It's a safe bet that anything intended for kids will at once be seized on by adults and screwed up.

The world is going crazy over furbies. Personally, their plainly shared heredity with gremlins makes me uneasy - who wants to be surrounded by a race of beings who talk to each other in a language you don't understand?

Furby-fever is fuelled not by children but by acquisitive adults. Choice ready-trained specimens are now being resold for all kinds of money at Internet auctions. But speculators in the furby-trade are advised to remember the fate of the Cabbage Patch Kids, now reduced to refugee status and shuffling unsaleably from one swap-site to the next.

So, before these fluffy denizens of toyland join the Tamagotchi in the discount bin, I offer this Furby FAQ [Frequently Asked Questions]…


Q: Who makes them?

A: Tiger Electronics

, and when they try to install a comet-cursor, don't let them]; a company acquired last year by giant Hasbro [Teletubbies, Star Wars, not to mention dear old Monopoly] as part of its strategy to regain the No.1 spot from rival toymaker Mattel [Barbie, Hot Wheels].

Q: What is the correct plural of 'furby'?

A: Hasbro: 'furbys'; public opinion: 'furbies'.

Q: Where do you get them?

A: At this point in the craze-cycle, wherever you can find them. The employees of most furby outlets initially sell them all to each other for family and friends.

Actual customer enquiry at Wal-Mart, NY [UseNet]:


Me: "Do you have a toy department?"

Them: "What did you want?"

Me: "Do you have any… ?"

Them: "NO!!"

Me: "…furbies…?"

Q: What language do they speak?

A: An innocent babble known as 'Furbish'. By law, a bilingual species has evolved in Quebec.

Q: What do they eat?

A: Anything you put in their parroty little beaks,

including your finger ["Yum!"].

Q: How do they work?

A: They are powered by a processor about equal in performance to an old Apple Macintosh 6502. The Mengeles among you may contact the coroner at for step-by-step instructions on how to conduct a furby autopsy.

Q: Can a furby learn stuff?

A: No. A furby "simulates learning by gradually displaying subsets of its pre-programmed language and behaviour over time... some display in response to certain interaction patterns, allowing reinforcement of desired behaviour". It can't develop new characteristics based on experience, so you'll never teach it to swear.

Q: Can furbies communicate with each other?

A: Yes. Radio signals trigger new behaviour subsets to simulate knowledge-sharing.

Q: Can you hack a furby?

A: Not really, but it's an article of faith in hacker circles that you can

and they keep trying with a persistence worthy of some greater purpose. The use of a Universal Remote is possible but pointless.

Q: Do furbies have gender?

A: Yes. Girl furbies have a mane.

Q: Do they have sex?

A: This being the Net, yes. You will find them in g-strings at the Furby Hooker Network

- "every one a virgin!"], where they utter phrases like "Oh, Big Daddy!" and offer erotic delights like "The Hunt for Pink October" at $US69.95.

Q: Do they have children?

A: Apparently. Very small furbies in pastel shades appear May-June - they have to come from somewhere.

Q: Do they evolve?

A: Yes. Furbies offer powerful evidence in support of Darwin's theory. There are Dalmatian, zebra and giraffe mutations, and a nasty sub-species with stunted wings, the Fooby

has appeared. Others have developed startling coloration to achieve a kind of K-Road chic.

Q: Is it true that furbies have actually been banished by US intelligence services in case they transmit security information?

A: Yes. Spooks are deeply paranoid, it comes with the job.

Q: Are some furbies liable, under certain circumstances, to utter foul language and insensitive phrases like "Heil Hitler!"?

A: No. This is urban legend. Bored Asian factory-hands do not speak either English or German.

Q: Can a furby self-immolate?

A: No, but it can stink the place out trying.

Q: Do they get sick?

A: Yes. Increasingly, these endearing little creatures are displaying behavioural problems, either the manic babbling of attention-deficit syndrome or long autistic silences. Some have seizures, in which they become catatonic with buzzing innards; others experience profound alienation and won't talk to you or each other; still others sleep with their eyes open or ventriloquise through closed beaks. Also, patches of fur fall out. If furbies were toasters, there'd be a class-action lawsuit by now.

Q: Do they die?

A: Mercifully, yes. But some ghouls buy up dead furbies and reissue them in zombie form. This gray-market should be avoided if you wish for a fulfilling furby experience.

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