys to be softer, fuzzier, and 
  more approachable.'  Like real pets, they should enter instead into 
  the physical world of the child, to dance, talk, and listen, to react 
  to loud sounds [dah lee-koo wah!], see changes in lighting, and detect 
  motion, and to sneeze, giggle [he-he!], burpe, and fahrte [AHW-ohh!].
"And so, by the Law of St. Moore, Sir Dave returned to his cabin in 
  the Enchanted Forest of the Weste and created Furby, a child's toy 
  clever enough to play games, intelligent enough to be taught new 
  tricks, and sociable enough to talk, sing, and dance with other Furbys 
  when the grown-ups were trying to watch the news.  

"And, most importantly, cheap enough to sell for under thirty bucks.  

"The rest, as they say, is history.  Furby, now manufactured by Tiger, 
  became THE hit toy of the 1998 holiday season, outselling by far the 
  previous year's trend-setter, St. Tickle-Me of Elmo." 

                       *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  

About the talk: 

In Wednesday's presentation Dave Hampton will discuss the process by 
which a dumb little furball grew to become Furby: Where the idea came 
from, how it got started, what problems arose in its development, and 
how the right attitude can move you past roadblocks.  When unsolveable 
problems arise, Dave found, it's best not to solve them; instead, 
reevaluate your goals.  With toys, as in nature, evolution is the key 
to success.  

Dave may also discuss the design and development of "Furbish", a true, 
functional language with formal rules of syntax and grammar derived 
from English, Japanese, Hebrew, and Thai.  

About the speaker:

Dave Hampton began fiddling with electronic hardware at age 7 or 8.  
By 13 he was repairing TVs and radios to earn money to buy components 
for Tesla coils and transmitters.  During a stint in the Navy he became 
a specialist at in-flight repairs of electronic instruments for P-3 
Orion airplanes, and after that became an industrial test engineer.  

The problem with micros, though, is that they clouded the distinction 
between bugs in hardware and software, so in 1980 Dave decided he'd 
better learn to program.  As a game designer he wrote the game "Q*bert" 
for the Atari 2600, and from 1986 to 1990 worked for Mattel in the New 
Business Concepts unit -- a sort of toy-development think tank.  

In 1990 Dave founded Sounds Amazing!, a design firm whose clients 
include Neil Young (Lionel Train controls) and Microsoft (Barney).

 Event history: Submitted by jfan on 07-Mar-1999;

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