Did You Know Boise is Responsible for this HUGE ’90s Trend?
Is this something we should be proud of or embarrassed about?
Idaho's been the birthplace of some revolutionary inventions. Rigby native, Philo Farnsworth gifted the world with television in 1927. Union Pacific designed the very first ski lift for Sun Valley and installed it in 1936. Dr. Forrest Bird invented the world's first modern ventilator in the 1950s. He called the Idaho home from the 1970s until he passed away at the age of 94. He founded Percussionaire in northern Idaho which continues to manufacture the devices today.
And then you have the invention kids either LOVED or were absolutely terrified of in the late '90s. Yup, we're talking about the Furby!
Yup, Furby was co-created by Boise inventor, Caleb Chung. From the stories we've heard, Chung's wife got fed up with his creativity being all over the place. He would crank out a toy design a week, but also enjoyed acting and miming. She told him that he needed to harness his energy and focus on getting one great idea off the ground. That's when he and his former co-worker at Mattel, Dave Hampton, decided to go check out the American International Toy Fair for some inspiration.
The year they went, the hottest upcoming toy on the market was the Tamagotchi. You remember those right? They were the little computerized creatures that you could nurture and watch grow up if you cared for them the right way. The undeniably awesome toy gave way to similar toys like Gigapets and Digimon. But according to Bustle, Hampton and Chung found one major flaw with the Tamagotchi...it was a pet that you couldn't pet. That's why they decided to make a creature that would not only be your buddy, but you could physically touch it it too.
Chung got to work on the design and Furby was officially introduced to the world in 1998 at the FAO Schwarz flagship story in New York City. Within a week, 35,000 of them were on backorder for the 1998 Holiday season. They sold 1.8 million before the year was over. 14 million flew off the shelf in 1999.
Chung's spoken at some business breakfasts around the Treasure Valley over the years and isn't shy about inventing the Furby. He still has the original prototype for the toy which at the time was named "Furball" and was absolutely terrifying looking. You can see that prototype at the 3:10 mark of this video, followed by a bunch of sketches of what led to the final product we played with as kids! Personally, we LOVED the design that almost gave Furby round ears and a unicorn horn!
Furby eventually led to spinoffs like Furby Baby, the super sassy Shelby and Furby Boom.